Monday 12 April 2010

Democratic Government

British General Election 2010

By L Berney

With UK elections in the offing, I looked again at the papers I wrote in 2008 for my “As I See It...” series concerning the system of government in the UK.

As I see it, the system is very far from the principles of Democratic Government as it was envisaged by Abraham Lincoln and others when they overturned the monarchy system (for the American Colonies) and installed what they named a Representative Democracy system in its place. At the time, Political Parties and the concept of a “Party in Power”, and an “Opposition”, “Winning” and “Losing”, had not been invented, or even considered.

On re-reading these papers, two years later, I see no reason to change my opinion. I still think it is time to move forward to a true, non-partisan Democracy.

L Berney - April 2010


Note – Throughout this paper read ‘he’, ‘him’ and ‘his’ as ‘he/she’, ‘him/her’ and ‘his/hers’.


From the beginnings of human civilization, some 10,000 years ago, mankind has formed communities, then states, then nations. For a civilization to exist, there has to be some form of government. From the beginning, the form of government has been the one person Ruler, (a King, Pharaoh, Caesar, Mogul, Kaiser, Tsar, a Dictator). The Ruler laid down the rules (laws) that the people over whom he ruled must obey. The Ruler gathers around him a group of barons to enforce his rules. The barons appoint their own enforcers.

The objective of all rulers is the attainment of personal POWER and WEALTH. Power to enforce other people to obey his laws and to punish them if they don’t. Wealth to enjoy a high standard of living for himself and his family, and to accumulate personal enrichment. The objective of the barons and enforcers is, likewise, attaining their own Power and Wealth.

Throughout history, the people being governed have wanted to have some say in the rules they have to obey and in the taxes they have to pay and on how that money is used. To appease this pressure, rulers have allowed the existence of advisers, councils, parliaments etc., but the rulers always maintained their ultimate and overall power.

Again, throughout history, there have always been individuals who strive to take the place of the ruler and to become the ruler themselves. The objective of these would-be usurpers is the same -- to acquire for themselves the ruler’s Power and Wealth.


From the beginnings of civilization, this ‘one person ruler’ form of government was universal. It was virtually the only known form of government until the latter part of the 19th Century when a new form of government, named “Democracy”, started to take root. In 1775 13 British colonies in North America declared themselves independent of the rule of the British Crown (then King George III) and formed the ‘United States of America’. A Congress (a National Government) was formed consisting of 65 Representatives. This was the first Government by Representative Democracy. Representative Democracy is a system of government in which power is vested in the people, who rule through freely elected representatives. “Democracy” was defined by Abraham Lincoln as, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

In this new democratic USA, a Constitution and a Bill of Rights to protect minority and individual rights were drawn up and agreed. There was to be no one-person Ruler -- the rules/laws were to be enacted by the Congress, and were to be arrived at by majority voting “for the general good”. All men were to be equal under the law.

Over the next decades, the concept of government by Representative Democracy in place of a one person Ruler, the Monarch, spread through Europe. First was France – the French Revolution in the 1789 replaced King Louis XVI. In Britain, during the 19th Century, the Monarchy gradually and finally handed over its legislative powers to a democratically elected parliament. In Europe democracy gradually replaced Monarchy. Elected parliaments made and amended the laws and decided on taxes; the Monarchs either became Constitutional Monarchs or the Monarchy was abolished.

Today, the majority of countries of the world claim to be Democratic although there are, in fact, many ways in which Democracy is interpreted. For example, the British (Westminster) style of government is very different to the US style; there are major differences between the French and the German style. Even the dictatorial style of government in North Korea calls itself “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”!

However, as the following paragraphs will show, none of the present-day Democracies are True Democracies; none are truly “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Present-day democracies are, in fact, virtually the same as the autocracies they were supposed to replace. The main difference being that the Ruler was succeeded by heredity succession and only ousted by violent overthrow; in a democracy the people have an opportunity to change one Ruler for another every few years by a system of voting.


In America, France, Britain and in virtually all of the countries converting to the new form of government, Democracy, people soon realized that, in future, the laws would be made by the representatives in the newly empowered parliaments, no longer by a one-person Ruler. Associations were formed by people with common vested interests; these became Political Parties. A Political Party is a group of people who share the same ideas about the way the country should be governed. They work together to introduce new laws, to alter old laws and to attempt to control what happens in Parliament. In general, their objective is to further the interests of the members of their party at the expense of the interests of the rest of the population. In the main two types of Party emerged: property owners (the ‘haves’ – the ‘Right’) and those who did not own property (the ‘have-nots’ – the ‘Left’).

Some individuals were quick to realize that the members of a Political Party could be persuaded to appoint a salaried Ruler (a ‘Party Leader’). The Ruler needed a group of salaried lieutenants (the committee) to control the activities of the party and its members. The creation of Political Parties gave birth to a new lucrative career – the Career Politician. The objective of Career Politicians and their lieutenants is SELF-SERVING PERSONAL POWER and WEALTH. It has very little or nothing to do with the political objectives of the members of the party; even less with the welfare of the population of the country. It has everything to do with the Power and Wealth of the Career Politician himself.

The original concept of Democratic Government is that each representative in parliament casts his vote on proposed laws, ‘for’ or ‘against’, in accordance with his opinion of what is best for the constituency he represents and for ‘the general good’. The introduction of Party Politics soon put an end to that! The original concept of Democratic Government was hijacked by the vested interests of the Political Parties.

The Political Parties and their rulers saw that the way to impose their own will on parliament was for the parties themselves to appoint their own candidates at the constituency elections; candidates who would ‘toe the party line’. Those ‘adopted’ candidates would receive money and support from the Party. This meant that candidates who were not adopted by one or other of the Parties, ‘independent candidates’, stand very little chance of winning an election and becoming a Member of Parliament.

We see the fight for Personal Power shamelessly exposed at elections. Elections descend into individuals fighting each other; it is about ‘winning’ and ‘losing’, about ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ (for example, in America, first Obama v. Clinton, then Obama v. McLain; in the UK, Brown v. Cameron). Politicians' public speeches and statements are entirely hypocritical; promises are made with impunity, many of which are forgotten as soon as the individual achieves power. The ‘campaign’ is designed entirely and solely to get the concerned candidate elected and to get his Party and its politicians into power.

In the parliament itself there is a ‘Ruling Party’ and one or more ‘Opposition Parties’. In all parliaments, the party rulers and their lieutenants take every possible opportunity to score points off of and to belittle the other party’s rulers and lieutenants. We have ‘Punch and Judy’ debates (for example, Cameron v Brown). The only objective of the Ruler and the Party in power is to stay in power – the only objective of the Party in opposition and its Ruler is to oust the current ruling Party and to take power themselves. The original Democratic concept, the ‘welfare of the people’ and ‘the good of all’, is not even on the menu!


Democratic Government, as it is practiced today, is far removed from its original concept: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Democracy as practiced today has reverted (almost) to the same form of government, autocracy, it was meant to replace. We again have the all-powerful one person Ruler (the President or the Prime Minister) and the Ruler’s barons (Ministers). The people’s representatives, once elected, become impotent, if not redundant. The only function of the representatives of the party in power is to ‘rubber stamp’ the laws their Party Ruler dictates. The representatives of the parties in opposition vote as the Ruler of their own Party dictates. To ensure that representatives do not step out of line, each party employs ‘Party Whips’ – MPs who do not ‘toe the party line’ and don't vote as they are told, run the risk of being ‘de-selected’ at the next election.

What is clearly apparent is this:

The objective of a Political Party is to subvert rather than to uphold the original concept of a Representative Democracy.

The objective is for that party to achieve Power at all costs.

Given the way the House of Commons conducts the nation’s business – the absurd spectacle of point-scoring and slanging matches between the opposing parties – the Party Leaders’ very obvious lust for Power -- important debates with all but a few MPs attending – the scandal of campaign ‘donations’, MPs ‘expenses’ and ‘cash for honours’ -- and the many other shortcomings -- it is amazing how the nation’s tax-paying citizens accept the behavior of Politics and Politicians as an inevitable fact of life!

It has been said that what we have now is NOT “Government of the people, by the people, for the people. What we have is, “Government of the people, by the Party, for the Party Leaders!

Since the current Party Political form of government is clearly un-democratic, and since the majority of the people in Democracies are discontent with the status quo, why, then, do the people allow it to continue on the way it is? The only answer I can find is that, “It has always been that way”! But, as far as I am aware, there is no serious movement or body pressing for a change.

Perhaps, one day, tax-paying citizens will rebel and demand that the system by which they are governed is reformed to a truly democratic one; a system of government that is truly by the people and for the people.


A True Democracy would have no Political Parties, no one-person Ruler, President or Prime Minister.

Is Government without Political Parties and Rulers possible?

I believe it is. Not only possible but would provide a vastly better form of government than the pseudo-Democracy that we have now.

An outline of how a True Democracy Government might function is set out in the next paper.


May 2008


The objective and basic underlying principle of a Democracy is:

“Government of the people by the people for the people”, and the Rule of Law.

The form of government in United Kingdom is, or is supposed to be, a “Representative Democracy”. In fact, the nation is governed by the Ruler of one or other of the two main Political Parties; a form of Autocracy rather than Democracy. The following is a proposal for how a Non-Partisan Representative Democracy Government would be conducted.

The United Kingdom Government has three branches:

Legislative: The Houses of Parliament, comprising the House of Commons and the House of Lords, are responsible for enacting new laws, and amending old laws.

Executive: Responsible for applying and enforcing the laws as enacted by Parliament: the Laws of the Land.

The Executive branch currently comprises 16 Government Departments (Ministries) and under them many central and local Government bodies. A Departmental Select Committee composed of about 12 MPs scrutinizes the working of each of the Departments.

Judicial: The ‘Courts of Law’, Judges and Magistrates are responsible to adjudicate the cases of persons accused of infringing the law and to settle disputes between citizens. The Judiciary is independent of both the Legislative and Executive branches.

Thus, every requirement for a Democratic Government and the Rule of Law is in place. Legislation is the responsibility of the Houses of Parliament – laws are debated and enacted or rejected by majority vote of the democratically elected MPs and by the Lords. The Executive applies the laws, and manages the day-to-day business of the country -- its work is monitored by several Select Committee of MPs. Justice is administered by the independent Judiciary.

In this 21st Century, there is no place for autocracy of any kind. Laws should no longer be imposed on the nation, as they are now, by a Political Party. There is no longer any need for Political Parties or for Party Politics. There is no longer any need for a one-person Ruler or Leader, the “Prime Minister”, or for any ruler-appointed “Departmental Ministers”.

This proposal sets out the major changes that would be made to the UK’s existing Political Party system of government to install a True Representative Democracy Government.

Political Parties aim to advantage members of that party and its committee to the disadvantage of the rest of the population. Political Parties are, by definition, non-democratic. All Political Parties will be abolished.

The Government will be non-partisan. All MPs will be “independent”. Since there will be no Political Parties, there will be no Political Party in Power, there will be no Prime Minister in power, and no Departmental Ministers in power. The Rule of Law will be in power.

The composition of the House of Lords, the legislation review body, will be reformed – see below.

National and International situations are constantly changing, necessitating the legislation of new laws and the revision the existing laws. It will be for the appropriate Select Committee in conjunction with the heads of the Ministry concerned to be sensitive to the need for new legislation as and when required. The Ministries will draft new/amended “bills” which would then be put before Parliament by the chairmen of the Select Committees.

All new bills, and amendments to existing laws, will be debated, enacted or rejected by Members of Parliament (MPs) by ‘free majority vote’.

The Executive Branch, i.e. the appropriate Government Department, supervised by its Select Committee (not by a Minister as previously), will ensure that the nation’s laws are applied and enforced.

A written Constitution, including Citizens’ Rights, will be drawn up and enshrined in law.

Requirements for a True Representative Democracy Government would include:


As at present, any registered voter may put himself forward as a Candidate for a Constituency.

To receive recognition, a Candidate must obtain the endorsement of 20 voters of the constituency.

Candidates will have no political or party loyalties. Their function, if elected, will be to represent the views of all the citizens of their constituencies in Parliament to the best of their ability.


As at present, there will be approximately 650 constituencies each of approximately 70,000 voters, each returning one Member of Parliament (MP). Voters will choose the Candidate (not the Political Party) who they think will best represent in Parliament their own interests and the interests of the constituency and the country as a whole.

An MP’s term of membership of the House of Commons will be approximately two years. An Election will be held in each constituency every approximately two years. Retiring MPs will be able to stand for re-election.

Constituency election days will be spread approximately evenly over a two-year cycle.

There will be no country-wide election day.


The electioneering expenses of all recognized Candidates will be funded by the State up to a maximum of £5,000 per candidate per election.

Those electioneering expenses e.g. for printed matter, hire of meeting halls, etc. will be paid by the Town Hall (not paid to the Candidates themselves). It will be illegal for a sum greater than £5,000 to be spent on any one Candidate’s behalf.


Casting their votes will be made as easy and simple for voters as is possible -- by postal vote, or by the internet, or by personal attendance at a Polling Station.

Voting will be obligatory (fines for those failing to vote).


The House of Commons will, as now, comprise approximately 650 constituency Members of Parliament. MPs will be obliged to attend the House without absence for all the hours the House is in session. (Permission for essential absence to be granted only by application to the Speaker.)

The House of Lords will have approximately 500 Members representing the majority of Professional and Special Interest bodies of the nation, and will be appointed by those bodies themselves. E.g. Architects, Construction Industry, Nurses, Police, the Aged, Child welfare, Trade Unions, major Religions, the CBI, etc.


The executive government of the country will, as now, be managed by the various Departments of Government (there are currently some 16 Departments) staffed by Civil Servants. As now, for each Department there will be a Select Committee to monitor the workings of that Department. The Select Committees will consist of about 12 MPs selected for their expertise in the remit of each committee’s respective Department. As now, each Select Committee will elect its own Chairman.

The duties of the Select Committees will be enhanced to include, together with the officers of their Government Departments, the formulation of new laws (and the amendment and annulment of existing laws). The Chairman of each Select Committee will propose and introduce such new laws to the House of Commons.

To coordinate the business of the House of Commons, the Chairmen of the Select Committees will form a “Chairmen’s Committee”, which will appoint its own “Chairman of the Chairmen’s Committee”.


Each proposed new law will be put to the Parliament by the chairman of the appropriate Select Committee, debated by the assembled MPs and then voted upon by a ‘Majority Free Vote’. (In a True Democracy Government, ALL votes will be ‘Free Votes’.) Laws approved by majority vote will be sent, as now, to the House of Lords for detailed scrutiny.

Parliamentary time will be set aside for “Select Committees’ Questions” (now Prime Minister’s Questions), giving the opportunity for individual MPs to ask questions of the Chairman of any of the Select Committees on the workings of that Committee’s department.

Additionally, Private Member’s Bills (laws proposed by an individual MP) will be possible.

The House of Lords will, as now, debate each proposed new law and, if deemed necessary, refer it back to the House of Commons for amendment. The House of Commons will, as now, have the power to override the House of Lord’s rejection.


For the International Representative of the nation, the Chairman of the Chairmen’s Committee will act as does the Prime Minister now. The Chairmen of the Select Committees will act as Departmental Ministers do now e.g. the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee will act as does the Foreign Secretary now.


To assist the MPs in their duties, each constituency will have a Constituency Office located within the constituency, with a small permanent ‘civil service’ staff. The cost of the office and the staff will be paid for by the state.


MPs and Lords will receive appropriate salaries. An independent board will be established to set pay scales commensurate with positions of comparable responsibility and out-of-pocket expense costs in commerce and industry.

The costs of accommodation and meals will not be refunded. MPs' legitimate traveling expenses from their constituency to Westminster for the period when Parliament is in session and for essential travelling within their constituency will, as now, be refunded. Lords’ legitimate travelling expenses will re refunded.


MPs will be prohibited from being engaged in any form of paid employment other than performing their parliamentary duties.


Coercion at elections: Payment in cash or kind to, or any form of coercion of, a candidate by any individual or group, will be a criminal offence, both for the party making the payment or attempting coercion, and for the Candidate accepting same.

Coercion of Members of Parliament: Members of both the Houses of Commons and Lords will vote on bills put before them purely on their unbiased assessment of the ‘good of all’. Payment in cash or kind to, or any form of coercion of a Member by any individual or group, will be a criminal offence, both for the party making the payment or attempting coercion, and for the Member accepting same.


Individuals or associations will be permitted to ‘lobby’ MPs – that is to present the case for, or a petition for, new or amended legislation. But strictly subject to the prohibition of coercion described in the previous paragraph.


The ‘True Democracy’ principles as outlined above – i.e. councilors to have no political party affiliations, decisions ‘for the good of all’, free votes etc -- will apply to County Councils and Local Government.


All remaining legislative and executive powers and duties of the Monarchy will be dissolved. E.g. the ‘royal assent’, ‘reserve powers’ ‘opening of parliament’ etc.

The Monarchy will continue, as now, to perform ‘Head of State’ ceremonial and charity-sponsoring functions, both at home and overseas.


The armed forces will swear allegiance to “The Constitution and Government of the UK” in lieu of to “the Crown”.


May 2008

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