Arbitrary and Unlimited Power, Thrown Away

The monarch’s job is to continue arbitrary and unlimited power, and hand most of it over to government. In 2003, Blair used this to declare war on Iraq without prior parliamentary approval, in 1992, John Major used this power to cover up Britain’s arms trade with Iraq, and in 1984, Thatcher used it to prevent civil servants from joining/forming trade unions.

English: H.M. King George VI and Queen Elizabe...

H.M. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in the Senate Chamber giving Royal Assent to Bills, Ottawa, Canada.

The Queen has formal powers too, such as the power to dissolve/dismiss government, withhold royal assent on certain bills, and to appoint Prime Ministers. Even though they haven’t been used in Britain for a while, they were used against democracy (with great backlash) in Australia to dismiss the 1975 government, and in 2008 to prorogue the Canadian government (and undemocratically prevent a vote of no confidence) for several weeks.

It is true that Elizabeth isn’t exactly controversial, but monarchism ends up choosing people by chance, and there’s a danger people like Charles could abuse it. Additionally, her being above the fray of politics is pointless, when she ends up being the government’s puppet. This is where the equality of opportunity argument comes in (and yes you can think it baseless in comparison to the white millionaires club), it’s not good enough for me to just say that the current head of state gives birth to the next one; I think such a position should be earnt.


The BBC sets the agenda on the Royal family (Republic)

Please note that I didn’t write this, but am reposting it from the campaign for a British Republic ( http://www.republic.org.uk/updates/?p=907 ). The headline is: ‘ BBC accused of blocking embarrassing royal stories

The BBC has been accused of operating a deliberate policy of ignoring or underplaying news stories that could embarrass the monarchy, while giving significant coverage to pro-royal “puff pieces”.

In the last six months the BBC, which employs a “royal liaison officer” to ensure good relations with Buckingham Palace, has overlooked a number of potentially damaging stories about the monarchy – despite extensive coverage in other national media outlets. These include:

Duchy of Cornwall accused of tax avoidance
Covered by: The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, Financial Times, The Daily Express
BBC coverage: none

Royal finances to be investigated by public accounts committee
Covered by: The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sunday Express
BBC coverage: none

Prince Charles uses intestate cash to fund own lobby groups and old public school
Covered by: The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express
BBC coverage: none

A number of other stories – including the public accounts committee’s demand for the government to justify Prince Charles’s tax exemptions, revelations about the “royal veto” and the Queen’s £6m pay rise – received only fleeting coverage, despite being given high prominence by other media outlets.

In that time, however, the activities of the royal family – and in particular Prince Charles – have been covered in considerable detail by the BBC. Headlines on the corporation’s website over the previous six months include:

  • Prince Charles visits community shop
  • Charles and Camilla take Tube ride
  • Prince Charles: ‘I’m feeling very old’
  • Royal baby prompts green concern for Prince Charles
  • Prince Charles calls for more compassion in NHS
  • Prince Charles revives horse logging on Balmoral estate
  • Prince Charles urges ‘harmony with nature’
  • Prince Charles ‘worried’ for rural communities
  • Prince Charles visits Northampton shoe factory
  • Prince Charles visits Middleport Pottery factory

The BBC has also just announced a “Coronation celebration season” which aims to “bring the nation together this summer by allowing everyone to join in with the Coronation celebrations”.

Republic’s chief executive Graham Smith said: “When you look at the royal stories that the BBC covers and the ones it ignores, it’s difficult not to conclude that the corporation is at pains not to embarrass the royals. It will often send more than one reporter to a staged PR event, yet manages to overlook some really important public interest stories that licence fee payers have a right to know about.”

“Many of the stories the BBC has covered have all the hallmarks of PR puff pieces orchestrated by the palace press office – which the corporation seems eager to cover without the slightest concern for journalistic integrity.”

“If the BBC has the time and resources to report that Prince Andrew uses an iPad, then it can report on controversies surrounding the royal finances or Prince Charles’s political meddling.”

“The BBC is supposed to be independent, impartial and honest, but it seems to have been entirely co-opted into the royal PR machine. That’s why we’ll be protesting at Broadcasting House on Saturday – and why we’ll keep putting pressure on the BBC to cover the monarchy objectively.”


Republican Principles in 18th c. Britain

233 years and 4 days ago, John Dunning MP successfully moved a motion that stoutly attempted to make firm Parliament’s sovereignty.

This was a key stage in Britain’s democratic and republican growth, the motion stated that:

“the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”

& that

“it is competent to this house to examine into and correct abuses in the expenditure of the civil list revenues, as well as in every other branch of the public revenue, whenever it shall appear expedient to the wisdom of the house so to do”

Edmund Burke may have best described the ‘Crown’ in this context as a system of patronage and undemocratic secrecy that continually threatened to undermine the people-power of Parliament. Dunning my also have seen it this way, as the ‘Crown’ was acquiring a worrying amount of executive powers that would bypass Parliament in political decisions. This was in conjunction with the unpopular monarch, George III, who continually attempted to exercise undue influence on the democratic process.

Dunning is a lesson to modern British and foreign republicans, who all too often focus on one aspect of a state’s constitution and ignore other abuses of power. In Britain for example, there are still threats to republican values that are not through the monarchy or the Crown but in Parliament itself. The motion was successful, despite the 18th century Parliament being in many cases unrepresentative and simply corrupt. If a historical and weak Parliament could create such a bill as this, it is not hard to believe that the same may yet happen in modern times.


‘Right to be forgotten’ is not worth fighting for

Following very real concerns created by governments attempting to violate basic internet privacy, some of which were stopped by the EU itself, when the British government seeks to opt out of EU rights for internet users people understandably become worried. In fact, headlines created quite emotional reactions:

daman345 : The UK ought to f**k off on this one. That sounds like an important right to have in the online world.

oldtymer : What do you expect from this government? They will always put the interests of the huge corporate user before the rights of their citizens.

ryebonfire : Why on earth should the MoJ oppose this? Given that there should be sensible exceptions for State records, everyone has a right to the privacy of their personal data.

Others went as far to call it Orwellian, but is it scaremongering or yet another authoritarian policy on part of the government? For one thing, the idea of a ‘right to be forgotten’ is simply impractical.

The concept will either be overbearing or in actual fact promise very little. Richard Allan, a regional Facebook director for policy, said:

“we have concerns about about the workability and consequences of a mechanism where organisations start sending each other instructions about data that needs to be removed. Our worry is that it will take up resources and won’t be effective.”

Simply put, if an embarrassing picture is put online and spread to multiple sites it becomes both impossible to track and near infinitely time consuming to request takedowns. According to some sources, the law could cost the UK over £400m a year in total according to justice minister Lord McNally .

There are some parallels between this and copyright takedown, sites like Youtube have to cooperate with laws on copyright but lack the resources/incentive to do effectively, hence, they have automated systems that delete/block videos or accounts after a certain amount of requested takedowns. This automated system can be combatted if your personal details are filled in claiming ownership of your own video, but due to this can also be abused to silence those taking controversial stances who fear letting their personal information become public ( see here , for example). It is not unreasonable to suggest that the same kind of ‘doxxing’ could happen with any of these new proposed laws.


Vince Cable on Austerity in Britain

Balance of risks

Contrary to the rhetoric around economic policy, the real disagreements have had little to do with ideology or economic theory. The government has happily deployed Keynesian techniques where feasible – as in its counter-cyclical fiscal policy. It has been sufficiently pragmatic to allow the fiscal consolidation to drift from four years to seven. The question throughout has been how to maintain the confidence of creditors when the government is having to borrow at historically exceptional levels, without killing confidence in the economy in so doing through too harsh an approach.

When the government was formed it was in the context of febrile markets and worries about sovereign risk, at that stage in Greece, but with the potential for contagion. There was good reason to worry that the UK, as the country arguably most damaged by the banking crisis and with the largest fiscal deficit in the G20, could lose the confidence of creditors without a credible plan for deficit reduction including an early demonstration of commitment.

Almost three years later, the question is whether the balance of risks has changed. The IMF argued last May that the risk of losing market confidence as a result of a more relaxed approach to fiscal policy – particularly the financing of more capital investment by borrowing – may have diminished relative to the risk of public finances deteriorating as a consequence of continued lack of growth.

On the balance of risks, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. There is no theoretically correct solution: rather, a matter of judgement – which incorporates a political assessment of which risk is the least palatable. There is a body of opinion arguing that the risks to the economy of sticking to existing plans are greater than the risks stemming from significantly increased and sustained public investment targeted at those areas of the economy where there are severe impediments to growth (housing; skills; infrastructure; innovation). But this is also too crude and binary a characterisation of the position; the government has carried out considerable policy reform in these areas, not least in my own department, the fruits of which take a while to mature. The balance of risks remains a matter of judgement.

[ Source ]


Comments & Curios III

The American NGO, operating in North Korea

For once, good news about North Korea.

The story of an Arizona rancher who moved to the most oppressive country on earth — and is attempting to reconcile two countries that have been enemies for decades.

Iran files a lawsuit against Russia

Dmitry Gorenburg warns that this might backfire, but others speculate that this might be an unavoidable consequence of Russia seeing more profit by selling to countries aligned to Israel and America – who would oppose any business with Iran.

Protestants now no longer the majority in N. Ireland

This might give some context to the Protestants who feel that the Catholics are gaining more control, despite the DUP currently leading Stormont.

The proportion of Protestants in Northern Ireland has fallen below 50 percent for the first time, census figures showed on Tuesday, raising the prospect that the growing numbers of Catholics could upset a fragile political balance.


himself.

Thomas Paine, writing a warning for the Americans on the monarchy said that “Such an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might in the next succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool.” As Nick Cohen said in the Guardian, “In Prince Charles, we have both.”

The current monarchy rests on convention, and an understanding that the current King or Queen will not attempt to test the limits of their unwritten constitutional boundaries. This has been largely been abused by Prince Charles, and it doesn’t seem likely that the situation will change if he becomes Monarch of the United Kingdom.