Sell Disney the royals

I recently proposed a new type of settlement where each of the four nations of Britain could be independently constituted as nation states yet members of a “British Isles customs union”, or BICU (Letters, October 22).

Rather than each nation have its own overpaid head of state or, worse still, keep the outdated monarchy, our head of state could be based on a “rotating presidency”.

The president’s primary role would be to chair the Council of Ministers and work to cut down the costly duplication of legislation so instead of four laws on say banning smoking or regulating marriage, there would be one law with different provisions for each nation. It could be chaired by Carwyn Jones one year, Alex Salmond the next, etc.

This “constitutional presidency” would mean we could ditch the “constitutional monarch”. Mickey Mouse is not the Governor of Florida is he? Yet he is their top tourist attraction bringing millions into the economy each year. So why do we still have one of our top tourist attractions – The Royal Family – as head of state? Disney Pixar is the most profitable company in the world, trading in fantasy around “princesses” and “princes” – why don’t we sell them the Royal Family, so they can run them 100% as a tourist attraction for taxable profit? The “Queen” could still open the Welsh legislature, but in a ceremonial way, little different to the ways some towns still employ town criers, who operate more for cultural reasons than any practical constitutional role.

States of the nations

I have previously expressed my objections to independence for Wales and primary legislative powers. The reasons have been because of reduced scrutiny of legislation due to unicameralism (Letters, April 14, 2004), unnecessary duplication of laws (Letters, October 1, 2002) and lack of effective use of time due to having to implement EU Directives on top on Welsh law (Letters, February 20, 2004).

Others have said independence is unaffordable because of entrappings of the state, requiring passport offices, driving licence agencies, and customs and tax offices. Welsh nationalists often draw parallels with Catalonia as a model for independence. I would however suggest another one – Benelux – the union between Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. There is no reason why all the British nations (including Ireland) can’t be independently constituted as nation states, whilst being both members of the European Union and a “British Isles customs union.”

These “member nations” could share state apparatus, like a council of ministers and supreme court, from which BICU governments would make laws applying to all nations in the case of the former, and from which they would provide judges to resolve inter-governmental, EU and international law issues in the case of the latter. We could still have British passports and hold joint nationalities as British citizens and Welsh citizens. Our driving licences could still be issued by the DVLA , but could have “CW” for “Cymru Wales” on them instead of “UK”. It would be a big improvement on the current settlement, as not only could a new Act of Union give us more exclusive rights within the BICU, but because each nation could be independent members of the EU, the people of Wales would have greater rights to be treated equally in England than they do now. We could be a member of the euro like Ireland, and that may mean more manufacturing returning to Wales while England keeps the pound.

Why Gordon Brown Needs a Class War

Tony Blair was defined as a Labour Leader by taking on the idealistic failures of his party to redefine Labour as party fit for government. Gordon Brown needs to take on the political classes to transform Britain into a country where power, wealth
and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.

Periods in history have always been struggles for identity, whether it be the working class struggling against the bourgeoisie under Marxism, or the battle between repressive men and ambitious women under Feminism, people have fought battles to secure equality and self-respect.

For me, the present time is a battle between the ordinary people who have a profession and work for a living against the political elite who wield power like it is their weapon of choice, who consume wealth like they have sole access to a tuck shop and who deprive others of opportunity like they are the only ones who have a right to achieve their goals.

As a recently elected Town Councillor who aspires to be a Member of Parliament, and a Chartered IT Professional who aspires to be on the Board of Directors of a leading IT firm, I experience the difficulties of an ordinary person seeking
responsibility in a world where only the elite prosper, and where difference is seen as a disadvantage.

The party political system favours the elite, the people who are remote from everyday people, who have the talents of a salesman, the cunning of a cameleon, and who have struggled as much as someone trying to put a hot knife through
butter.

It was once illegal to live on earnings from the oldest profession in the world; this should be the case for elected representatives. Being a politician should only ever be a part-time unpaid position as this would mean that elected representatives would be required to have a real job and face the same financial struggles as the people in society they claim to represent. Brown should tackle the elite who cling on to power to preserve their publicly funded lifestyles, rather than to serve the public interest.

House of Lords reform is often talked about as a class battle, but all the government want to do is replace an unelected elite with another political elite.

The House of Lords should be made up of professional people and members diverse interest groups rather than consider of more members of the political class.

Brown needs to tackle the inequalities created by the political class, firstly in his own party and then in political institutions in the country as a whole.
06

A Good Week for Democracy

This week I attended the New Statesman New Media Awards, where I had been shortlisted in the Elected Representative category for using my Website to communicate with the electorate whilst I was a councillor and I was also shortlised in the innovation category for using mobile technology to help people with autism and social phobia.

Tom Watson MP won the Elected Representative award for his use of Weblogs for encouraging debate and widening the democratic process.

The thing that makes Tom’s Weblog better than most, including mine, at the time of writing, is that he allows visitors to freely post comments on his posts. Perhaps this is something all political bloggers should do – I’ll be updating my site soon to demonstrate my commitment to freedom of expression and allow people to comment on my posts.

Another winner at the New Media Awards was the Public Whip, which won the Civic Renewal Award. The Public Whip brings together data from Hansard to allow people to know how their MPs voted on the issues put before Parliament.

One of the features of The Public Whip that I think has a lot of potential is the Dream MP feature. As someone who regularly plays Celebdaq (a celebrity version of Fantasy Football) I think allowing this sort of interactivity with Parliament is a great idea.

Perhaps the Public Whip could consider setting up leagues, so Dream MPs can see how much in agreement they are with other Dream MPs or how much of a rebel they are within their preferred party!

One more serious use of the Dream MP feature could be to allow other elected representatives, such as councillors let the electorate know how they would have voted on key issues if they’d been their MP. I have already set up a Dream MP account showing how I would have voted on issues such as devolution, the European Constitution, the banning of Fox Hunting, tackling the humanitarian abuses in Iraq, and the reform of the House of Lords, along with the Private Members Bills that I would have supported.

At present my voting record is 100% in agreement with my local MP Dr. Kim Howells, 100% in agreement with Tom Watson, 33% in agreement with Michael Howard and 25% in agreement with Iain Duncan Smith.

Whilst I did not win anything at the New Media Awards, I have come back with some great ideas on how I can be more open and democratic for the time when I am next in a position to stand for election.

Real experts

Jonathan believes that there is a need for a scruitinsing second chamber composed of experts

William Dylan was right to emphasis the need for a second chamber in Parliament (The Western Mail, February 24), but his suggestion of a Senate would not produce any better legislation than the House of Lords does now.

In 1999 we voted for our preferred party to form a draft of the Health (Wales) Bill in the Assembly, and in 2001 we voted for an MP to debate the specifics of this Bill in Parliament.

The last thing we want in 2003 is to elect another load of politicians to play party politics with a very important piece of legislation for Wales.

In my view a second chamber should be made up of experts to scrutinise legislation, people from the real world, with real knowledge and experience. In the case of the Health (Wales) Bill this would be health-care professionals, the people this Bill will affect and who know what its implications will be.

If we really want democracy in our legislative process then the people affected by proposed laws should be involved and not just politically motivated individuals.

Desirable Disengagement

Jonathan believes that regional government can bring the political process closer to people and more effecively adapt certain policies to meet theirxchanging needs.

It was unfounded for Chris McLaughlin to suggest that New Labour is out of touch with the electorate (Rules of Disengagement, Big Issue 304), especially when they delivered devolution to Wales.

The Assembly has made a big difference to young people, and listened to their concerns. On housing, landlords now have to register if they rent to multiple occupants and the poorest families now have grants to study at university.

Mr McLaughlin should realise that when powers over issues such as housing devolved to the regions, there will be desirable amount of disengagement government at Westminster as local politicians address local issues.