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The impartial biases of the Electoral Commission: Is it the mine or the miner that will kill the canary?

People have a lot to distract them at the moment. But Covid, Euro 2020, the date of the end of lockdowns, a Lions Tour and a financial crisis that’s knocking on the door are not the only games in town.

Hidden in plain sight by the way that the media currently focuses its attention, The Electoral Commission has come into view not just once, but twice in recent weeks and in ways that really should be drawing a very big spotlight across everything they are in place to do.

First of all, we had the Prime Minister talking about a review of the Commissions powers. This followed a series of decisions The Electoral Commission has taken, such the prosecution of Darren Grimes following his input within the European Referendum Campaign and his relationship with Vote Leave in 2016.

Then, in recent days, we have seen newly appointed Commission Chair John Pullinger publicly state that the Electoral Commission could agree to SNP demands for an Independence Referendum without Boris Johnson’s approval first.

You really couldn’t write this stuff even if it was all made up. If ever there was the need to toss a coin to decide whether it was the mine or the miner that killed the canary, this must surely be it.

Despite the many troubling decisions that Boris Johnson and his government have made since the 2019 General Election, I have considerable sympathy with the suggestion that the Electoral Commission has been abusing its position. Anyone looking on with an objective eye will agree that the efforts made by The Electoral Commission against high profile Brexiteers following the Referendum, whiffed of sour grapes at best and looked maliciously partisan at its worst.

You might hope that the questions that the Commissions failure to secure the intended results raised would have resulted in some soul searching and reflective analysis about the role of its Board and Commissioners. Questions such as what they were appointed for. What they were expected to do. What The Electoral Commission really exists for.

This is what we might rightly expect. What we wouldn’t have expected however, would be for a new Chair to take over and then in what is probably their first public act, make a public declaration of possible action that through its very implementation would result in a range of consequences that would at their core reflect a politically biased result – whether intended or not.

Be under no illusion. Facilitating any kind of plebiscite that has not been legally sanctioned by the Government or by standing orders of any kind that relate directly to it would arguably be a deliberate and wilfully political act by those who make that decision or are responsible for it being made.

Nicola Sturgeons unilateral attempt at a demolition derby by extricating Scotland from the UK without fear of the consequences should not be aided and abetted by the establishment- no matter how worthy this impartially biased group of ‘we know besters’ might unwittingly believe the case for Scottish Independence might be.

Through not just one, but a series of decisions that bring the impartiality of the body which is supposed to endure the propriety of the UKs democratic Electoral Processes into serious question, the board of the Electoral Commission has demonstrated that it is not for purpose. Indeed, its actions demonstrate that it does not currently work in the best interests of the British Electorate – which it is there first and foremost to serve.

This problematic reality could not have hit the UK at a more inappropriate time, given the ongoing assault upon democracy that the Johnson Government and all of the political parties have been waging upon our democracy.

Whilst the Prime Ministers’ concerns may be overtly justified, there is significant danger for all of us if the work of The Electoral Commission should succumb to Boris’ self-serving buffoonery as a result of what is a wholly undemocratic and therefore suicidal cause on the part of its Board.

The question of how the problem should be addressed becomes interesting, as the Electoral Commission is far from being alone when it comes to suffering what is now an endemic problem with public appointments: Just like all of our political system today, there are simply too many of the wrong people in post.

Boris, his Government nor the majority of the MPs who are sitting today are themselves part of the problem.

Both the political and Public Appointments system is rotten and full of people who cannot differentiate between what is right for them and what is right for the people they were either elected or appointed to serve.

Like politics itself, The Electoral Commission simply has the wrong people leading it.

We need the Electoral Commission now more than ever. But we need The Electoral Commission to run impartially and free of any kind of political or malign influences.

It doesn’t matter if the cause of bias and improper decision making is overt and visible for all to see, or simply based upon the innate prejudices of people in positions of power who either lack the ability to be self-aware or know that they are favouring their own ideas above what’s good for others, simply because they can.

We must find a way to get the right people into all Public Appointments. Yet this cannot be achieved for as long as people who have a vested interest in the system continuing to run and perform in the same way that has been are left in charge of it or able to influence it in any meaningful way.

For as long as Sturgeon frames the agenda as Independence alone, London can only dictate the terms of Scotland’s return

I believe in the Union and the United Kingdom. But even I have found myself questioning just how long the Westminster Government can resist the call of the Scottish National Party for Indyref 2 or a second Independence Referendum.

Yes. The English media spoon feed us the stories that make us love to hate Nicola Sturgeon and everything about the Party she leads. And if you should ever find 40 minutes to watch Prime Ministers Questions on a Wednesday Lunchtime, you will quickly experience how the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford uses PMQ’s as nothing more than a weekly opportunity to get his face on camera to perform.

However. Like it or not, Sturgeon and her Westminster proxy are no different to any of the other politicians that we currently have leading us from Westminster. They are out for themselves and will do whatever it takes – often shamelessly – to further their own interests and ideas. Meanwhile, they tell everyone that they respect democracy and that doing what’s best for the people is their one and only cause.

OK. There are perhaps a few exceptions. But if so, they are incredibly rare.

Truly representative politics has not existed in the UK for a very long time – if it ever genuinely has.

The twist to this story is that Sturgeon may indeed be one of the most shrewd and adroit politicians of the current age. The SNP Leader may not use her skills for the right reasons. But she does a very good job of making the politicians who lead us look today like the wet-behind-the-ears students that so many historical pictures of them already portray.

The SNP Leader’s ability to turn any political situation or event into an excuse to call for another referendum on Scottish independence is phenomenal, if not an art in its own right. But the painful reality is that things should and could have never been this way – especially so, had localism and handing back power to local communities really been at the core of Devolution’s hollow heart.

The realities underpinning continued membership of the EU have been crudely exposed by the agility of post-Brexit UK Government to secure COVID Vaccinations, whilst the EU has suffered an exquisite failure to launch. Meanwhile, the destruction caused by devolution was itself the bastard child of the European monolith, simply repackaged and sold by Blair and New Labour as part of their unbridled ambition to win favour in Brussels and surrender to the assault of further integration of the UK, regardless of the real cost.

Indeed, the irony of Labour losing political control of Scotland both in Edinburgh and Westminster would be truly delicious, would it not have been for the harsh, stone cold reality that one group of inept and self-serving politicians had weaponised another to leverage power away from their own seat of power using the very same motives as their own, whilst the cost to voters and their communities continued to grow exponentially higher all of the time.

Devolution in the hands of Labour or the Conservatives has and never was about localism, bringing back or decentralising power to the people and the communities in which they live.

Had it been so, the platform of Nationalist debate in Wales, Scotland and to a different degree Northern Ireland would not have existed as it does today in any way – simply because power and decision making it facilitates would be undertaken as close to the people these choices effect as possible. That’s the place where power has always legitimately belonged, giving the real lie to everything upon which the SNPs policy of pursuing independence is formed.

It is troubling to say that the damage to the Union may already be irreparably done. For as long as Nicola sturgeon continues to frame the agenda of political debate and public interest in Scotland around Independence, this direction of travel is only going to lead to and end up with one thing and nothing more.

Yes, there is much excitement over the government now telling sturgeon ‘NO’, emboldened as they have been by the rise of a deceptively blue wall. However, the chances are that this will never be enough. And whilst we continue to have a political class that prizes the centralisation of power using pyrrhic political devices such as the creation of Metro Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners to suggest otherwise, the power, control and level of responsibility that could and should be devolved will never be handed back to the tiers of government that already existed before the devolution shenanigans began.

The excuse that all priorities focus on our exit from the pandemic will soon wear thin with the Scottish Electorate. The call of Indyref2 will become irresistible, and especially so once the painful consequences of such excessive and profligate public spending used to underpin the flawed lockdown policies of the Westminster Government begin to become evident. The SNP will simply sell this as a London-based ‘English’ problem and not one of their own.

The debate over another Scottish referendum and Scottish Independence has to all intents and purposes already been won – aided by the ineptitude of successive Westminster Governments who like the SNP want everything to run their own way and have no time for any cause other than their own.

The self-wounding that Blair inflicted upon the Union on behalf of the EU has been allowed to fester for so long that amputation may be the counterintuitive key to reestablishing and then developing a healthy democratic relationship between london and all regions of the UK in the longer term.

The only question that London can ask about its relationship with Scotland, whilst Sturgeon continues to frame the debate, is under what terms the exiled Scots will be allowed and encouraged to return, once the SNPs destructive dalliance with power and their misuse of responsibility has hurt the very people they lead enough for more caring minds to finally reject their dangerous brand of Nationalism and seek Scotland’s Union return.

The #Indyref2 question will only be a problem for Boris whilst Sturgeon continues to frame the debate

December 19, 2019 Leave a comment

Whatever misgivings you might have about Boris’ Premiership, a week on from the General Election with a whirlwind of policy announcements already made, the Prime Minister certainly appears to be pulling out all the stops to pay back Voters for the victory that he and his Conservatives have just won.

Whilst the realities that underpin Boris’ deal with the EU and the implications of a border down the middle of the Irish Sea remain to be seen, the fact is that what appears to be a full-frontal assault on so many areas of Public Policy in the first days of this new majority Government do indeed echo the Campaign mantra that this is a PM out to get things done.

In fact, so committed and with it so powerful does this new administration now appear to be, there is an inherent danger that the wheels of government being thrown into gear after years of stagnation at the hands of a hung Parliament might just propel Boris and his advisors into the trap of overlooking the devil that lies in all the details and with it, ignoring the herd of elephants which populate an already overcrowded policy changing room.

One of the problems that Boris really now needs to look in the eye, rather than pretend that his mandate gives him license to ignore it, is the question of Indyref2. A problem that under the stewardship of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s expansive presence at Westminster now shows little sign of going away.

Where the Indyref2 problem is concerned, it doesn’t matter to Sturgeon and the SNP what the People have already said. The experience of the past few years has shown that democracy doesn’t matter when power is in the hands of politicians who can only see roads ahead of them that lead to where they believe they will get their own way.

There is a certain truth to the idea that the flea which the SNP has become to Boris’ majority dog would certainly be prevented from jumping if more attention was to be paid by the media and government to how poor and arguably unfit the SNP is actually to govern now, at a time when they only hold certain powers in Scotland.

But killing this parasitic form of politics and replacing it with one that works symbiotically for Scotland as an important part of the UK and for us all will not be achieved whilst any sizable part of the electorate believes that a Scotland run independently from the rest of the UK is the only change possible that will look and feel like a better way.

What the SNP want for Scotland certainly won’t be good for it. But allowing the argument to be framed by the Scottish First Minister as it is, being about them vs. us, isn’t going to help anyone other than Sturgeon and the SNP. It certainly will not benefit the Scottish Voters who themselves only want to be valued in the same way that English, Northern Irish and Welsh Voters in the South do – which can be achieved only by approaching politics in this Country in a very different and arguably much bigger way.

On the face of it, devolution in Scotland and Wales appears to be a very fair thing.

Most people would agree with the sentiment that power should rest as close to the People as decision-making can appropriately be made.

But what most People don’t realise is that the hurry for devolution in the late nineties under the Blair Labour Government wasn’t anything to do with Blair and his charges being in power for and on behalf of the People.

Devolution and the concept of Regionalisation was a giant lie. A sop to gain favour with the EU, which itself always planned to break up Nation-states through regionalization and the supposed devolution of power to more localised administrations.

Its what you might otherwise recognise as a tried and tested system of divide and conquer – albeit presented in a very sanitised and legitimised form – which could very quickly bear some fruit for the EU if Sturgeon should be successful in getting her way.

Power crazed politicians don’t compromise. Neither do they back down when they believe that their power is growing and that by keeping going like a rabid dog, more will soon be coming their way.

The way to put an end to the political argument that Independence through Indyref2 is the only way that Scottish Voters can have more, is for the UK Government to give ALL UK Voters more power over the decisions that effect their daily lives.

And that means undercutting the Sturgeons and the Prices and giving real teeth to the lower tiers of Government and Local Authorities that already and have historically existed, rather than continuing under the misguided belief that any devolution of power needs the creation – and therefore the politicization – of even more.

If all Public Policy decisions were devolved to the lowest tier of Government or where it would be most appropriate for that decision to be made – and central Government were only to oversee a framework where cross-areas implications may need to be considered – People would very quickly start to become a lot more engaged with all forms of government and have a much bigger interest.

Such re-enfranchisement would require immediate political reform.

But as significant political reform still remains necessary to make Westminster Politics viable for the long term, it would not be any great shakes to look at how Party Politics and self interest needs to be handled differently or indeed flushed out from the top to bottom of our political system and cleaned out through and through.

You cannot fault Nicola Sturgeon for continually trying as she does. But her politics is very much of the old kind. It is about the consolidation and expansion of her own power base, rather than anything related to the genuine improvement of the lives and experiences of anyone who votes.

Boris could bring her Indyref2 arguments to a very quick close.

All he needs to do to succeed with this as with most of the things he’s looking at getting done is to consider the real questions that underpin them more deeply and then start doing politics a very different way.

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