Where Angles Fear to Tread

November 4, 2009

Constitution v Lisbon (0-1)

Filed under: Politics, UK Politics — Right Angle @ 1:13 pm

… away win.

After the Irish were asked so many times about the Lisbon Treaty, they got fed up and said yes, the Polish government has decided (in common with almost every country in Europe) to ratify without a public vote and the Czech’s have followed suit after their supreme court agreed that the treaty was constitutional.

During the last election Labour promised a number of things in their manifesto – not least that Tony Blair would stay for the majority of the term, and that the British public would be given a vote about a European Constitution if one were proposed. There was also to be no increase in income tax! Readers may be ‘suprised’ to find that none of this convinced RightAngle but manifestos are supposed to be believed in the majority of instances.

Now we have the Lisbon Treaty which removes the veto of a number of countries (UK included), creates posts for a president and foreign minister of Europe, and – effectively – takes more power from the individual countries. Now on paper, this is good for Europe, and, as we trade with them for most of our goods, it should be good for the UK.

However, we are supposed to live in a democracy. Granted, we elect people for a term of up to 5 years during which time they make decisions on our behalf. This is how the system works, and it would be impossible to hold a public vote for everything that a government has to decide. There is also the argument to be made, that the electorate of a country can’t understand all the complex issues of the treaty, and therefore couldn’t possibly vote on it in an educated and informed way.  That all said, Labour have said that the UK electorate didn’t get a vote because it is not a constitution, so they believe that the public can make informed decisions about complex affairs.  (The Irish Republic disagreed hence their vote).

So, we have a new treaty of Europe which strips away more power from UK, France and Germany and places it with adjustments for lower population (a sort of a cross between the US Senate and House of Representatives).

We can’t now close the barn door as the horse has well and truely bolted (ridden by a rather hapless Gordon Brown), but we need to engage more in the process of Europe and ensure that required reformed are done quickly. There are still too many MEPs after the Treaty (750) and there are still large pots of money being wasted within the Union.

As a shopping list were anyone to be listening:

  • Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) by which France retain most of their contributions to Europe
  • Rebates (including UK): Whilst this will not be popular rebates on charges do not work, and breed resentment
  • Charging structure: Much like the UN where very poor countries pay little and richer countries pay more. France, Germany and the UK are the powerhouses of the European economy and should clearly contribute more than Luxembourg, Denmark and Poland (for example)
  • Reduction in MEPs
  • Re-introduction of first past the post so I don’t have 5 MEPs representing me, but instead have 1. This will also have the added benefit of reducing the fringe parties
  • More co-operation on the cost of defense. (Currently France spend relatively little on their national defense and contribute less to the global requirements, and Germany are prohibited from combat operations by law). As such the UK is left holding the majority of the defense burden.

I’ll leave you all in peace now



Virginia and New Jersey

Filed under: Politics, US Politics — Right Angle @ 12:32 pm

Following more voting in the US, in the ‘gap-year’ between the presidential and mid-term elections (2010) you would be forgiven for thinking that there might be a pause and nothing much new to add after Obama’s victory of one year ago. 

However, as with everything in politics be they UK, US or the Lisbon treaty, there is almost always a change in perception and this one has happened quickly.  Virginia has elected Bob McDonnell (Rep) as their governor and New Jersey has removed Jon Corzine (Dem) to replace him with Chris Christie (Rep).  But, it’s not all bad news for Obama. As well as winning a seat in New York the elections for governor do not always follow the election for president, and ‘local’ issues (most states in the US are as big as countries in the EU) often swing the voters in ways that they wouldn’t necessarily in a presidential election.

That said it is a boost to the Republicans after the defeat of McCain and is an indication – perhaps – that Obama may not have everything go his way.


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