Ryeview – January 2005

Think you live in a democracy?

John Clark writes…

First published: January 2005 – Gazette & Herald

The Indian Ocean tsunami has underlined one thing: people throughout the UK are generous. Meanwhile where are the politicians? – nowhere. British overseas aid is 0.4% of GDP. It is lower than we achieved in 1997. The Third Party aims to achieve the UN target of 0.7% over 10 years. People are giving money now – not in 10 years. The public are ahead of the politicians and the undemocratic institutions.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) use their enormous power to increase the profit of the transnationals, banks and rich individuals. Who pays? – the poor, the bereaved, the environment and the future of our planet. The WTO and IMF are secretive, powerful and undemocratic. They also bolt aid to the competitive privatized model, not simply to need.

The EU is an ‘undemocratic’ power block. In the case of overseas aid one proposal for its handling of aid is: “European Community Humanitarian Office is merged with Europe Aid…..this new agency run by a deputy commissioner under the aegis of DG External relations which will be run by a new High Representative.” Will the citizens of Ryedale who support the present position please vote now… Will those who support the above proposal please vote now… What a bureaucratic mess. Instead of a Common Market we have created the E.U., a bully that dumps food, at less than the cost of production, on the world market. This drives hundreds of millions of farmers worldwide into abject poverty and worse.

Moving even closer to Ryedale doesn’t find an improvement. Our ‘democratic’ mother of parliaments is becoming more in the margins of decision making. The ‘cabinet’ meets in secret and policies are then inflicted on parliament. The Party Whips force the political lemmings to support the party line. The result is that we have people locked up without being charged let alone having a trial. The government now condones the use of torture for obtaining evidence. Privatization is being promoted in education and the NHS. All these are policies that some people support. They are not policies that have been put forward before the British electorate. They have come from ‘unelected’ political advisors and the ‘cabinet’.

Central Government thinks this is so good that it is inflicted on most of local government. The government consults with Regional Assemblies about planning, housing and other issues. A solution to this was to have elected Regional Assemblies. These were not just flawed democracy they were all flaw and no democracy.

  • Powers were going from local councils up to the Regions.
  • No government powers were coming down to the Region.
  • Very few elected representatives.

A few politicians making decisions without the ‘inconvenience’ of people. The North East saw it off in their referendum. The Labour government got ‘frit’ and abandoned the idea of a Yorkshire and Humberside Assembly. Not before the government forced Ryedale District Council and other councils to spend Council Tax making proposals for the reorganisation of local government.

  • just in case the referendum that we didn’t have said ‘yes’.
  • said ‘yes’ to an Assembly we didn’t want.
  • said ‘yes’ to removing a local council we did want.

Meanwhile the government continues to ‘consult’ with the Yorkshire and Humber Region! Government likes this system of undemocratic democracy. It even encourages councils to adopt the ‘cabinet’ system. A handful of councillors make the decisions which are then scrutinised by the rest of the council – after they have been decided and frequently when they have already been carried out!

Ryedale is a beacon in this democratic gloom. The people of Ryedale when consulted said they wanted R.D.C. to retain the committee system. Councillor Trevelyan and I have been able to question decisions as they are made. We accept defeat, hopefully with dignity. It would be a loss if Ryedale joined the undemocratic chain stretching from the WTO and the IMF to the North Yorkshire County Council. It is up to the people of Ryedale to be vigilant. They may or may not like the decisions of Ryedale Council but at least they can, for the present, see them openly.

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