Doctor and activist

Anglo Democracies- What a Mess. We need a New Constitution

7 June 2024

If a mob stormed Parliament, overcoming the security system, causing great fear, killing one person and injuring others, we would regard that country with suspicion; South American tin pot democracy?  If a few of the rioters were charged, but the instigator was not charged 4 years later, we would regard that as a farce. If the instigator then got a fine for irregularity in the bookkeeping of his election funds 4 years later and got a fine that was a tiny fraction of his election budget, he might as well have had a parking ticket. If the instigator then with total impunity stood again for election we would say that the tin pot nature of a quasi-dictatorship was confirmed.  Yet this is exactly what has happened in the USA, where Trump will get a non-custodial sentence, i.e. a fine or some charitable work.  Photo-op in a soup kitchen perhaps?

The Republicans will win if Biden becomes unpopular because the economy turns down, or he supports Israel too much because of the power of the Jewish lobby, or if the scare campaign on his age is successful enough.  This is because there are only two options, Democrat and Republican.  The leaders in the Republican party do not want to criticise Trump because if he succeeds their fortunes will suffer and if he fails, they want to run in 4 years.  In a Big Party, it is all about climbing up their hierarchy- tough luck about the country’s welfare. Even Nikki Haley, who criticised Trump in a desperate effort in the Republican primaries has endorsed him. So we have a President who is too old and should step down standing against Trump who has a criminal record and for some reason cannot be brought to book within 4 years; his past failures, ignorance and appalling policies almost irrelevant in the scheme of things.

In Britain, with First-Past-the-Post voting, the electoral system is similarly distorted to favour only two parties and the inequities are such that you can almost draw a line across the country. Conservative Blue in the South, Labour Red in the North. Other parties and opinions are a dot here and there, they get far more votes than seats.  Post-Brexit the economy has tanked, which is what one might have expected since most their trade was with the EU.  The Conservatives will get a caning, putting in the lack- lustre Labour party, the only alternative, of course.

Back, in Australia, Labor is criticised for doing so little and being Liberal-lite.  They had agreed not to raise taxes and even to give tax cuts because Shorten had been defeated by scare tactics in 2019, so having no policies was a safer, small target option.  The Conservatives rule from beyond the grave.

The problem is that the people have handed the power to a two party system.  When Churchill wrote the post-WW2 German constitution he wrote it so that no party would ever get an absolute majority. There would have to be negotiation about forming government and about each piece of legislation; no ‘winner takes all’.  The Swiss constitution has 3 levels of government, all but 7 politicians are part-time and limited to 2 terms, with their jobs protected so that when they leave they go back to them full time. This means there are no party hierarchies to climb up and no jobs for the boys and girls at the end. Also there are quarterly referenda where if citizens get enough signatures they can overthrow even Federal government decisions.  This is what Australia did not copy when our constitution was written in 1900 (though it was considered). Our 1901 constitution was a heroic effort to stitch 6 squabbling colonies into a nation. It was not all wisdom for all time.

Anglo countries may have been early in creating democracy from autocratic kingdoms, but better things are now known and we need to move up and on.

Arthur Chesterfield-Evans

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