Friday, 20 November 2009

Newid slams ‘undemocratic’ referendum recommendations

Martin Wilding Davies, the leader of Newid, the party campaigning to establish a progressive political system based on a people’s assembly in Wales, has attacked the recommendations of the All Wales Convention as being ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unconstitutional’ in an article written for Open Democracy.

He points out that despite the research figures bandied about by Sir Emyr Jones Parry and others, “Wales has never shown more than a half-hearted commitment to devolution at the ballot box.”

“The turnout for the 1997 referendum that led to devolution was so low (50%) that barely one in four of the electorate actually voted in favour (75% either voted against or abstained). But since all of the main political parties had a manifesto commitment to devolution, and since marginally more votes were cast in favour (50.3%) than against (49.7%), it went ahead anyway.”

“This is what passes for ‘democracy’ in Wales”, he added.

“The only referendum options the Convention considered were ‘more of the same’ or ‘the same’ – not ‘less of the same’, ‘something completely different’ or ‘none of the above’ – they could just have recommended giving each voter their bus fare to the polling station, thereby saving a lot of trouble and ensuring a marginally better turnout.”

He emphasised a point being used by Labour MPs in what appears to be a concerted effort to slow the process, “The needs of the people of Wales seem to be entirely irrelevant to the interests of the political class.”

“Most Welsh ‘voters’ aren’t because they don’t. Only 43% were sufficiently enamoured with devolution to participate in the 2007 Assembly elections. A clear pattern has developed since only 38% voted in 2003 and 46% in 1999 when devolution was still new.”

“Do people not vote because they think the Assembly doesn’t have enough powers? The Convention doesn’t say. There’s no evidence to suggest that a referendum held in the next year or so would achieve more the 43% median turnout for all Assembly elections held to date.”

“And when the majority abstains from voting, it means there is something so seriously wrong with the political process that a referendum on more of the same would be considered unconstitutional in anything other than our electoral dictatorship. We should first consider what alternative political systems might appeal to the majority.”

“It might be popular to believe that all politicians lie, embezzle their expenses, break promises and pursue nothing but their own careers but the chief failure of the political class is in putting its own interests ahead of the people’s need for real democracy.”

“Even the All Wales Convention can smell the coffee. In its executive summary there is a prominent line that reads, ‘Democracy requires that information be provided, the arguments be presented, and the electorate given the opportunity to be better informed.’”

“If Wales is to be a democracy, if the nation is to govern itself rather than be governed by a remote political elite that has little sympathy for the Welsh condition and little interest in improving the quality of our lives, the people should be able to decide from all of the possible options, not just the one that suits the political class.”

Newid is campaigning for a deliberative People’s National Assembly based on a progressive form of democracy called ‘demarchy’ where decisions are made by ordinary people selected at random (sortition), like jury service, rather than by professional politicians chosen in elections. Such a system will remove the need for professional politicians and political parties, eradicate political expediency, eliminate the almost perpetual state of electioneering and greatly reduce the corrupting influence of vested interests.

People’s assembly members will be guided by an independent judiciary and civil service and will hear evidence presented by advocates. They will select a professional executive to deliver policy in specific fields of expertise rather than have their ministers appointed by political patronage.

“Newid can legitimately claim to be representing the interests of all the people of Wales because it can accommodate a wide spectrum of political opinion rather than that of a narrow interest group. Its constitution makes clear that the party will disband in favour of a people’s assembly as soon as that objective has been achieved.”

“Newid is in favour of a referendum on a written constitution that sets out the rights and responsibilities of all Welsh citizens. The key question to ask the electorate is this: which is more likely to give Wales a fresh start, the Assembly it already has with more powers or the world’s most progressive democracy?”

“Newid will give the people of Wales fresh hope. They’ll have the opportunity, at last, to build a sustainable economy with full employment, to establish a better education system, a more efficient health service, affordable housing and a more secure environment with a better standard of living and quality of life.”

“If our politicians have any integrity at all, they should support whatever system is in the best interests of the people of Wales, even if they have to make themselves redundant.”

“Peter Hain, Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru, the crachach and rest of the political class will of course dismiss these proposals as utopian. They’ll no doubt issue dour warnings to the Welsh electorate to do what they say or suffer dire consequences. But then that’s the only defence they can offer, isn’t it?”


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