A blog by Patrick Crozier

April 25, 2004

Why Blair will lose a referendum on the EU constitution
Patrick Crozier

The polls are very bad for Blair at the moment. The Telegraph has a 3 to 1 “No” vote. It is often said that the polls were similarly bad prior to the 1975 referendum but in the end that was carried by a 2 to 1 margin. Ergo, it can be done again.

I don’t think it can. There are some big differences between then and now:

1. We know what the EU is like
2. Then all the main political parties were in favour. Now they are not.
3. Then most of the papers were in favour. Now most of them are not.
4. Then, our economy was a laughing stock. Now it is the rest of Europe that has the problem
5. Then, most businessmen were in favour. Now things are much closer.
6. Although I don’t know what it was like then, now there are plenty of celebs prepared to endorse a “No” campaign.

Quite frankly it is hopeless. So, why is Blair holding one? It could be that he is deluded. The other possibility is that he knows the affair is coming to an end and he will use the fact of the referendum as a means of strengthening his negotiating position so that agreement with the rest of the EU becomes impossible. He can then look tough as he starts us on the long journey of disengagement.

We're all Eurosceptics now.

April 20, 2004

Euro-Constitution Referendum
Patrick Crozier

So, Tone is going to give us a referendum on the European Constitution, is he? He must know that he'll lose it. Maybe, that's why he's calling it. Or maybe he's just plain deluded. I just can't figure it out.

April 06, 2004

What is democracy?
Patrick Crozier

I originally wanted to write an article entitled: "Why doesn't democracy work?" and then I took a step back and thought about writing: "Does democracy work?" and then I took yet another step back and came up with this: "What is democracy?"

Simple question, huh? A democracy is the people electing the government, right? Except that's not true. There are all sorts of restrictions on the franchise. Nowhere, to the best of my knowledge, allows under-18s to vote. Most places don't allow prisoners to vote and in the UK the Royal Family and members of the House of Lords are disenfranchised. In the US (of all places) residents of Washington DC don't get a vote in federal elections. "Taxation without representation" as they say.

And then there is the question of when places became democracies (important for answering that second question)? When, for instance, did Britain become a democracy? Was it in 1970 when the voting age was lowered to 18? Or 1918, when some women and all adult men were allowed to vote for the first time? Or 1867 when the majority of men first got the vote. I believe that similar incremental moves happened in the US notwithstanding the whole Jim Crow business.

And that's just the voting. On the over-18 definition the Soviet Union and Iraq were democracies. Of course they weren't - there's more to it. You need a free(ish) press and a choice of people to vote for. Voting districts must be fair or, at least fair(ish). Did America or Britain cease to be a democracies when the candidate or party with the fewer votes won (as in 1951, 1974 and 2000)? I don't think so.

What this all adds up to is that there is no hard and fast definition. Which means it's down to feel. My "feeling" is that all Western countries (and that includes Australia and New Zealand) are democracies. I would probably lump in Central Europe as well. But that's the easy bit. Do we include Russia where Putin controls the media? Or Turkey where every so often the Islamic party gets banned? What about the West Indies? Or India? Does Japan, ruled for 50 years by the Liberal Democratic Party (with a break of 8 months in the early 1990s) count?

These are the sorts of things that can be argued about all day. But at some point for the purpose of being able to say anything useful you have to draw the line. For what it is worth I think my line will encompass the West and the Antipodes. We'll see.

April 03, 2004

How to be a minister
Patrick Crozier

I have recently been watching the Alan Clark Diaries on BBC2. Ho hum, a watchable programme on the BBC. Who would have thought that?

The thing that struck me about both the most recent episode and the one before that was how much work was involved. Clark (as played by John Hurt) was knackered. On a permanent basis. Life had ceased to be fun and he had become the prisoner of his civil servants: "men working 18 hours a day for the destruction of the British character" as I think he put it.

Although I am sceptical about government I do accept that if large parts of it are to be dismantled then someone has to be doing the dismantlinng. I sometimes imagine myself in that role. So, how would I go about avoiding Alan Clark's fate? Here's my plan:

  1. State your aims. "My aim is to reduce the role of the state and expand the powers of the individual." Gives people something to work for. Means they know what they are supposed to be doing - even if they don't agree with it.

  2. Be practical: "This cannot be done all at once. Therefore, I am looking for policies that will a) succeed and b) be seen to succeed."

  3. Be realistic: "I am only good for 10 hours a week. That includes visits and time in parliament. Oh, and boxes. You will have to work around that. If that means things get delayed - tough."

  4. Stop them in their tracks: "For everything that goes into my box there must be a note stating why it is my business and how we might change things so it will cease to be my business." That should give them something to think about. It will also make them think twice before putting anything into your box.

  5. Don't let the media run your life. Keep your blog up to date.
Well, it's a hope.