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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Swiss and Polish elections

Good work, Polish types! The nutty twins have been separated, and a more pro-EU Prime Minister finally in place. About time – as one of the largest of the new EU member states, getting Poland to fully participate in and contribute to EU affairs is essential. For the last two years, however, it’s been far more trouble than it’s worth.

The Beatroot has more – including a live-blog of the results. (And it’s well worth flicking back through the archives for lots of electoral goodness there over the last few weeks.)

Meanwhile, boo Switzerland! We don’t like to see far right parties getting the largest share of the vote, ta very much. Then again, the leftie loons who decided to start fights with the police were hardly much better. I mean, you live in Switzerland, for Christ’s sake… It’s hardly worth getting that het up about things, is it now? (This result does, of course, also mean increased Swiss isolationism, and even less chance of another referendum on EU entry being proposed any time soon. Ho hum…)

16 Comments

  1. “This result does, of course, also mean increased Swiss isolationism, and even less chance of another referendum on EU entry being proposed any time soon”

    Oh, right – so, unlike in Britain, you’re in favour of a referendum in Switzerland? Your attitude seems to be ‘the people should decide, but only what we want them to when we want them to’

  2. When you consider how long it took for the Swiss to accept membership in the UN, it’s no wonder that they’ll take another ten or twenty years to accept the idea of the EU

  3. Trooper – Erm… No – I’m merely showing an awareness that different countries have different political systems.

    In the British constitution there is no precedent for referenda on international treaties. The Swiss constitution is unique in that they are fundamental to the functioning of the state, and so passing a referendum is essential for it to join the EU.

    Do stop leaping to conclusions, old boy, there’s a good chap.

  4. John – true. Though they did vote to sign up to the Schengen Agreement a year or two back, so I was beginning to wonder if the tide was turning in the EU’s favour.

    Whether the decision to join the European passport-free zone has influenced this current swing of opinion against immigrants would also be interesting to know. It’d also be interesting to know what they propose to do about it now that they’re part of the Schengen area… Surely the only counter is to hold another referendum to pull out again?

  5. There was a referendum in 1975. There were referenda over the Good Friday Agreement, devolution in Scotland, Wales, London and the North East. We have been told that there will be a referendum before Britain joins the Euro, and the government tells us that it is right that the people decide on important constitutional issues – they merely deny that this current treaty is an important constitutional issue, although it is 95% the same as the previous treaty that they promised us a referendum on at the time of the last election. So, you see there are plenty of precedents, and you’ll have to find another cover story for your evident demophobia.

  6. Yes, there have been a few referenda before in the UK. Most were regional only, none were legally binding.

    In Switzerland, however, referenda are national, regular and legally binding.

    My worry is that if referenda get any more regular (and we’ve had more in the last ten years than ever before in British history), they may gain a legal position, as repeated use could create a constitutionally binding convention. That would fundamentally and potentially irreversibly alter the British constitution and the position of parliament, with utterly unpredictable effects.

  7. Why are you so scared of the people having a say? Don’t tell me it’s to protect the British constitution. If that were the case you wouldn’t support the supranational EU in the first place.

  8. I’m not remotely scared of the people having a say, and as I’ve argued here I think the British constitution is in need of serious reform.

    However, altering the constitution – any constitution, British or otherwise – looking only to short-term gain rather than the long-term implications, is incredibly dangerous. A referendum on the reform treaty today, a referendum on the death penalty (which also has majority support in the UK) tomorrow? Where could it end? A referendum on rounding up homosexuals, jews, etc. etc.? Potential consequences have to be considered, and checks put in place to prevent this becoming a tool by which vocal pressure groups can circumvent considered decision-making by exploiting short-term public emotion.

    And if you reckon that makes me elitist and deny that the public can be whipped into an irrational frenzy so easily, may I point you to the week following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales? Mass hysteria is a potentially dangerous thing – which is one of the prime reasons why representative democracy was invented. Referenda allow mass hysteria to be exploited, hence their danger. After all – at the risk of Godwin’s Law coming in to play – Austria voted to join with Nazi Germany in a referendum.

  9. Right, so the government shouldn’t hold the referendum they promised, because if they do, the people will round up the gays and the Jews and murder them in a barbaric frenzy? And you say you’re “not remotely scared of the people having a say”?

    You talk about ‘vocal pressure groups’ by which you mean those that protest against the decisions of the political class. Don’t you realise that they are just as much a vocal pressure group? The difference is they have power, unlike the people that are against the EU monolith.

    I fear the tyranny of unelected, unaccountable rulers far more than the irrational mob. You need to put down the Hegel and pick up Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’.

  10. The extreme cases I mentioned, as you well know, are merely to suggest that even the will of the people needs to have some restraints placed upon it. You must be aware of the phrase “the tyranny of the majority”?

    You mention Paine, a man who argued for a single chamber for government. The benefit? The voice of the majority – arguably a purer form of democracy than we currently have – is far more likely to win out. The downside? Minorities can end up ignored and oppressed – which is why Paine’s views were ignored when the US set up its governmental system.

    This is the whole point of checks and balances and representative government – to take into account the views of the minority so that the majority doesn’t get its way unchecked.

    My argument is that bringing referenda into the British system without setting up checks and balances against their potential misuse risks the tyranny of the majority becoming far more of a risk – not least because most referenda offer only binary responses, ensuring that there will almost always be a majority, if only a small one.

    In short, you’re in favour of a referendum on this issue because you’re confident that those of the same opinion as you would win; you accuse me of opposing a referendum because what you think is my side would lose*. But would you be so in favour if it was instead your side that was likely to lose – and not just on this issue, but on many others?

    Referenda, in other words, lead to binary splits and therefore the suppression of minority views – this in turn can lead to resentment and splits within society. This is why their usage needs to be carefully restricted. I’m not saying don’t have them at all, I’m just saying set up careful regulations for their use in advance.

    * Because, you see, I’d most likely vote “no” in a referendum on the reform treaty, albeit for utterly different reasons to most people who’d be voting the same way…

  11. “you’re in favour of a referendum on this issue because you’re confident that those of the same opinion as you would win”

    This is not the case. I want a referendum because the government promised a referendum, and I’m absolutely furious that they are not honouring it. I’m not actually particularly confident of winning it, because of the massive resources that the pro-EU ‘vocal pressure group’ will have at its disposal (paid for by the tax-payer). Such a campaign would be based primarily on fear.

    I recognise the dangers from the tyranny of the majority. This is the weakness of democracy. If you want to keep it in check, look no further than the US constitution, and the guarantees to individual liberty that are contained therein. Rather than this, there is another ‘solution’ – to deprive the people of any power. This is the solution favoured throughout history by the rich and powerful.

  12. But, you see, the reason I favour the EU is precisely because it DOES try to entrench certain rights for the people – rights never properly granted in the British system, that can never be guaranteed by the British system as long as the principle of parliamentary sovereignty is maintained (as one parliament can never bind another, no such rights granted by parliament can ever be guaranteed), and which via the opt-out on the Charter of Fundamental Rights the British government are still trying to keep from us.

    (An argument I made at more length a while back…)

  13. In order to “protect our rights”, that are threatened by the sovereignty of the parliament in Westminster, you advocate moving that sovereignty to Brusssels and instead of electing the law-makers, and having them sit in public, you’ll have then unelected, unaccountable and meeting in secret!

    What sort of panglossian b******s is this? And what do you do when you don’t like the result? Any ideas?

    The rights of habeas corpus and jury trials do not come from parliament but precede parliament. They will not be protected by your EU mandarins. The rights you’d sell our nation for are not worth the paper they’re printed on.

  14. Stop getting over-excited, there’s a good chap? This was all going so well at one point.

    What this comes down to is that your understanding of the British constitution differs from mine.

    I maintain – and constitutional lawyers would all agree with me – that parliament is sovereign, and that no parliament can bind its successors. This means that no rights are guaranteed, because any government with a sufficient majority in parliament can overturn them – all too easily now that the Parliament Act means that the Lords can only hold up, rather than stop legislation.

    You may dispute the sovereignty of parliament. You may claim that habeas corpus is an inalienable right – and I agree that it should be. But the only reason anyone in Britain has that right is because parliament says we do. With the passing of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, however, we no longer have any right to habeas corpus if the government claims that we are terrorists. That is, simply, a fact. If they can suspend habeas corpus (and this is not the first time that parliament has done so), they can suspend pretty much any other “right” you claim to name.

    My concern is to make what you think are your rights have actual legally-binding status as rights. Because in Britain at the moment, any such rights stem from the whim of parliament, and from parliament alone. By having an extra-national body with the power to overrule parliament, those rights can be guaranteed for the first time in British history. It’s not a perfect solution, perhaps, but better than what we’ve currently got.

  15. It occurs to me that the way to overcome parliamentary sovereignty and entrench a written constitution is for Parliament to adopt a constitution, which includes rules on when Parliament can be reconstituted (or other rules for amending the constitution) and then ask the Queen to dissolve parliament, having repealed all laws that require an election within a certain time, etc.

  16. Why “boo” Switzerland? I am glad to see one Western country actually doing the most sensible thing! I can’t imagine why the leaders of most Western countries have chosen to give their lands away to every immigrant wanting a piece! The West is heading toward disaster thanks to the importing of troublesome, backward people into relatively peaceful, stable societies.

    Who are you, or anyone else, to tell people of their own country what to say or think? Why should it not be the right of Europeans to decide who is allowed into their country or what laws are passed? After all is it not the land they have lived on for centuries? Is it not the land their ancestors have fought and died to protect? If not Europe where else can Europeans have a say? Nowhere else in the world.

    I say well done Switzerland! For once a nation is prepared to stand up and ignore the daft left, politically correct and speak the truth! 70% of Switzerland’s jails are made up of foreigners! Yet foreigners only account for 20% of the population. You do the math. I wish Britons would wake up and smell the take-over! Britain’s open door policy has led to irreversible changes that are leading to, in my opinion, the fall of a once great nation. Not to mention the rest of the West!