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UK Political System
#31
Coalition governments and 'bribes'

At Guest: "I don't this is something inherent to FPTP-coalitions can be made by bribes and inducements in in any system. But this particular arrangement is really shameful. In effect, ten MPs can hold the sword of Damacles over the Conservatives."--

Can you please explain in which EU members other than the UK bribes (= relocation of public money to prop up the agenda of one party) can be used to forge coalitions? I do not know of such a case - but of course I only follow developments in a few EU members.

As far as I know, in other EU members establishment of a coalition government is based on quite detailed negotiations about the programme/policies of the 'shared' government - a compromise 'middle-way' has to be found. There is of course a lot of trading-off going on, where the points of debate are programme issues and which ministries each of the coalition partners will get (some minister positions are more powerful than others, e.g. foreign, home, finance, health minister). A coalition agreement is signed and published so that the people can see what trade-offs have been made and what the compromise programme of the government is. During establishment of a coalition, small parties with few MPs are often king-makers, so they can push through some of their manifesto issues.

We have seen this scenario play out recently in Germany. First Merkel had coalition negotiations with several parties, but the negotiation broke down because Merkel refused to cave in on some basic policies. She preferred to risk snap elections to making too big compromises because small parties were trying to blackmail her. Merkel did not and indeed could not use any public money as a bribe during negotiations - even now as the Chancellor/PM, Merkel cannot spend even one euro of public money without approval of the parliament (where also opposition parties have quite a major role).

In the end, a grand coalition was formed in Germany - with only two parties. Again, major points of debate were policies which the government will implement - searching for some middle ground acceptable to both sides. The compromise programme of the coalition government went to party members for conformation. So the whole process of establishment of a coalition is fairly transparent, and includes detailed negotiations about the policies of the shared government.

In the UK, the budget plan for the next year mysteriously materialises in that magic red box of the UK Chancellor (= finance minister). I find this to be unacceptably immense power of the ruling party, indeed deeply anti-democratic. In many (all?) EU members, one of the major roles of the parliament is participation in planning, approval and then oversight over execution of the budget. Budgetary issues take up quite a lot of parliamentary time. The situation is similar in the EU. (See below for explanation of budgetary procedures in Germany and the EU).

There are also cases of a minority coalition government propped up by support of an 'opposition' party. We have currently such a situation in Slovenia. We had elections in June, and the new centre-left minority coalition government was sworn in in September. To get legislation and decisions through the parliament, the government also needs the votes of a 'partner' party The Left (9 MPs out of 90 seats). Here is an article in English about the coalition negotiations:

Left not joining coalition, willing to endorse minority government (1 August 2018)
http://www.sloveniatimes.com/left-not-jo...government

The Left as the partner of the coalition has negotiated a partnership agreement - where government policies were discussed. The Left has also made it clear that it will not support some specific government policies. The Left has provisionally signed a partnership agreement, but has so far refused to also officially adopt it - because they strongly oppose appointment of a certain person (who has in the past shown extremist anti-immigrant attitudes bordering on hate speech) to PM's cabinet:

The Left Refuses to Formalise Cooperation with Minority Govt. (21 August 2018)
http://www.total-slovenia-news.com/polit...ority-govt

Note that in this case too the disputes are about policies and principles, and the PM does not even remotely have the power to use public money to 'bribe' The Left (or any coalition partner).

_________


Procedures for spending public money

In Germany for example, 'super-powerful' Merkel cannot spend one single cent of German taxpayers' money without approval from the German parliament, which is also heavily involved in planning the budget. This is how the German budget is handled (and the EU has a similar system for the EU budget):


The Budget Act: From draft to adoption (in Germany)

In theory, the budget process is quite simple. The Federal Government sets out what it wants to spend money on. The Bundestag [= the first chamber of the parliament equivalent to the House of Commons] examines its proposal, makes changes, and takes a decision. Then the Federal Government uses the funds to carry out its work. The Bundestag oversees this process. And the cycle repeats itself every year.

The reality is somewhat more complicated – after all, the federal budget involves hundreds of billions of euros and covers every area of policy, from A for Arbeitsmarkt (the labour market) to Z for Ziviler Friedensdienst (the Civil Peace Service). But the basic principle stands.

Every March, the Federal Cabinet [= the government] adopts what are known as “benchmark figures”, which set binding spending limits for all the ministries. The estimated revenue and the financial plan for the coming five years are also set out.

Subsequently, from March to July, the ministries establish the detailed plans for their own budgets, in a hierarchical process, then negotiate them with the Federal Ministry of Finance.

In late June or early July, following further intensive negotiations within the government, the Cabinet adopts the government draft of the Budget Act – to which the roughly 3000 pages of the budget are appended.

During the “budget week” in September, the first debate on the government draft takes place in the Bundestag. This is one of the highlights of the parliamentary calendar.

Following this first reading, the focus shifts to the Budget Committee [composed of members of all parliamentary groups, both governmental and opposition]. Each parliamentary group [= groups of both governmental and opposition political parties] nominates a member to serve as rapporteur for each departmental budget. The rapporteur then goes through the departmental budget with his or her colleagues, holds discussions with federal ministers, state secretaries and civil servants, and proposes changes.

The rapporteurs’ proposals then form the basis for the Budget Committee’s consideration of the departmental budget; the Bundestag’s specialised committees also submit expert opinions which are taken into account. The Committee votes on hundreds of motions for amendments, resulting in a collection of recommendations for a decision that enjoy majority support in the Committee.

The recommendations are submitted to the plenary of the Bundestag, where, finally, the Budget Act and the budget receive their second and third readings and are adopted.

The Budget Committee’s power to make changes to the draft budget shows how powerful the German Parliament is: in many other countries, the parliament can only accept or reject the government’s draft as a whole, without being able to change the details.

The role of the Bundestag and the Budget Committee does not end once the budget has been adopted; they also have a say in its execution. “Qualified blocks” are imposed on some budget appropriations, for example those relating to new programmes. In this case, the Budget Committee only releases the funds if the government submits the required strategies and reports. If there is a funding shortfall in one area, the Federal Ministry of Finance can authorise excess or extra-budgetary expenditure, but the ministry concerned must make equivalent savings elsewhere. If there is an overall shortfall, a supplementary budget has to be adopted – with the Bundestag and the Budget Committee again playing a crucial role.

More info here:
https://www.btg-bestellservice.de/pdf/81021500.pdf

Note that this pdf file has very wide pages - you need to scroll to the right to see the whole text.


Likewise in the EU, the European Parliament is heavily involved in planning and approval of the EU budget. Here are the main steps for approving the EU budget:

How is the [EU] budget decided?
http://ec.europa.eu/budget/explained/man...ail_en.cfm

Note that the democratic procedures for drafting and approval of the next 2021-2027 EU budget framework have already begun. Even if the EU budget is rather very small (it only contains about 2% of total public spending across the EU), the planning and approval of the budget goes through many democratic steps. See here:

EU budget: Commission proposes a modern budget for a Union that protects, empowers and defends (press release)
2 May 2018
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-3570_en.htm

More details about the proposed 2021-2027 EU budget and decision-making timeline:

EU budget for the future
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/future-e...-future_en

Before the European Commission published the first draft proposal for the budget, there were many consultations and input from many stakeholders, including a public consultation about the budget:

Have your say on how the EU budget should be spent: launch of the public consultation on the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework
https://ec.europa.eu/info/news/have-your...-jan-15_en
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#32
(02-10-18, 08:34 PM)Ajda Slovenia Wrote: "Coalition governments and 'bribes'

At Guest: "I don't this is something inherent to FPTP-coalitions can be made by bribes and inducements in in any system. But this particular arrangement is really shameful. In effect, ten MPs can hold the sword of Damacles over the Conservatives."--

Can you please explain in which EU members other than the UK bribes (= relocation of public money to prop up the agenda of one party) can be used to forge coalitions? I do not know of such a case - but of course I only follow developments in a few EU members.

As far as I know, in other EU members establishment of a coalition government is based on quite detailed negotiations about the programme/policies of the 'shared' government - a compromise 'middle-way' has to be found. There is of course a lot of trading-off going on......."

Corruption is always a problem for any human organisation. Nevertheless, the UK view of the EU is that, compared to the UK, the level of corruption is ubiquitous and breathtaking. A quick google with "eu political corruption" finds many million hits, and a recent EU report https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26014387 gives a small overview. You might note that the UK produced 'the best result in Europe' - being the country where the least number could be found who expected to pay a bribe.
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#33
Corruption is always a problem for any human organisation. Nevertheless, the UK view of the EU is that, compared to the UK, the level of corruption is ubiquitous and breathtaking. A quick google with "[size=18.6667]eu political corruption" finds many million hits, and a recent EU report https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26014387 gives a small overview. You might note that the UK produced 'the best result in Europe' - being the country where the least number could be found who expected to pay a bribe[/size]  


This is a correct perception. It has long been a complaint about the EU in the UK. The main focus of these historic complaints has been  payments under the Common Agricultural Policy. This policy has widely been considered in the UK as being  wide open to fraud and as little more than the defence of vested farming interests in certain EU countries. France is particularly considered by many UK critics of the CAP as being the main unfair beneficiary of the system. Furthermore, there is a commonly- held belief in the UK that, with all EU regulations, the UK seeks to enforce them whereas other countries flout them with impunity. This belief is particularly strong among Conservative-leaning voters and this argument has particularly been applied to CAP payments.

The last point about numbers is an interesting one. One thing this may not take account of is the scale of potential bribes or other forms of influence peddling. . Money laundering is perceived to be a problem in the UK, linked to views about the real sources of monies from the former Soviet Union.The UK has also been criticised for its approach to controlling the influence of lobby groups in the political process. However the 2010 UK Bribery Act is extremely strict-it is considered by many legal professionals to be the strictest in the world and companies have been prosecuted under it. Anti bribery training is a common feature of training programmes in UK public service bodies. It is one area where I think the UK can claim with some justification to have lead the way within the EU.

Transparency International regards the EU as the region least open to influence from bribes, based on their summarised corruption barometer. However, this covers all of the EU. Complaints about EU corruption and fraud in the UK have, historically, focused as much on individual countries as the EU as a single body.  But the EU has definitely become more alive to this issue over the past ten years or so and national governments have been enacting legislation in this area in this time. It's a complex picture but I think the UK's positive reputation in this area is generally deserved (notwithstanding the China steel dumping issue, which I do think is a black mark against the UK).

Whether in or out of the EU, all countries need to work together to tackle this worldwide menace. The EU will, in my view, need to take this issue into account more prominently when considering full membership for future members. What the UK will do is anyone's guess post-Brexit. Some commentators think the need to strike trade deals risks a weaker anti-bribery and corruption environment emerging, but that is, in my view, not a well supported argument as a future direction in the UK at the moment..
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#34
(20-09-18, 08:40 PM)stranger in a strange land Wrote: Finally, the comment that the UK FPTP "system has delivered stable governments for the best part of a thousand years" is not strictly accurate.

There were extremely restricted electoral rolls until the 1930s - excluding women. 
Prior to that property ownership was a frequent criterion for eligibility to vote.
Pocket and Rotten Boroughs were utterly fraudulent until the 1832 Reform act.
Any system where government only represents a minority is not democratic, by definition. 

I stated that the system delivered stable government for a long time.

You complained that for most of that time it had limited the right to vote, and can often produce a government supported by a minority of voters. 

So?  I never claimed that it allowed universal franchise throughout its existence, or that it always delivered majorities. I claimed that it was a stable, long-lasting structure.  And so it is. Your comments simply do not apply. 

The British prefer evolution to revolution.  That is how their government has grown. Few other countries  have as much precedent and experience in dealing with political situations - and it shows, as they end up changing their constitutions every hundred years or so - in some cases much more frequently.  

We don't.  Because we have got it right. Claiming that it must be wrong because it does not match what you see as the latest trend does not cut much ice with us, I am afraid...
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#35
(20-09-18, 09:59 PM)Pando Wrote: Dodgey Geezer wrote "..It also fails to recognise how the system has delivered stable governments for the best part of a thousand years, while few Continental systems can manage more than 100 years."

You must have had your head in the sand for the last 8 years.

For three elections in a row, Westminster’s voting system has failed to work even on its own terms – producing two Parliaments where no party got more than half the seats, and in 2015 a wafer-thin majority amid the most disproportional result in British history.
These last three election results have been shown to have been unpredictable, erratic and more importantly undemocratic. 

The claim that FPTP provides strong and stable Government is no longer tenable. How long must we suffer the consequences of a system no longer fit for purpose

We just don't see 8 years as a very long time. If we were to change things because of some minor issues for a few dozen years we would end up with the sort of systems that they have on the Continent.  Which we don't want....
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#36
(26-09-18, 03:52 PM)Kay Parlay Wrote: My own take of the British electoral system is that it could be easily made to work for the people in the UK - if they could just see that political leadership is not something that should be seen as a team "sport" at all.

That is to say that the problem, in my view, with the British system is caused entirely by political parties fighting between themselves for power, rather than individual politicians fighting for the benefit of their own electorate in a parliament of other individual political representatives equally representing their constituencies, rather than any unelected political party which is so easily influenced by outside forces (think of Murdoch here).

You actually have a very workable electoral system in the UK, if only you could understand that by electing your local representative on the basis of his or her's competence and ability rather than what political party they belong to.

Why not vote for your MP on that basis and totally ignore which political party they belong to? In fact, why not abolish political parties entirely? All they bring to the political governance of the UK is the easy ability to pervert the entire system for the benefit of those that have the wealth to bribe and cajole the elected representatives against the best interests and wishes of the very people that elected them.


Again - a total lack of understanding about how the British political system actually works!

It is an adversarial system.  Similarly, British Common Law is an adversarial system. So are many of our institutions.  This is a fundamental difference from the Continental systems, built on the Napoleonic Code.

You will not learn much about it from newspaper reports. If you think that MPs do not represent their constituents then you are completely misinformed.  Perhaps you should study it a bit before commenting on it?
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#37
(01-10-18, 10:08 PM)Real European Wrote: To continue:

the EU can only legislate within the framework of the treaties - and these treaties are democratically legitimised by the national (and sometimes regional) parliaments.

Laws in the EU are made as follows:

1. First, the member states negotiate and ratify a treaty. That's the legal framework.

2. The EU commission then proposes laws to trun these treaties into laws to make sure that all members adhere to the treaties they adopted.

3. Next, the national parliaments are informed of the proposed law. 
  • If one third of them object to this being regulated by the EU and opine it should be regulate at a lower level (national, regional etc), the proposal is sent back to the Commission that can abandon or modify its proposal or can motivate why it opines it is better to regulate this at EU level  - the Commission can then relaunch the proposal
  • if half of the national parliaments object, it's end of story for the proposal.
As such, the national parliaments function as a Virtual Chamber of the EU.

4. If the proposal gets past this Virtual Chamber of national parliaments, it moves to:
  • The Council (of National Ministers)
  • and the EU parliament
They can each reject, adopt or amend the proposal. Only if both legislative bodies agree on a final wording, does it get adopted.

Where is the democratic deficit in this?

We want to propose our own laws, by having our elected representatives propose them.  What you have described is a Technocracy with a democratic facade.
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#38
(04-10-18, 11:11 AM)Ajda Slovenia Wrote: How the CAP really works - and implications for Brexit

It seems to me that complaints about the CAP are yet another case of the UK political elites blaming 'the EU' for the consequences of the UK’s internal problems: the archaic feudal land ownership, corrupt British political elites deciding to give a lot of EU money to large landowners (rather than small farmers) and inability of the British people to hold their politicians to account.

Note that it is the UK's own  choice to use a lot of CAP money to subsidise large wealthy landowners!

CAP is not perfect and has undergone many changes, and more are in the pipeline (some changes were already in public consultation). After the 2013 CAP reform before the current 2014-2020 financial framework, each member state has more flexibility to allocate the CAP funding according to its own priorities (see below).

Is anyone in the UK keeping an eye on what your government is doing? I mean, under the new flexible CAP they could have for example directed more money to small farmers instead of rich landowners. Or did they give more money to the rich landowners again?

Has there been any public debate in the UK about how to allocate the CAP money under the more flexible CAP?


OVERVIEW OF CAP REFORM 2014-2020 (December 2013)

From 2014 onwards, the allocation of direct payments [= ‘subsidies’] dedicated to coupled support, young farmers,  small farmers, etc. will depend upon the choices made by Member States.

Furthermore the share of expenditure between pillars may change in 2014-2020, with the possibility to transfer up to 15% of their national envelopes between pillars [1st pillar = direct payments to farmers; 2nd pillar = funding for rural rural development], enabling Member States to better target spending to their specific priorities. … 

The flexibility offered to Member States to implement the new direct payments means that the share of funding allocated to different schemes can potentially vary significantly throughout the EU.


http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/sites/ag.../05_en.pdf

See also these commitments of the UK government:


FARM PAYMENTS IF THERE’S NO BREXIT DEAL (23 August 2018)

The government has pledged to continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this parliament, expected in 2022: this includes all funding provided for farm support under both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 of the current CAP. This commitment applies to the whole UK.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...rexit-deal


So the UK will keep that horrible terrible CAP until 2022 – because it is not capable of sorting out its own system for agricultural subsidies until more than nine years after Cameron had announced the Brexit referendum and six years after the referendum. Yet another thing that the UK wants to 'copy/paste' from the EU.

Clearly the current UK government just wants to kick the can down the road, where even this is a lot of work – the UK will have to adopt its own legislation and system for agricultural subsidies.

Well, there is also one tiny little problem with UK government’s ‘plan’ to just keep using CAP after the UK ceases to be an EU member. Currently, the British farmers are allowed to get subsidies under the EU CAP umbrella because the EU (with its large clout) negotiated these allowed subsidies at the WTO.

The Brexit UK will not be allowed to pay any subsidies to its farmers (because such subsidies are prohibited state aid under the WTO rules) after 29 March 2019 until it manages to negotiate its own farming subsidies at the WTO against 160+ vetoes - good luck with that:


FORGET BRUSSELS, BREXIT’S TOUGHEST BATTLEGROUND IS THE WTO (8 October 2016)

Britain’s farmers now benefit from EU subsidies paid under the Common Agricultural Policy. … a Britain separated from the EU could find itself isolated and hard pressed by countries such as India and Bangladesh to give up paying farmers EU-level subsidies once the Brexit process is complete.

http://www.politico.eu/article/forget-br...eresa-may/


By the way, the CAP has gone green years ago – somebody should tell Gove about it.

"... the archaic feudal land ownership, corrupt British political elites deciding to give a lot of EU money to large landowners (rather than small farmers) and inability of the British people to hold their politicians to account..."??????

Someone should explain to Adja that the role of a moderator is to act as an independent arbiter of disagreements - it is not an opportunity to try to denigrate one side of the argument.  But I suspect that it would fall on deaf ears...
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#39
(26-09-18, 05:43 PM)Viridian Wrote: Because of what you deduce in your first paragraph. In Britain pervades a spirit of seeing things in terms of ‘winning and losing’. They need (at least) two parties. Not sure if that can be remedied, they might be genetically predisposed.

No - it's built into the system. The system is intentionally adversarial. Because to get at the truth you need to avoid collusion...
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#40
(27-09-18, 03:02 AM)Real European Wrote: Dodgey Geezer wrote:

"..It also fails to recognise how the system has delivered stable governments for the best part of a thousand years, while few Continental systems can manage more than 100 years."

> Aside from the fact that your current government is a minority government that has been absorbed in infighting, the question is not if your voting system leads to a stable government, but if your governments are representative of the people.

What good does it do to have a "stable goverment" if the government is not representative of the people? The whole idea of a parliamentary democracy is that parliament represents the people. 

In Belgium voting is mandatory and we have PR. This means that parliament is an accurate reflection of who the people voted for.

In Belgium it never happens that one party is large enough to govern on its own - it always takes a coalition of several parties to make a government. And such a coalition government again reflects the diversity of the vote of the people.

Why not ask yourself why the British Government has retained its essential form for many hundred years, while the Belgian one has not?

It is because the people want many different things. They want a lot of contradictory policies, but most of all they want goof governance.

The British system awards government power to the winner of a competition - which is usually the group most capable of governing.  Systems which see diversity as the most important factor get diverse governments, which are frequently incapable of deciding anything.  Usually, they then fall under the control of a strong leader-figure, always a bad way to run government. 

The British system has its fights out in the open and people can vote based on what they see. Continental systems tend to produce a diverse group unable to govern on its own, which then has fights behind closed doors.

We have watched this approach on the Continent for several hundred years now, and do not think it works yet. maybe it will eveolve into something better in another few hundred years...
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