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Ensuring our Sovereignty: Shine a Light


Alistair McConnachie was the Editor and Publisher of "Sovereignty: A Journal for Self-Determination: National, Local, Personal" which ran for 10 years and 120 monthly issues between July 1999 and June 2009. He has a degree in Scots Law from Strathclyde University. He founded A Force For Good on 21 March 2012.

 

This paper is Part 3 in our Basic Principles of Patriotic Sovereignty series.


In this paper, when we speak of Parliament, we are referring to the British Parliament of 650 MPs at Westminster, and the entire House of Lords, unless otherwise stated. We also include the specific Government of the day, and all the MPs and Members of the House of Lords within the word "Parliament".


Pic: From A Force For Good's "Free Speech Rules" counter-rally in George Square, Glasgow, Saturday 20th April 2024.


 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Principle: The sovereignty of the British Parliament, and the sovereignty of the Nation which it expresses, is a reflection of the sovereignty of the Individual who votes for the Parliament. This similarly means that if we believe in the sovereignty of the Individual then we must ensure the Parliament is sovereign. This means it must be independent from the control or domination, or undue influence and/or pressure, of other Parliaments, Lobby Groups, Pressure Groups, Wealthy Donors, and Foreign Interests; and to the extent that the Parliament engages with such state and non-state actors, then the public must be able to find accessible, transparent, understandable, and meaningful information on the processes involved.

 

Policy: Produce accessible, transparent, understandable, and meaningful information on the interactions between the Parliament and such state and non-state actors. Limit financial donations, and prohibit and punish undue influence and pressure.

 

DEFINITIONS

Here at A Force For Good, we like to work from fundamental principles. It helps to keep things consistent!

 

First, some definitions:

 

A Principle is something you believe in.

 

A Policy is something you do as a consequence of that belief.

 

We look at a Policy and we judge, "Does this Policy accord with our Principle or does it not accord with our Principle?"

 

Sovereignty is authority.

 

Authority is exercised at different levels, and in different ways.

 

The Individual, and the People collectively, exercise their democratic sovereignty at the ballot box. In this sense, we can talk about "the sovereignty of the Individual" or "personal sovereignty", or "the sovereignty of the People" or "the People's sovereignty".

 

Parliament exercises its legal sovereignty when it makes and enforces laws. In this sense, we can talk about "the sovereignty of Parliament" or "Parliamentary sovereignty".

 

National sovereignty is exercised and expressed by the institutions of the State – Crown, Parliament, the Government which is formed by the Parliament, the Prime Minister. The Government Departments, Embassies, and Armed Forces, also exercise a form of national sovereignty.

 

We each have a connection to our parliamentary and national sovereignty, through the exercise of our individual democratic sovereignty.

 

Here's how it works:

 

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN the SOVEREIGNTY of the INDIVIDUAL, PARLIAMENT and NATION

The individual exercises his or her democratic sovereignty – that is, authority regarding political matters – at the ballot box.

 

However, this authority extends outwards from the individual to the parliament which the individual votes for, and to the nation of which he or she is a member.

 

Look at it this way: An individual has a legal sovereignty – a law-making and law-enforcing sovereignty. However, this is contracted out, via what has been called "the social contract" and it is exercised in reality by Parliament.

 

We know our legal authority is contracted out in this way because we can't just make up a law to suit ourselves, and then start enforcing it around town! Furthermore, we depend entirely upon the Police and Courts to catch and punish law-breakers, and indeed, to protect us in the first place!

 

So we vote for parliament to exercise its legal sovereignty on our behalf. We trust that it will. If it does not, for example if it allows laws to be casually broken, then we will lose trust and faith in parliament and in our democratic system!

 

We also each have a national sovereignty – an authority as a member of Britain, or Scotland – to have political power represented on our behalf on the national and world-stage.

 

Again, that is contracted out via the social contract to the instruments of the State.

 

In effect, the "instruments of the State" will be the King, the Parliament, the Government which is formed from that Parliament, the Prime Minister, and the other institutions of the State, including Government Departments, Embassies and Armed Forces which will exercise this national sovereignty on our behalf.

 

Therefore, while our vote at the ballot box is an expression of our democratic sovereignty, we are voting in order to elect a Parliament which will exercise our legal sovereignty, which in turn will represent the Nation and thereby exercise our national sovereignty on behalf of the collective national community, of which we are each a part.

 

That's the theory, and it is a good one.

 

BUT WHAT IF PARLIAMENT IS NOT SOVEREIGN?

But what happens if we elect a Parliament, but the Parliament is not, itself, sovereign?

 

That is, what if the Parliament does not have the ultimate authority to make the laws or properly represent the nation because it is controlled, or dominated, or subject to undue influences and pressures from elsewhere?

 

If this is the case, then it means that our democratic sovereignty as individuals is being corrupted.

 

This is why some people were opposed to "membership of the European Union". This involved Parliament's submission (albeit voluntary) to a different Parliament, and often submission to the foreign interests therein represented.

 

There is a legal word which refers to this. It's the word "fettered", meaning "restrained" in some way. Parliament's sovereignty was "fettered" by membership of the European Union.

 

Consequently, when we voted for a British Parliament, which in turn was subservient to a European Parliament, then our personal sovereignty was fettered – restrained and not fully expressed.

 

However, Brexit came along and we (as in "we, collectively, the nation") left the EU. But that still didn't mean that Parliament had become fully sovereign – because there are still other powers operating behind the scenes.

 

For example, other powers may include Lobbyists and Pressure Groups promoting their pet policies, including international groups such as "the World Economic Forum"; or private financial interests and donors which are exercising sway upon all the main parties in the Parliament; or the interests of foreign nations which may be pushing the Parliament to adopt particular policies which may be in the foreign nation's interests but not the British interest.

 

STATE and NON-STATE ACTORS who FETTER our SOVEREIGNTY

We refer to these groups as "state actors" (foreign countries and their diplomats), or "non-state actors" (private or public groups, companies, and individuals).

 

So it is not just membership of other political parliaments which can fetter our sovereignty, but state and non-state actors acting upon the political system which can "restrain" Parliament's behaviour in the sense of preventing an action; or "constrain" it in the sense of setting a limit on what is permissible.

 

Therefore, if we believe in the Principle of Sovereignty – of ourselves as Individuals, and of our Parliament, and Nation – then we have to look also at the state and non-state actors which exercise power upon our Parliament. 

 

Let's consider some of those actors, and look at some related policies to address them.

 

ENSURE PARLIAMENT is OPEN and TRANSPARENT about INFLUENCE and PRESSURE from LOBBYISTS, PRESSURE GROUPS, BIG MONEY and FOREIGN INTERESTS

1. Lobbyists and Pressure Groups and their Interests

Lobbying our MPs is part of the political process. To the extent that we "write to our local MP", we are engaged in a form of lobbying.

 

Our politicians should, and must, be open to hearing what their constituents, and the wider public, wants to say to them, and ideally act on it when appropriate.

 

However, "lobbying" can be more influential depending upon who is doing the lobbying!

 

Therefore, it is important that voters can find out easily who is trying to influence the politicians in a concerted, often well-funded, manner.

 

A Force For Good supports the 39 recommendations of Transparency International UK's report entitled Accountable Influence: Bringing Lobbying out of the Shadows on pages 5-9, which help to make clear to the public:

 

- how much is spent on lobbying,

- what policies, legislation or issues are being lobbied on

- whether or not they are employing anyone who has previously worked for the departments or organisations that they're now trying to influence. (p4)

 

2. Wealthy Donors and their Interests

Wealthy donors can exercise huge influence upon political parties, their policies, and ultimately the direction of the nation.

 

Transparency International UK's report Take Back Control: How Big Money Undermines Trust in Politics has 5 recommendations, including "Introducing a cap of £10,000 on donations per donor per year".

 

The report also recommends:

 

Introduce tighter restrictions on corporate political donations by only allowing companies to donate if they can demonstrate that they are trading in the UK and earning sufficient income here to fund any contribution they make. (p3)

 

This prevents wealthy donors setting up paper companies in order simply to channel money.

 

The idea of limiting donations to £10,000 is one we endorse, but there are a couple of points to consider:

 

Firstly, a few wealthy donors fund the mainstream parties to such an extent today that it is questionable what would happen to the mainstream parties if donors were restricted in this way!


These big political parties in the UK depend entirely upon a relatively few private donors.


Would they even continue to exist if these donors were restricted in this way? After all, they're are not going to survive from occasional £10 donations from Joe Bloggs!

 

Maybe that's not actually a problem? Maybe that's part of the problem! We reserve comment except to say that an obvious danger, in a country where the "mainstream political parties" would struggle to exist without millionaire-backing, is whether or not the burden would get shifted to the taxpayer. That's surely not right either.

 

Secondly, would loopholes be found and exploited? Would a wealthy donor who wanted to contribute £1,000,000 to a party – but was restricted to £10,000 a year – simply funnel 100 different tranches of £10K through 100 different people?

 

No doubt solutions could be found.

 

The important point is to be aware of this issue, and to work to remove the unnatural and skewing influence which vast amounts of money from a very few concentrated sources are exerting upon the politics of the country, and the subsequent course of world reality!

 

3. Foreign Countries and their Interests

We support the 5 recommendations of Transparency International UK's report In Whose Interest: Analysing how corrupt and repressive regimes seek influence and legitimacy through engagement with UK Parliamentarians especially for example, the recommendation that:

 

parliamentarians be prohibited from accepting paid foreign travel costing over £500 other than from prescribed organisations that are either:

- acting in the UK national interest;

- which the UK or UK Parliament is a full member, for example, the Inter-Parliamentary Union; or

- would otherwise be sufficiently regulated to provide this safeguard, for example, UK political parties. (p3)

 

The fact that members of the House of Commons and House of Lords can go on all-expense jaunts to foreign countries to get buttered and boozed-up, surely has to stop!


Harsh Punishment Necessary for those who take Money for Foreign Interests and Causes!

We would go further than the recommendations of the above report.


In our proposition below, we define "interest" as in "to the advantage or benefit of a country, person or group." We define "cause" as in "a principle, aim, or movement to which one is committed and which one is prepared to defend or advocate." We define "foreign" as "outside of British jurisdiction" and we define"British jurisdiction" as meaning "the UK, Crown Dependencies, and the 14 British Overseas Territories."


We propose that we must explicitly prohibit any MP, or Member of the House of Lords, or any Legislator anywhere in the UK, including in the devolved Parliaments, and Council Offices, from accepting money from any source, domestic or foreign, in order to involve himself, or herself, with a foreign interest or cause.


The punishment would recognise the seriousness of the matter, which is ultimately a matter of sovereignty which cuts to the heart of our democracy!


The matter is this: If Foreign Lobby groups and their money, can exercise influence over the British political system, then how can we say that our Parliament is sovereign in the first place? How can we say that our individual vote is meaningful if politicians are quite happy to be openly and publicly bought by foreign interests and causes in order to represent such interests and causes outside of British jurisdiction?

 

We propose that any politician caught taking money, in order to entangle himself or herself with a foreign interest or cause, should face 10 years in jail.


This would recognise the criminal act of being elected to represent your UK constituents but choosing to use your position and power to take money to become entangled with foreign matters, either to promote them or to remain silent upon them.


For the avoidance of doubt: Having an opinion on a foreign interest or cause, and campaigning for it, and even visiting such a country is not wrong per se, but taking money in order to become entangled with that foreign interest or cause, is most certainly wrong!


We must say "Enough" to our political system being bought for money!


NEED for TRANSPARENCY regarding INFLUENCE and/or PRESSURE

It's a fact that politicians are going to be subject to influences and pressures as part of their daily activity, and we would expect them to be able to handle these to the best of their ability.

 

For our part, as sovereign voters, it is worth knowing what exactly are these influences and pressures; and from where do they come! 

 

As above, influence and pressure is likely to come from Lobbyists whose job is to influence legislation; "Pressure Groups" including Think Tanks, both domestic and international, such as Davos and the WEF, whose job is to pressure for the adoption of policies; Wealthy Donors; and Foreign Interests, whether state or non-state actors, advocating for their own country's interests before our country's interests!

 

Therefore, we need "transparency"; the ability to see clearly, and easily understand, what is going on behind the scenes. That means regular reports made publicly available.

 

PROHIBIT and PUNISH UNDUE INFLUENCE and/or PRESSURE

Legitimate influence and pressure may cross a line and become "undue".

 

"Undue Influence" is "influence by which a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences."

 

"Undue Pressure" is "any pressure, imposed by a practice or communication, that could be reasonably considered to be excessive or persistent in the circumstances."

 

It should go without saying that Parliament should not be subject to undue influence or undue pressure.

 

Therefore, we must:

1. Ensure maximum transparency around the process of influence and pressure in Parliament; and

2. Prohibit Lobbyists, Pressure Groups, Wealthy Donors, and Foreign Interests from exercising undue influence and/or pressure upon Parliament and Government.

 

These are basic Principles of Patriotic Sovereignty.

 

TO CONCLUDE

For our individual democratic sovereignty to be meaningful, then the Parliament for which we vote must itself be sovereign – that is, it must exercise full legal and national sovereignty on our behalf.

 

Put another way: A sovereign parliament, exercising legal and national sovereignty on our behalf, is a reflection of our individual democratic sovereignty.

 

This means no control, or domination, or undue influence and/or undue pressure put upon Parliament by outside entities, whether other parliaments, or lobby groups, or pressure groups, or wealthy people, or the interests of foreign countries.

 

This requires us to be able easily to discover what influences and pressures the Parliament is subject to.


If Parliament does not exercise full sovereignty because it is subject to undue influence and/or pressure, from groups such as the above, then we, the voter, do not have full sovereignty.


BASIC PRINCIPLES of PATRIOTIC SOVEREIGNTY Series

Part 3: Ensure the Sovereignty of Parliament because it Reflects the Sovereignty of the Individual: Shine a Light Behind the Scenes.


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