Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The EU Referendum Laid Bare

The Crisis in our Democracy
To many the results of the EU Referendum were unexpected and incomprehensible. In order to understand it we need to analyse it on two levels, examining two sets of facts. One set is to do with the specific circumstances that immediately preceded it. The other is to go deeper into its wider context and the background of the political changes that brought the alien concept of Referenda into our Representative Accountable Parliamentary Democracy.  Both, Harold Wilson and David Cameron, used the beguiling institution of a referendum as a means to unite their Parties, unmindful of the damage that they would cause in undermining our very own Parliamentary Democracy.

Far from uniting their Parties both Governments and Oppositions managed to divide the country. The purpose of this essay is to show that the phenomenon of Referenda is a symptom of the crisis in our democracy. Whether we are in or out of the EU is no more than a matter of economic policy that needs to be reviewed and to change with circumstances. The impact of introducing Referenda has more enduring constitutional consequences on how we govern ourselves.

1.  For thousands of years communities of humans sought social cohesion to enable them to live in peace together. Social cohesion is built on shared language, culture and moral values. This was at the root and the underlying conclusion of Aristotle’s research into some 150 Poleis (City-States) which recommended that the population of a City State, Polis, ideally should be around 100,000 inhabitants to enable it to secure such lasting cohesion in order to govern itself consensually and peacefully. His pupil Alexander the Great shattered the idea and the cohesion it sought by creating an empire too vast and diverse to gel together.  In the West today only Iceland and the Swiss Canton can be compared to Aristotle’s Mediterranean Polis. All other countries have lost or are losing their internal cohesion, some fast, like the UK, others slower like the Scandinavian countries.

2.  Direct Democracy as the rule of the people by the people was possible and indeed was exercised in some Poleis, for example in ancient Athens, where the adult male population assembled at the city centre, the Agra, and decided on vital issues of state. But the consequences of wars and the influx of immigrations both created centrifugal forces that collided with the centripetal forces that held the society together. In Athens these centrifugal forces caused the erosion of direct democracy to the extent that Plato in his Republic looked to the likes of oligarchic and dictatorial Sparta to constitute his ideal society governed by the philosopher ruler. Dogma and Ideology replaced evolutionary practicality. Ideology by definition is based on the past. Thankfully Plato’s dream remained a dream, indeed a nightmare, from the past.

3.  Skipping over 2000 years of  political thinking the pragmatic English, (after 1707 the British) owing to historical circumstances re-created the concept of democracy and anchored it into the institution of a Representative Parliament. Avoiding dogmas and ideologies the British Genius let this new concept and institution evolve and adapt to the new circumstances that arose from time to time.  The people and their rulers acted in tune if not always in harmony. This practical approach permeated all aspects of our lives and has been reflected even in our Judiciary. Our Judges over the years tempered  the dictates of the cold rigid Law and  balanced it in their verdicts with the underlying concept of equity and fairness. In that process judges in one way legislated from the Bench by creating Precedents that can guide but not dictate future verdicts. This legal procedure is often followed even today. In England the Montesquieu principle of the separation of the powers of the three Arms of the State (Legislative, Executive and Judiciary) emphasised in practice the coordination and not separation of these powers.

4.  By the beginning of the 20th century our evolved system of a Parliamentary Representative Accountable Constituency System that guided us allowed our democracy to continue to flourish and evolve. The two Houses of Parliament balanced each other as the House of Commons embedded within its ranks the Executive i.e. the Government and the Lords embedded the Judiciary, the Courts. Thus the three arms of the state, the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary moved in the same direction representing the British people while balancing each other through peaceful co-existence with their bases - The MPs represented the urban citizens and the rising bourgeoisie while the hereditary Lords represented the Shires. Thus it was taken for granted that the Constituency MP represented not his/her Party but all his/her Constituents while the Lords exercising responsibility spoke for the populations of their rural Estates and their surrounding countryside. Therefore Members of both Houses of Parliament were Representatives i.e representing the whole mix of the wider interests of their communities not the narrow interests of their Parties or their Classes. That produced a democratic edifice, the envy of the world.

5.  However, at the beginning of the 20th Century all that balanced edifice began to crack and crumble and mindlessly our political establishments themselves began dismantling it brick by brick. This process was spurred by the deficiency in representation rooted in our Majoritarian FPTP Electoral System when winners take all, which is rigid and lacking the flexibility and elasticity to change with the times. Instead of reforming the House of Lords changing it to an elected chamber, the Establishment of the Commons stripped it of its substantive authority eventually ending it being appointed by the very Establishment that it was meant to guide, balance and supervise. In the Commons, the MPs instead of being representatives were in effect converted into Party Delegates.

6.  It started with the 1911 Parliament Act (with its follow up of 1949) when the power and responsibilities of the House of Lords were curtailed. Both coincided with the rise and rise of the trade unions and the Labour Party. What concerns us here is the effect on our constitutional arrangement not the merits or the reasons which brought it about. Politics became polarised and adversarial. The Press and the Media simplistically followed suit and projected each policy or argument into black and white, yes or no, or in new parlour “Binary”

7.  Class war, not as in Karl Marx’s lexicon but class as short for social grouping with shared interests, is at the root of evolution. Socio-economic classes are stacked on top of each other with the better-off at the top and the least fortunate at the bottom. For the purposes of research and statistics the ONS graded them into A, B, C1, C2, D and E.  However what interests us here is not an objective grading but the subjective feeling of individuals as to which class they belong to and judge themselves deserving  to belong to: the Upper, Middle or Lower Classes. As social conditions evolve the individual members of each class try to better their position by climbing up and join the class above. The mechanism that blocks this natural social evolution brings about revolution or convulsion, in the past it was violent, today it is through the ballot box. If blocked it can lead or resort to violence. This has been enacted before our eyes today but we refuse to see it. As a result   the strife for change is moving from Westminster to Trafalgar Square. The rise of Corbyn and his popular support  as the leader of the Labour Party reflect the attempt of the rising lower middle class to take what they believe to be their natural right to participate in leading the country and shaping our society. This convulsion in our political system could have been absorbed and channelled through gradual changes as befit the traditional practicality that we are so famous for. However what obstructed this gradual smooth change that we needed was  a fossilised Majoritarian electoral system which freezes the status quo and prevent  natural and gradual changes.

8.  Paradoxically the EU Referendum results, instead of leaving the Conservatives in disarray, resulted in Labour losing its opportunity to claim the victory. If the Labour leadership used its members and supporters to push for the Remain camp more vigorously and visibly, and with the Tory Party divided down the middle, the Labour Party could have claimed and indeed would have been credited with the result. Instead of its declared objective of Remain, the Labour leadership were busy fighting a class war with the Tories instead of leading the Remain factions of all parties. The EU Referendum results are deepening the rifts within the Labour Party and causing a crisis in our democracy that the results of the 2015 Elections had left exposed, weak, precarious and vulnerable.

9.  It is interesting to contrast today’s Labour Party leadership contest with that of 1980 following the resignation of James Callaghan. Callaghan who was Prime Minister from 1976 to 1979 and had stayed on as leader of the Labour Party for eighteen months in order to oversee an orderly transition to his favoured successor, Denis Healey, over his own deputy Michael Foot. (Contrast the behaviour of Callaghan with that of Miliband and compare the instant departure of the latter with the orderly withdrawal of Michael Howard after his defeat.) However, during that period the party had become bogged down in internal arguments about its procedures and future direction. (Plus ca change etc !) Initially, the candidates were thought likely to be Denis Healey, Peter Shore and John Silkin, but Michael Foot was persuaded to stand by left-wingers who believed that only he could defeat Healey (not defeat the Tories!) This was the last leadership election to be conducted amongst Members of Parliament only; an Electoral College was subsequently introduced for future contests. That procedure paved the way for Corbyn now to ignore the elected Labour MPs and to appeal over their heads to the wider membership in order to stay in power and lead the new wave that engulfs the Labour Party pushing politics to spill over  from Westminster Hall into Trafalgar Square with all the consequences that will ensue.

10.  We must not take the Corbyn phenomenon lightly. The trend and the sentiments of many alienated young people are with him. When assessing his support we must remember that the overall percentages of turnouts in recent General Elections left  one third who chose not to vote. How many of this third might support Corbyn and make a difference? The shift from moving the direct responsibility from Labour MPs to a college of voters for the leadership of Labour has in effect moved the centre of gravity from Parliament to the outside paid membership.  Clearly the British genius of compromise that managed to keep all dissents within the tent of Parliament has deserted it.
11.  The elected Labour MPs in the Commons have misjudged the mood of their young supporters in the country.  Evidently in their judgment and indeed that of many political commentators Corbyn  did not measure up to his new role. However With Labour now torn between Left and Right wings it needs an Attlee now to mediate between “Erbert and Erni !!” Hilary Benn could have fulfilled that role but he  hastily messed it and missed it.  Unless an Attlee emerges quickly the prospect of preserving unity in their Party will be difficult to achieve. Our concern here should be the enormous impact this is going to have on our  Representative  Parliamentary Democracy. We must not let any dissent group to take over and replace the exclusive role of the electorate in choosing the leaderships of political parties in parliament.  

12.  To avoid such a situation, way back on 4 Nov 1980 I published a letter in The Times detailing a new transparent and democratic method to elect Party Leaders. I quote it hereunder in full for its relevance today. If my method were used for electing the Labour Leader then, and now, it could have avoided the turmoil that is convulsing the Labour Party on this very issue.
The Times, 4th November 1980
Electing Labour’s leader
From: Mr. A. Nathan
Sir, The election of the leader of the Labour Party is of concern not only to the party itself but to all of us who value democracy in this country.  May I suggest through your columns the following method of election hoping to test its merits by the reasons of your readers:
1.  The leader is to be elected by Labour candidates of the last general election, ie by present Labour MPs together with all Labour candidates who failed to be elected.
2.  The present procedure is to be maintained except for substituting the secret ballot by an open ballot.
3.  Each elector casts the number of votes he or she officially obtained in the last general election as his or her votes for the leader.
In this method the leader is elected by all citizens who voted for Labour candidates, and therefore for the Labour Party, in the general election casting their votes by proxy.
That this method is both democratic and fair is self-evident and therefore any elaboration is superfluous.
Yours faithfully,
9 Highbury Road, SW19.
October 31.
Events leading to the EU Referendum
13.  Blair started the process of shaking and undermining the UK Union. Exploiting the Pathological hatred of the Lairds, the absentee land owners identified with the Conservatives, Blair, anxious to perpetuate the dominance of Labour in Scotland as a cushion for its position in Westminster, revived the nationalist institution of the Scottish Parliament.  Once he started it, and erected a monument of a building to house it, the genie slipped out of the bottle. Following the untimely death of Donald Dewar, the moderate safe hands, the Scottish ultra nationalists started their campaign to replace Labour as the dominant Party as a first step. The clamour for Independence was the clarion call and devolution became the vehicle to renege on the 1707 Contract of the Union. No one seemed to bother with analysing the results of the defective Electoral Mixed System on the three Scottish elections results that followed which pointed the way to the ascendency of the SNP.

14.  Without any regard to the bigger partner, the combined English Welsh and Northern Irish of the Union, nor to all the Scots living south of the border in the UK, David Cameron agreed to hold a referendum restricting it to the those living in Scotland alone. He was wrongly relying on Labour in Scotland to deliver. But that was at the time when Ed Miliband was losing credibility and grip on his Party in Scotland casting doubt on his leadership in the country. David Cameron gambled on the future of the Union. His late realization of the possibility of losing the referendum resulted in Cameron showering the SNP with promises which later on he lived to regret. The results of 55/45 sounded good on the face of it when in fact they reflected the strength of the SNP who adroitly followed them by incrementally inching forward towards the ultimate objective of an Independent Scotland while meantime displacing Labour as the dominant Party.

15.  In contrast when Harold Wilson at the time opted for a referendum on the restricted objective of joining the Common Market the country was not divided and there was a genuine desire by all the Parties to ascertain the wishes of the people. We all thought that was a “one off” exercise in democracy not making it a new habit.  It is then that Harold Wilson announced his “Yes” recommendation supported by leading Cabinet colleagues  which he announced and defended. Still even that in fact undermined the authority of Parliament. Clement Freud decided to ask his constituency how did they want him to vote following the debate in Parliament and he was told by some constituents : “Why are you asking us? after all we voted for you to vote for us.” How wise those voices were. 

16.  It is here that David Cameron went disastrously wrong. Not having learnt the lesson of the Scottish Referendum he plunged into the new EU Referendum instead of waiting to 2017 as he promised because he was sure it was a walk-over. He wanted to finish it before the German and French Elections and get on with fulfilling his Manifesto while Osborne was succeeding in cutting the deficit and getting ready for the succession. In fact if he waited for the new Governments of France and Germany post their elections he could probably have squeezed better terms.

17.  All over the world government leaders want to perpetuate their rules and secure their legacies by fair means or foul. The USA is the one country that protected its leader constitutionally from this character defect by restricting the Presidency to two terms of 8 years. In fairness David Cameron learning the lessons of Thatcher and Blair announced that he was not going to run for a third term. But he was overtaken and overwhelmed by events of his own making.

18.  Philosophers and political thinkers over the ages were puzzled and tried to understand how people are swayed between Reason and Emotion. The root of Reason based on logic is in our human nature. We are born with it. Emotion on the other hand is in our acquired culture. We are tossed about between Reason and Emotion or between Nature and Nurture.  Our emotional responses push aside our reasoned arguments. Between reason and emotion the latter wins. Durkheim, Freud and especially his nephew Bernays understood and explained this to us. And that was how the Public Relations Industry “PR” and packaging took off and took over insidiously and subliminally and controlled our responses.

19.  So how is this question relevant to our argument? The answer is that while the Leavers played on the emotional fear of immigration, the Remainers concentrated their efforts on the reasoned economic benefits.  So we the voters were tossed about between Reason and Emotion.  The emotional responses of the majority pushed aside  the economic reasoned insights in favour of the emotional responses of the immigration.  Between reason and emotion the latter won. 
So What Now?
20.  In the midst of this turmoil we need stability and first and foremost in order to avoid widening cracks in our democratic institutions and help us to face the consequences of what Brexit could throw at us.  And so while the Government will have to deal with the nitty gritty of Brexit we need to reach to new ideas and policies that will help to adjust our institutions and avoid in particular the break up of the UK in the process. May be instead of the Iron Lady and the Ice Lady we need to hark back for inspiration to Labour’s Red Queen and her call “In Place of Strife” to repair and adjust our fracturing institutions.

21.  There are in the public domain some solutions that could constructively and positively reform our political system to avoid a Class War and bring our electorate from Trafalgar Square back into Westminster Hall. Bewildered Edmond Burk’s first reaction to the French Revolution in 1789 was to condemn it. Why could not those fiery French learn from our Glorious Revolution! Since those days our politics were conducted gloriously in evolutionary steps  going along  with the grain of our political cool  temperament. It is in that spirit that our steps we take now have to be in response to the political chaos in which we find ourselves highlighted equally in their impact  by the 2015 Elections and the 2016 Brexit

22.  The Referendum Results were fairly balanced 52/48. It will  be advisable in dealing with the Brexit to remember this. True democracy takes into account the minority side of the equation, and more so as the difference between Leavers and Remainers is very small.  The crisis in our democracy that the conduct of both Remainers and Leavers exposed reflected the underlying more worrying division in our society as reflected by the electorate in 2015.

23.  Skipping over all the minutiae of statistics that many commentators and academics are so fond of and engrossed in, here are two glaring numbers from the 2015 results that tell all : UKIP’s  3,881,1129 votes sent one MP to the Commons, the Lib-Dems with 2,415,888 managed 8 MPs. Compare and contrast these with 1,454,436 SNP votes securing 56 MPs!! The analysis of the other Parties demonstrates clearly the widening crack in our Electoral System of FPTP.
Solutions through Evolution not Revolution
24.  The ambitious response to change to a pure PR System proved to gain neither traction nor consensus. In fact if succeeded it would have created even more instability  So let us resort  to the  simple, practical and pragmatic TR The Total Representation Electoral System which in essence can tweak the same FPTP without an upheaval. The details of TR are in the public domain advocated and analysed succinctly  by Dr Ken Ritchie in his excellent book “Fixing our Broken Democracy – The Case for Total Representation”

25.  Basically TR is the fusion of FPTP Constituency System with PR in the proportion of 80:20 or say 500:100 simply through the use of one ballot.  Once it is explained it can prove to be possible even for the present House of Commons to approve its introduction by simple majority to be followed by an Inter Party Committee to deal with agreeing the details of its application.  That is the first and most urgent step in order to restore to the House of Commons its prerogative to represent all strands of political aspirations of the electorate.

26.  It is also an opportune time as the Boundary Commission is trying to  adjust the number of voters in the constituencies to as equal number of voters in each to eliminate the big disparity between them. So instead of reducing the number of constituencies to 600 as proposed why not reduce that number to 500 MPs introducing TR at the same time by creating 100 Party MPs. The result will be 500 MPs from the constituencies elected by the Majoritarian FPTP as is the case now and 100 Party Members of Parliament “PMPs” elected by the combined number of votes lost in the same 500 Constituencies who did not succeed to secure any representation in Parliament.  In this way the 600 MPs of  House of Commons will still have the same proposed number of 600 using a combination of the FPTP and Proportional Representation “PR” in the ratio of  500 to 100.

27.  The second  step is to restore to Parliament its representative power by replacing the present appointed House of Lords with  a smaller elected Revising House of 300 Members without infringing on the ultimate authority of the House of Commons. Any one of the present Lords can offer himself/herself as candidate for election for the new House.

28.  My detailed proposals for a New House of Lords are based on totally elected 300 Lords in two stages. The first stage is to select 150 from amongst the present lords on the lines of the Blair/Cranborne procedure of 1998. These “stay behind Lords” will supervise and guide the election of the first batch of 150 newly Elected Lords under the Electoral System of Total Representation, TR. After say 5 years the stay behind Lords will resign and will be replaced by the second batch of 150 Elected Lords. In this way continuity is maintained and the present functions of the House of Lords preserved. Full details of the purpose and procedure are contained in my Website. or just Google : Aharon Nathan on the House of Lords.

29.  The third step is for the Parties to adopt the simple method of electing their Party Leaders as described in my letter to the Times of 4  Nov 1980 above. Such a Leader is to lead the elected MPs of that party in the Commons. That does not preclude electing a president or chairman to a party or movement outside the Commons that includes within its ranks the elected members of a Party in Parliament.
The above three steps can transform our political system gently and peacefully avoiding strife and upheavals by bringing the elected MPs and the elected Lords inside the tent of our accountable Parliament to represent and guard the wishes of all our electorate.
Aharon Nathan, Wimbledon, August 2016

Friday, 8 July 2016

Will Israel Survive the Next Generation? (Israel Arab Conflict)

Synopsis for Discussion - Aharon Nathan 8 July 2018

1.      Israel is unique. Its achievements in seventy years are un-paralleled in history; each and every one is hardly short of a miracle. Having said that I can’t see Israel surviving the next generation owing to dangers from outside and more so from inside.  Why?
2.      Because our victory in 1948 led to arrogance which was augmented in 1967 leaving us to believe that we are invincible. After Ben Gurion, Israel lacked a clear policy of survival.  She has been guided wrongly by  successive leaders who resorted to Tactical responses to events instead of pursuing a clear headed Strategy based on the realities surrounding the country from outside and transforming it inside.
3.      Subsequent to 1967 all seemingly military victories were equivocal which led us to ignore the Geography and Demography of our situation vis-à-vis our enemies.  In the long term these twin dangers will slowly but surely come to be our undoing unless we take immediate steps now. Unfortunately however our political system is in the way, preventing us to think of these steps let alone implementing them. Today we need a single minded Ben Gurion.

Responses and Solutions
Following are my solutions based on the dictates of Geography and Demography and not on ideology and wishful thinking:
1.      Change the electoral system in Israel to TR, Total Representation which is essentially a fusion of the constituency FPTP Westminster System and Israel’s present Proportional Representation. My books and articles and those of my supporters in English and Hebrew are there to give the answers to all questions that might be raised. The purpose of TR is to make the Knesset truly representative while creating a stable government that can take necessary but unpopular decisions to face the challenges inside and outside Israel. Moreover it stops the Judicial Arm from legislating from the Bench.  
2.      Negotiate a quick separation from the West Bank with the Palestinian Authority along the lines of the plan of MK Hilik Bar as approved by the Labour Party (Avoda). Failing an agreement with Palestinian leaders, Israel should implement it unilaterally. I have been advocating just that since 2001.
3.      Ensure the separation of Gaza from the West Bank through a demilitarised independent Republic State of Gaza or any other form of a political entity physically and legally separated from Palestine on the West Bank. Otherwise Israel will be in danger of being cut in half through future simultaneous pincer attack from Gaza and Hebron.

All the above is explained fully in my English Book  “Israel : State or Ghetto” from Amazon and Kindle and Kindle and in my Hebrew Book : “ Hametsiut Machtiva” Realities Dictate published by CECI Tel Aviv. For details of  TR see Dr Ken Ritchie's “Fixing our BrokenDemocracy: The Case for Total Representation" from Amazon £7.50 for print edition and just £1 in Kindle.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Reason versus Emotion - Islamism: Global Solutions to a Global Threat; New Challenging Approaches Needed

(Aharon Nathan's Comments addressed to the meeting of the "Iman Foundation" at the Reform Club on 8th April 2015. For a related article click in Google - Aharon Nathan on Bin Laden 18 July 2002)

The Islamist movements everywhere have recently high-jacked Islam and are using it as a political weapon for political manipulation. They invoke the glory and triumphs of Islam's early conquests to raise the emotions to counter the present superiority of the West vis-à-vis the helplessness of their countries to advance to its level. The West responds with rationality and enlightened human rights instead of understanding the roots and causes of that helplessness and frustration. The problems and the solutions lie in analysing the divergence in their understanding  in 3 areas. 
1. Religions are by definition exclusive. The three Monotheistic Faiths  are very different and even the essence and the attributes of the God each depicts is not the same God. Glossing over this truth in double talk and New Speak only breads hypocrisy and widens the gaps between them. In the 21st Century, religions must be privatised and kept within the confines of their adherents. The great Islamic and Arab Empires did in practice just that by separating the temporal and the divine, the secular and the religious. Mostly they succeeded and became tolerant and even protective of their minorities. Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition found welcoming refuge in Sunni Ottoman Empire. Babylonian Jews survived amidst the Shiaa  dominated Persia and its surrounds. Contrast this with Catholic and Lutheran Europe from Rome to Auschwitz.  It took  Europe and the West centuries to wake up. How long will  it take for Muslims to wake up?

2. Multi-Culturism is bankrupt. It is centrifugal by nature. For a society to survive it needs solidarity and cohesion. Multiculturism is leading to the disintegration of the societies in Britain and other countries in Europe. Jews survived in host countries because they accepted the norms and customs and above all the laws of the land. They followed their famous Aramaic dictum Dinah De Malchutah Dinah, The Law of the land is the Law. Instead of more Mosques and Minarets, Muslim immigrant communities in Europe need genuine understanding of the host countries in Europe and a genuine desire to be part of them that can recreate the glorious days of Andalusia and Córdoba that brought the Enlightenment into Europe.
3. For Democracy to work it needs the cultural background and traditions to support it. Otherwise it soon develops into oligarchies and dictatorships. Indeed that is exactly what happened in many developing countries. Democracy as the rule of the people by the people need institutions to back it and foremost amongst these is a fair electoral system based on proper and balanced representation and a dynamic accountability to the electors. Cultural and historical background shaped democracy in the West. With such background lacking, the way the West introduced democracy and elections in the Middle East proved disastrous. Arithmetic Democracy based on "51 per cent takes all" proved to be a recipe to negate and thwart democracy there. Even in Israel it did not really work. The fault there has been the self interest of its ruling political establishment not to accept changes to its pure PR electoral system which sustains its tribal and divided society. Both in Israel and in the developing countries around the adoption of the balanced electoral system known as TR Total Representation can rectify to a degree the defects of their present systems. And so it can do in other countries. TR fuses the FPTP Westminster system and the PR System combining the two in one vote one ballot. By combining the positive in both it can help to cohere the tribal and stratified societies of these countries giving vent to dissenting voices while assuring stability and legitimacy to their governments. 

Unless The IMAN Foundation engages in finding adequate responses to these three challenges it will not be able to fulfil its noble mission.

Aharon Nathan, Wimbledon, 8th April 2015

Friday, 16 January 2015

Israel's Pyramid Democracy and the Forthcoming Elections

1. Netanyahu with typical arrogance declared after the last meeting with President Obama that he is the Prime Minster of the Jewish People! How? Who elected him? Who empowered him? The way Primaries work in Israel create Pyramid Structures which give the public the illusion of a democratic process while in fact they subvert true democracy. When Netanyahu made that declaration his Party, Likud had only 18 out of 120 MKs in the Knesset (Yesh Atid Party had 19 MKs !)  He was elected Likud Leader by less than 50,000 votes of fee paying members in the Likud Primaries. Later on in the last General elections Likud secured as a Party some half-million votes out of a total of 3.8 million voters, itself out of an electorate of 5.7m. Does that pyramid qualify Netanyahu, or indeed any other successor, to be the Prime Minister of the Jewish People let alone allowing him to exercise presidential powers sidestepping the Knesset? 
2. After the last elections Netanyahu formed a Coalition supported by 68 MKs out of the total of 120 MKs. A coalition is a contract for a government program between a number of parties, in this case 5 Parties.  But Netanyahu governed and behaved like a dictator ignoring these 5 Parties whose members and ideologies are far apart.  That reflects the dysfunctional democracy in Israel. All the 120 MKs, Coalition and Opposition alike were content. Why?! They were happy with salaries higher than their counterparts in Western Democracies. Each MK is equipped with an air conditioned office suite with private washroom in the Knesset building complete with a political assistant, a secretary and a private chauffeured limousine. Definitely 5 Star conditions, status and accommodation!, the envy of any MP in the UK.  Can you imagine any fool wanting to interrupt such privileged conditions until he secures the assured pension thereafter!?  So they acquiesce resting to enjoy everyday of hopefully a "Long Parliament with nobody dare telling them for God's sake go!"
3. Netanyahu on every occasion asserted that his government would last all the 4 years term. It sounded plausible because by then he could see Obama and Abu Mazen off and emerge triumphant addressing a Republican President and Senate. So Israeli politics went into a slumber. Yesh Atid Finance Minister Lapid convinced himself that by the end of 4 years he could sort out the country's finances as the Gas revenues from the Mediterranean would start to fill the coffers. Justice Minister Tsipi Livni thought by the end of 4 years she might agree with Abu Mazen a peace plan. The Opposition Parties were warring inside their ranks and had no time to prepare programs or plans to challenge and replace the Government. They all thought they had plenty of time for the next general elections. In Israel the citizens vote for a Party. Therefore an MK is not accountable directly to the voters So Governments and Prime Ministers can only be weakened not by the pressure of the Opposition but from within their own Party.
4. Oppositions in Israel are impotent. Amongst other reasons they never prepare themselves to be the alternative governments because they rely on the absurd period of 3 months to prepare between dissolution and reconvening of the Knesset. In the UK this period is hardly 3 weeks! So the Parties hold Primaries which are the most corrupt and corrupting of the electoral systems there. In the New Speak world of Israel they call them Democracy! The Parties waste the 3 month hurling invectives at each other whilst throwing out every possible dirty linen in public; and the Media eggs them on with daily polls and theoretical constructs and deconstructs of possible outcomes of the Knessets' results and possible coalitions until the electorate, or some 40 per cent of them, get so disillusioned, they give up on the idea of voting altogether leaving the rest confused not knowing Left from Right.  In the end Tel Aviv Cafes' regulars allied with the gated wealth in its suburbs bring new groups and parties that are here today gone tomorrow. History and ideologies are thrown to the wind. So the last Elections of 2013 produced only 19 MKs for Likud (Jabotinsky/Begin) and 15 for Labour (Weitzman/Ben Gurion)!!
5. Netanyahu, a super tactician understood all that well and exploited Israel's dysfunctional political system to the full using demagoguery and rhetoric. And after years at the helm he started to view with derision and contempt other leaders in Israel and often for good measure even those abroad. With the slogans of the dangers of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah he can always rely on his speciality of raising fear to bolster his popularity. And who dares question or even suggest that his policies themselves are actually inviting and perpetuating these dangers while converting the Arabs inside Israel into fifth column and the Arabs outside into potential suicide bombers; Shahids, fuelling hostility and anti-Semitisms abroad. But away from the suffering peripheries and the porous borders, Israelis in the State of Tel-Aviv feel secure and forget that Jews in Israel are a tiny minority in a sea of 350 million Arabs all, after years of frustration wish them ill. Size does matter! Netanyahu supported by Republican Senators and some wealthy American Jews felt invincible. "Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves"  And sadly some of our best Jewish lads and many young Palestinians do end in those graves in a continuous tragedy of useless violent confrontations and wars.
6. And the Jordan flows on to the Dead Sea and all is quite on the Al-Sissi Egyptian Border. Suddenly all fell apart when Netanyahu's co-habiting partner Lieberman, Leader of Yisrael Beytenu Party dissolved their merged Partnership of Likud-Beytenu. Netanyahu lost his composure and nerve and any reason or rationale left in him were thrown to the wind.  He lashed out against all, right and left, in Israel and abroad: Samson-like against all: Obama, Europe, Abu Mazen, his ministers, his coalition partners. Then he was brutally reminded of Hamas and Gaza that he himself had left alone to build their missiles and dig their tunnels undisturbed during his premiership and he woke up to wage a war that was overdue while he was fighting the world.  Apart from few MKs on the Left and the Arab MKs who were predicted to raise legitimate voices of protest and dissent he calculated that other Jewish Parties would not dare raise theirs' at a time of war when national unity and the endangered existence of Israel are at stake. This has been the order of the day. But lo and behold! some did dissent, not from the Opposition but from his own Party and Coalition and even from within his Defence and Security Inner Cabinet. Panicked! What does Netanyahu do? He did not pursue the Gaza War to a positive conclusion while appealing to the Gazans over the heads of Hamas. Such course could have opened the door for a permanent solution to the continued pressure cooker of the 1.8 million in Gaza while helped miraculously by Al-Sissi in Egypt. Instead, Netanyahu turns on his own Coalition Partners to save his worn out premiership that was leading Israel nowhere.  And he misused every rule and convention riding rough shod on the Coalition, the Knesset and all its members.
7. In terse letters he dismissed  Finance Minister Lapid, the leader of 19 MKs and Justice Minister Tsipi Livni of another 6 MKs. Remember he himself had only 18 MKs! He dared and gambled on all the bank and amazingly against all the odds  he came  up on top. Why? Simply because the leaders of all the Parties were taken by surprise unprepared for a considerate response having been lulled by Netanyahu to think that the Coalition would serve the full 4 years. With all the Mks, Coalition and Opposition having settled on a four years uninterrupted term they were stunned and caught unprepared with no answer or counterattack.
8. Netanyahu dismissed Lapid and Livni personally as ministers. They could have themselves tabled a no confidence motion in Netanyahu and no doubt would have been joined by the Opposition Parties prompting the President to ask the leader of the Opposition heading the No-Confidence vote to form a government without plunging the country into premature and unnecessary general elections. All Lapid's ministers and Livni's ministers could have stayed to continue with their programs as part of an alternative government or at least as part of a care-taking government during the interim election's period. They should have dared Netanyahu to sack each one of them separately. Instead, they stupidly and meekly, all of them, tendered their resignations to Netanyahu. And once Elections were declared he was left personally holding all the ministries free to appoint and groom new MKs from Likud. And so for 3 months he could also govern virtually as a dictator regaling himself alone with the full political stage and media coverage of the Prime Minister ready for re-election.
9. That left the leaders of the Parties running all over the place. No MK wanted the elections. And certainly it was not in the national interest with the country facing a hostile Middle East and militant Arab populations in Gaza and the West Bank. The sudden Elections was caused because neither the Opposition nor Yesh Atid and Hatenua used or even attempted to exercise their constitutional right to offer an alternative government. They could have insisted with a willing Opposition to join in a vote of no-confidence in the Knesset as the basic laws afford them. Instead they all let Netanyahu outmanoeuvre them. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings!"
10. And so we start to witness a tragic farce on our TVs screened to us and to friend and foe alike. This bizarre politics is at the heart of the problems facing the people of Israel inside and damaging its image abroad.  Recent  years exposed the fault lines of our dysfunctional democracy and its  dangers,  where our politicians are allied to wealth, monopolies and power groups disregarding and discarding the suffering citizens exposing the fact simply that Israel is not governed by its people for its people. And when you add to this the special demographic composition of our population you realise the process of our internal disintegration and the existential dangers that we are being dragged towards.
11. Prof Trachtenberg studying the socio-economic picture of Israel following the famous clamour for Social Justice in Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv three years ago concluded that the country is divided into seven sectors. Now we are facing an even wider and bigger division politically. Therefore: How can we expect future social and political cohesion?  How can we expect the future Government to be more stable and the future Knesset more effective? How can we restore a proper balance between our three arms of the state? How can we link the peripheries with the centre? How can we integrate our Arab Minorities into our national institutions? How can we avoid the spilling of the violence from across the borders into our streets and towns? Sadly we have become so much inward orientated that we seem to be living in a Ghetto of our own creation. And so instead of minding the raging volcano over us in Pompey we are fiddling with politics in burning Rome!
12. We need to understand that we can not draw close together Trachtenberg’s seven sectors by decree. We cannot create a uniform culture or a cohesive society instantly. Such a process needs few generations to transform changes in attitudes and ways of life. Successive governmental education programs and billions of words pouring  out of pens of mainly European  orientated writers for the last 60 years in Israel drew us no nearer to become one people. Fear and the shadow of wars unfortunately were the only tools that bound us together. And cruel unscrupulous politicians use them today out of self interest or just ignorance, and can we judge which is worse. On the other hand selecting and creating new state institutions can change and speed up the process of cohesion and integration.  And no better and more powerful such institution than a new electoral system that can empower all and each citizen making him/her feel genuinely, visually and practically part of being in charge of our shared destiny. In this way we would give our Democracy the chance to reform itself to produce a government by the people for the people speeding up the pace towards cohesion and solidarity and helping the integration of Trachtenberg’s seven sectors. So which electoral system?
13. The President's Commission on Government and Governance chaired by Professor Megidor (of which I was an active member) recommended a combination of Constituency and Proportional Representation System, (in Hebrew Ezori/Artzi i.e. Constituency/Party System). Following that recommendation, Prof Gideon Doron, Prof Zeev Segal and I proposed TR Total Representation (in Hebrew YESH Yitsug Shalem) to be that   System. TR fuses the First Past The Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) combining the two in  one ballot one vote in the ratio of 75/25 i.e. 90 constituency MKs and 30 Party MKs. It is simplicity itself.  So how does it work?
14. Briefly: Israel is to be divided into 90 constituencies. Only candidates who offer themselves in those 90 constituencies can qualify for election to the Knesset. Each has to belong to a party that follow his/her name on the ballot paper. Each constituency elects one candidate as the MK for that constituency  along the lines of the British Majoritarian System of first past the post (FPTP) Once the 90 Constituency MKs are elected all their votes are dropped from the count of the total votes cast nationally. The rest of the votes are then divided proportionally amongst the competing Parties to elect the 30 Party MKs out of the same pool of candidates that offered themselves in the 90 Constituencies. Full details of this system are embodied in a Draft Law Tromit (similar to a White Paper in Westminster) which was tabled in the 18th Knesset on 21/07/2010 and signed collectively, at my personal insistence after arduous discussion with each one, by 5 very senior MKs (Shaul Mofaz, Meir Shetreet, Avi Dichter, Amir Peretz and Eitan Cabel) Hopefully it could be revived and be implemented in the next Knesset.
15. TR is specifically suited for Israel to take into consideration the composition of its immigrant segments that need to be integrated into its  old population and its twenty per cent Arab minority. "TR" Total Representation is a powerful tool that can help in that direction. It is a modern system that eminent academics and political practitioners acknowledge its potential to reform political democracy as it is evolving in our time, not only in Israel but in many other countries in Europe. But the advantages for Israel are enormous and vital to fight the prevalent corruption in the political establishment and to repair its dysfunctional democracy.
16. Many books have been published in Hebrew by Prof Gideon Doron and his colleagues at the Tel Aviv University and The Political Science Association. These can be obtained from CECI, The Citizens' Empowerment Centre in Israel, 40 George Wise St Tel Aviv 61390. Other books were published in English by Dr Ken Ritchie, the Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society in London and by me and can be obtained from Amazon or downloaded in Kindle.
17. And last on a personal note: I have devoted the last 15 years of my life, as my friends in Israel know to advance the case of TR/Yesh. I served Israel in many capacities and put my life on the line for it in 3 wars. However now at my ripe age when meeting my Creator is just round the corner I believe TR/Yesh is the best bequest I could have given to my country. I hope and pray that the new young MKs in the new Knesset will see its merits and succeed in adopting it after their predecessors in the 3 past Knessets (16th, 17th and 18th) failed unfortunately to implement it to the cost of the manifest lack of stability in government and cohesion in society. 
Aharon Nathan, Wimbledon, 15th Jan 2015

The following are some of the many advantages of TR for Israel.  
1) As in the UK each of the 90 constituencies either has an incumbent MK or a chosen rival candidate ready to fight the following general elections. Therefore candidates are always ready and in touch. And so is the country if and when a new general election is declared. In this way huge amounts of money are saved and the time needed between dissolution and reconvening of the Knesset is drastically reduced.
2) TR (YESH) does not need the undemocratic Threshold (Achuz Chasima) as the Party MK (30 Seats) needs 3/4 times as many votes as the Constituency MK (90 Seats) Therefore the chances of small parties manipulating  the government are slim.
3) Yesh eliminates the need for corrupt and undemocratic primaries that are infected by money and graft. Democracy is exercised directly by the citizens and not through two stage processes, first primaries and then general elections.
4) Yesh eliminates Gerrymandering, strife and bad blood internally within  Parties (in Hebrew Reshimot Hissul)
5) Yesh guarantees the direct link and accountability of the MK to his constituents at all times keeping him/her well informed and linked to the grass roots.
6) Yesh produces two main big Parties and ensures that one of them may together with just one medium or small party form a stable government. Academically produced simulations show such outcomes. Thus Governments can survive the full term of the Knesset and can take bold necessary decisions especially with regard to the Peace Process, without worries of being overthrown.
7) And above all under Yesh, the watching eyes of the constituents in each constituency could ensure that corruptions are exposed and nipped in the bud before growing into scandalous and criminal proportions. And beside the constituents who voted for the MK in each Constituency there will be his/her opponent from a rival party waiting to pounce with the first smell of corruption is in the air.
8) In the absence of Primaries Yesh provides a simple mechanism to elect or replace Party Leaders. Basically, each leader of each party is elected or re-elected in the middle of the Knesset term by the candidates of the party in the last election (not by the party’s MKs, who will naturally not include all the candidates). All these candidates cast the actual votes each obtained in the preceding general election. These votes are those of the real supporters of the party in the last election, and not by the votes of paid members who often are recruited for that purpose. The selection becomes clean and transparent with no corrupt practices and outside interferences.

All the above points are dealt with at length in the form of Q&A in two books I published on Israel:
Chapters 11 and 12 in "Israel : State or Ghetto" available in Amazon and Kindle.
Chapters 15 and16 in "Hametsiut Machtiva" in Hebrew available from CECI, Tel-Aviv

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The New Sanhedrin; Israel and the Diaspora need each other

1. Whether we like or not the fate of the  Jewish People and our own future are intertwined with Israel. Without a strong Israel no Jew  can stand tall and safe anywhere.  So the continued existence of Israel is as essential to the Israelis as it is to any Jew wherever he is. However equally without a strong rational Jewish voice in the Diaspora it will be difficult for Israel to keep a backing for its very existence vis-à-vis a hostile public in Europe today and may be in the Americas tomorrow. The political leaders of Israel do not seem to see it that way. To them the size of Israel's territory is everything and Jewish wealth backed by a strong army is the only way to secure their objective.  The time has come for a sober and wise Jewish Voice which is detached from the Israeli internal politics to be heard to save all of us, inside and outside Israel from the existential dangers facing us, all of us.

2. But before discussing where to find such Jewish voice we need to understand the context of events inside Israel now. Netanyahu declared after his most recent meeting with President Obama that he is the Prime Minster of the Jewish People! How? Who elected him? Who empowered him? At the time he represented only 18 out of 120 Members of the Knesset ! And following the recent tension he created with the White House and few of the governments of the EU especially that of France following the tragic events in Paris he seems to interfere more and more with  the delicate relationships of the Jewish Communities in the Diaspora  countries with their public and  authorities. Netanyahu's internal politics and those of the messianic extreme Right in Israel have  become weapons in the hands of  our enemies in the region and our critics in Europe.

3. My friend James Leek, a prominent member of the Jewish community in Wimbledon ventured the question " Here in our Jewish community and in public meetings at  our local Synagogue criticism or dissent from some of Israel's Government's policies  tend to be stifled under the mistaken banner of loyalty to the State of Israel" and he asked what is the solution. And how to voice our justified concerns without being attacked as disloyal ? It is legitimate and even obligatory owing to our situation in the world to defend Israel in every way possible. But that should not include or imply defending the government policies of Israel. Within Israel itself, and even within the Knesset itself many groups do dissent from and criticise government policies without being called disloyal. So what to do. Not being citizens of Israel participating in its taxation and defence system the Diaspora can not dictate to Israel what to do. But it can advise.

4. And may be one way to do that is to set up a recognised new forum of delegates drawn from the entire Jewish communities  of the world similar to the way that the Zionist Congress was initiated. Let us  call this forum  The  New Sanhedrin to serve as a popular accredited watch group to review the policies pursued by the three Arms of State of Israel (Knesset, Government and Supreme Court) and their impact on the Diasporas. Such group can be  made up of 69 Members drawn from and elected by the three locations of Jewish populations : with Israel providing 27, the USA 27 and the other Diasporas including UK France Germany South America and the Far East etc another 15. The  Bloomsbury Zionists produced  the Balfour Declaration . Let Wimbledon announce the birth of The New Sanhedrin.

5. Some would say that we already have a plethora of Jewish institutions world wide what with the Jewish Agency, Aipac, Saban, J Street, the variety of Jewish funds for Israel etc etc etc. Unfortunately all these institutions are led by wealthy, super rich Jews in Europe and America  linked with their counter part wealthy Israelis dominating Israel's main Parties. And with the weakening and almost demise of the JNF, TheJewish National Fund representing the whole spectrum of  all levels and ideologies of the Jewish people everywhere in the past, the voices of the ordinary Jews of the Diaspora now stopped to be counted and even  heard.  And yet these ordinary Jews who are not represented today  are the groups that are exposed to and are the first to suffer from the  dangers inside and outside Israel.

6. The failure of Israeli Democracy to reform itself by changing its dysfunctional Electoral System is causing much harm to the future of Israel inside and damaging its  image abroad. Three Knessets,  the 16th 17th and18th, through 3 Draft Laws (TROMIT)  could have rectified this situation and yet failed to debate let alone adopt  the new  system of Total Representation TR ( in Hebrew Yitsug Shalem YESH ) a System that fuses the First Past The Post and Proportional Representation PR.  This is a system that guarantees the accountability of the MK, confers dynamic representation of all sectors of the population including the Arab minorities while at the same time ensures the stability of governments by creating bigger political parties. The function of the proposed new forum is to debate such issues and new ideas and see if they can help to make Israel more cohesive inside and united in solidarity with the Diaspora vis-à-vis a hostile world outside.

7. And of course the New Sanhedrin need to put  at the top of its agenda the urgent solutions of our relations with the Arabs on its  three levels, the Arab minority in Israel (over 20 per cent of Israel) the future of Gaza and the West Bank and above all our relations with 350 million Arabs surrounding us. Future Iran's Bomb and present Pakistani Bombs are not the immediate threat today even if they continue to tick.  The Arabs and Muslims don't need nuclear power to threaten our existence. Hamas, Hezbollah, the violent  Muslim  crowds in and around the Mosque in Jerusalem are portending  new massacres.   And yet our wealthy Jews in and outside Israel, are more concerned by the fluctuating fortunes in   the Stock Exchanges. The extreme messianic Right in Israel calling for all the Jews in the world to settle in Israel is shifting the emphasis back to the Thirties and defining our Diasporas as alien implants and not full rightful citizenships. Let us not allow the 1930s in Europe to spill by default into the 1940s. It would be too late even for our grand children.

Aharon Nathan, Wimbledon, 15th January 2015

Saturday, 29 November 2014


Applying the "TR" Electoral System to the House of Lords

1.  Applying TR as the new electoral system for the House of Lords will  dispense with Hereditary Peers, Life Peers and Appointed Peers – and restores in the process the long-lost link between the Lords and their original links in the country.  

2.  A new Act of Reform would confirm its function and define its status as a secondary revising chamber by reciting within the new Act the 1911 Parliament Acts – as amended in 1949. These Acts limit the Lords’ legislative function to revising and not opposing the will of the House of Commons – thus asserting the primacy of the latter. Limiting any delay in revising legislation would guarantee the supremacy of the Commons. 

3.  The grafting of practising judges into the new, reformed House of Lords is vital. The Montesquieu principle of separation of powers is not meant to render the three arms of the state parallel. The distinctive constitutional arrangement in Parliament is precious. The Executive is enmeshed within the House of Commons and up until now, the House of Lords has had an important judicial component. However, the new Supreme Court  is intended to supplant or preclude the link between these two arms of the state, since its newly-appointed judges (i.e. those who are not already Law Lords) will not be members of the House of Lords. But in my view, a reformed second chamber should include within its ranks some members of the Judiciary with real and current Bench experience, so that the direct and constant link of the sovereign people to all these three arms of the state is preserved. 

4.  The link could, for example, be maintained in the following way: the new Supreme Court would delegate a number of judges from the practising Judiciary to sit ex-officio in the Lords for a certain limited period – say six years. After these six years, they would be rotated and replaced by others. 

5.  Along the same lines, the Queen, the Sovereign, could at her pleasure appoint, say, some religious dignitaries from amongst leaders of the different religions to sit in the new House for periods of six years, after which they would be rotated. This arrangement could neatly solve the problem of how to replace the Bishops and the Law Lords, giving an added gravitas to the  second chamber.  

6. The solution proposed here is essential, given the background in Britain of a steady loss of social cohesion and uniformity, both because of social and ideological trends from within, and as a result of an influx of immigrants from without. The UK is superbly suited – one might say blessed – by a lack of a rigid written constitution and the flexibility of English law – underpinned by the adaptable use of the concepts of equity and precedent. The new Supreme Court should preserve its right to rule against or criticise the EU courts’ judgements, thereby throwing any such rulings back into the melting pot of Parliament to be looked at. 

7.  The process of implementing TR as the solution to the present constitutional limbo  would smooth the path of reform. That leaves the question what to do with the present Life Peers and the remnants of the Hereditary Peers, whose vested interests militate against a speedy solution? There is a simple creative   answer. The political parties who choose, delegate, or appoint their candidates to the newly-created regions to elect the new members of the House of Lords can give priority to those deserving sitting Peers of their different parties. By choosing them to run for election to the new House, they will in fact be given two chances each: to succeed in their regions as Regional Lords, or to accede to the position of Party Lords within the party lists. Even if they fail to capture regional seats, their efforts will be rewarded if they succeed in scoring highly in the regions to propel themselves to the top of their party lists within the rules of TR.. Their chances of acceding to the posts of Party Lords will depend as much on their own canvassing efforts as on the support of their parties.

8.  Some commentators say that we need appointed Lords to ensure the presence of experts. This is a spurious argument. Government and select committees of both Houses can and do always draw on expert advice from outside. Parliaments are there to represent democratically the ordinary citizen, not to create oligarchies and establishments that distance further the representatives from the represented.

9. TR is basically a modified form of AV. We start by accepting TR Total Representation as the proffered  electoral system. The new House of Lords will have 300 members. Two hundred members are to be Regional Lords (RL) and 100 Party Lords (PL). Both categories (RLs and PLs) are elected in accordance with the TR system. For this purpose, the country is demarcated in a geographically successive manner, being sliced into 200 regions by the Boundaries Commission without regard to the make-up of the population. The only consideration is to ensure that the number of electors (not inhabitants) in each region is as similar as is possible and practical. 

10.  The ratio of 200 to 100 corresponds to a percentage of 66:33. The reason why we have swung the pendulum downwards, below the ratio of 80/20 recommended for the Commons, is that in this situation a bigger dose of representation (i.e. of PR) is needed to counterbalance the excess rigidity of the House of Commons’ electoral method of first-past-the-post.

11.  Elections take place every six years for half of the House of Lords. Unlike in the House of Commons, this period is fixed and the House of Lords cannot dissolve itself. A by-election for a Regional Lord is initiated and moved by the House Committee within two months of the death or resignation of a Regional Lord. In the event of the death or resignation of a Party Lord, the next in line on the party list of the preceding elections accedes automatically. 

12.  One way of easing the transition from the present House of Lords into a wholly elected chamber is to start by electing just half its members – to be followed in six years’ time by the other half. The next question that springs to mind is: which half to start with? The best solution is to follow the precedent of the reduction of the Hereditary Peers. The present House of Lords can reduce its members to 150 by electing from among themselves the 150 Lords who will stay behind. These can serve their remaining six years to ensure continuity and help to induct their 150 new, elected counterparts into the superb traditions of the House. Those who stay behind are designated as 100 Regional Lords and 50 Party Lords. So although 200 regions have been created, elections take place in only 100 of them, leaving the other 100 to be represented by the remaining ex-appointed Lords. These will terminate their service six years later, when elections take place for their replacements. 

13.  Members of the House of Lords are to observe certain rules of attendance and therefore are to be paid salaries and expenses. These are revised from time to time and fixed by a committee in the House of Commons, presided over by the Clerk of the Parliaments, to ensure neutrality and adequate consultation between the two Houses.

14.  A minimum age requirement – say 40 years – would add gravitas and experience to the House of Lords. The service of a member of the House is limited to the lower of three periods and retirement at 70. This is to avoid inertia and renew its vitality. The modern composition of the House of Commons is made up of young people who look at their membership of Parliament as a career. They have become professional MPs. But membership of Parliament should not be a profession. It is the recent evolution of this practice that has contributed to the chasm between citizens and their representative MPs, who look at their membership as a job for life. It is only the enterprising amongst them who move on and use their positions as launching-pads to go forward into other, more remunerative or more rewarding careers, in business, journalism or academia. To avoid creating a similar situation in the Lords, fixing the minimum age at 40 would attract individuals with experience, a number of whom would have already made their mark or their fortune, and so would be able to devote the mature years of their lives to public service rather than building up their careers.

15.  The biggest problem arising in implementing TR for the Lords is in drawing the boundaries. This task of course will be entrusted to the existing Boundaries Commission or a new commission. Unlike the existing boundaries, the new ones for the Lords need to be drawn in a geographically successive sequence from north to south, ignoring national, ethnic or any other local considerations, to avoid as far as possible the curse of gerrymandering. The danger of the impact of gerrymandering is reduced anyway to a minimum under TR because it is a compensatory system. Moreover, unlike with the boundaries for the House of Commons, where it is important for the local MP to have regular meetings with the electors of his/her community, the strict and continuous contact of the Regional Lord is optional and discretionary. His/her contact with the region is more a matter of gauging the political temperature of that region and using this contact to contribute to the deliberations of the House. He/she is not meant to set up a “surgery” similar to that of an MP. The deliberate differentiation of the ages of members, the timing of elections, and the boundaries between the two Houses of Parliament, will result in them complementing, rather than coinciding with or duplicating, each other. This in itself will add to the value of the Lords as a revising chamber.

16.  Any prediction or simulation of the results of the elections to the House of Lords under such a system is valueless. However, it is safe to assume that it will never mirror the composition of the House of Commons. To start with, TR is a balanced system and its results can never mirror the results of FPTP. Secondly, the timing of elections to the two Houses is very unlikely to coincide. Thirdly, even if the election of one half coincides with the Commons, the other half will not. Moreover, the shapes and sizes of the regions are bigger and cannot overlap with the constituencies of the Commons. Add to all this the age and maturity of the new Lords, which will make them less dependent on their parties and less inclined to be easily led by party whips. All that will give them more independence in their contributions, which will add tremendously to the value of their revising function. The debates in the Lords will command respect and attention by the House of Commons and the public at large.

Aharon Nathan, Wimbledon 2012