13 October 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: During the next six months, do you feel there is going to be sufficient parliamentary scrutiny over measures that will continue to restrict our freedoms?
Clearly not. We are currently ruled by a government that that repeatedly shows contempt for the rule of law and will use any methods to get its way. In the immediate term the question is about the measures needed to contain coronavirus, but taken more broadly it goes to the heart of why our democracy is broken.
At every level the government shows that they don’t think the rules apply to them. They don’t think they have to follow the coronavirus rules that apply to the rest of us. Just think of Barnard Castle. They don’t think that the provisions of our constitution apply to them. Just think of the prorogation of Parliament. They don’t think that international law applies to them. Just think of the legislation currently going through parliament that explicitly allow them to break international law.
This last is possible because of the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, which is undoubtedly part of our constitution. In short, because parliament is supreme, there is no-one that can tell Parliament that it may not pass a law that itself breaks the law. Yet when it comes to tackling coronavirus Parliament is suddenly not so supreme in the eyes of the government, who override even the objection of the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, the leaders of their own back benchers, to give themselves powers that cannot be challenged or reviewed.
Everyone agrees on the need to tackle coronavirus, but the dangers of a government that gets used to riding roughshod over any objections are clear.
The Green Party campaigns for reforms to our democratic system to reduce the possibility of these kinds of abuse. Citizens assemblies and other forms of direct democracy cut through the influence of vested interests and strengthening local democracy challenges an over-mighty and over-centralised executive.
Our response was written by Jeremy Caddick. Jeremy was our Green Party parliamentary candidate for Cambridge in 2019. He has lived in Cambridge for 25 years and is the Dean and Chaplain at one of the colleges of Cambridge University. He has been campaigning for the University to cut its link with the fossil fuel companies.