Friday, February 16, 2007

Not merely inadequate but also misleading

Yesterday's High Court ruling stating that the government's consultation on energy policy had been "seriously flawed" was both extraordinary and totally unsurprising. As with consultation on the possible replacement of the U.K.'s WMD delivery system, it was always clear that the decision had preceded the "consultation". In fact, these consultations were actually government attempts to sell decisions which had already been taken.

As Blair continues to drag out his departure to the detriment of his party and the country, what was most extraordinary about yesterday's ruling was his response to it. The judge agreed with Greenpeace's contention that the consultation had not adequately addressed the issue of radioactive waste and the costs of dealing with it.

It's a major area of concern with regard to nuclear power and one which has been consistently marginalised over the years. There is a very real possibility that the costs of dealing with nuclear waste (and of decommissioning of obsolete plants) will have to be paid for with large public subsidies at some future point. The judge ordered the government to conduct another consultation so that these issues could be properly considered.

And Blair said:
This won't affect the policy at all.
So there you are.

At least he's decided to drop any pretence that the government ever intended to conduct a meaningful consultation with the public before making a decision.

By the way, underneath all this, there's an interesting discussion to be had on the strengths and weaknesses of representative democracy as compared to direct democracy. Roy Hattersley, a representative democracy sort of chap, raised this on Question Time last night. What I would say is that representative democracy in what is essentially a two party system, particularly one in which the party whips play such a powerful role, isn't working. Public confidence in the current system is at an all time low and Blair's pretend consultations have made that worse, not better.

Anyway, with modern technologies now creating new possibilities for expanding the role of direct democracy, this whole area needs to be looked at very carefully. And the first question is, should decisions on this issue be taken by our elected representatives or by the people a whole?

While you think abut that, I'm off to chase my own tail.


Davide Simonetti said...

When it comes to nuclear power stations I think there is definitely a role for direct democracy in the form of a referendum. I'm still thinking hard about the strengths and weaknesses of introducing direct democracy whole scale. It seems to work in Switzerland but how are persistent minorities catered for? Another problem is that we need a much better educated and informed public than we have at the moment to keep people engaged in the system. That said, I'm still attracted to the idea.

It certainly seems to be the case that representative democracy no longer works properly in Britain. What highlighted the failure was the huge majority Blair has had for most of his time in office which he obviously abused. Proportional representation would ensure that these massive majorities don't happen again. Proportional representation too has its weaknesses but I think it would be a good start for change combined with more referenda on important issues.

stewart said...

Who pays for the 2nd consultation as if I needed to ask!

Perhaps the politicians could each contribute towards the cost out of the extortionate travel expenses they have been claiming.