Yesterday Showed Two of Britain's Great Institutions at Their Best. but Years of Political Vandalism Have Wrecked So Many Others
Byline: IAIN MARTIN ON POLITICS AND POWER
ALTHOUGH this country remains in serious economic trouble, two of our greatest institutions (the monarchy and the Armed Forces) proved yesterday that Britain can still put on a brilliant show when required and captivate a global TV audience. And for a few days at least, London has seemed like the centre of the world again.
At such times, it is customary for the British to feel a self-congratulatory warm glow about the enduring security of our great institutions and how fortunate we are to have such a strong constitutional structure in this country.
The truth, I'm afraid, is very different. Underneath all the pomp, our constitution is badly broken.
Yesterday's wedding obscures a painful fact: the British constitution -- which took centuries to evolve -- has been all but wrecked by just a few decades of vandalism inflicted by opportunistic politicians from all the main parties. They have been assisted by liberal judges, bien pensant academics and Leftist commentators intent on demolishing a system that actually worked rather well.
Their malevolent handiwork has led to the complete transformation of our constitutional and governing arrangements -- with predictably calamitous results.
Britain is no longer self-governing. Huge powers have been transferred to Brussels and our national sovereignty has been signed away to Europe.
Many of our laws and regulations are not really made by Parliament in London. They come direct from Brussels and are merely rubber-stamped by supine MPs.
Take employment law, one of the areas where the over-weening EU has been most aggressive. Since Britain signed up to the Social Chapter there has been a slew of anti-enterprise impositions on businesses and an explosion in workers' rights and the number of costly industrial tribunals. This discourages hiring and the job creation that is so badly needed after a deep recession.
And when it comes to the massive immigration that comes with the EU's open borders, myriad health and safety rules and environmental edicts (with endless interfering regulations on recycling), Parliament is also powerless. Even Britain's right to choose something as basic as its own weights and measures has been lost. Then there's the sick condition of the 'United' Kingdom and the devolution debacle. Separate parliaments or assemblies were given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by Labour because it was claimed that this would be enough to satisfy the demands of the separatist local politicians.
BUT already those separatists are back demanding (and getting) more powers. Although the majority population in England does not have its own parliament, it is forced to subsidise the Scots and Welsh -- leading to greatly unfair disparities in the provision of public services.
For example, in Scotland there is free care for the elderly, a long list of NHS-su pplied drugs which are denied to English patients as well as free tuition for Scottish and EU students (but, unsurprisingly, not for any English youngsters who might want to study there). Devolution has badly loosened the ties that once bound the UK so strongly together.
The 'reform' of the second chamber was a similar Blairite disaster. The ancient House of Lords that combined hereditary peers with law Lords and some appointed experts was not perfect, but it worked well for centuries as a revising chamber. It was swept away, and the place stuffed with political appointees. Reform created a flawed system that was worse than the one it replaced.
At the same time, another great institution -- the senior civil service -- was degraded and politicised by those in power desperate to alter its composition and make it more politically correct.
However, the mandarin class is not daft and has responded by switching its allegiance to the EU (often taking Europe's side in arguments with ministers). The civil servants realise that real power now often lies with Brussels bureaucrats and unaccountable European judges.
The recent controversy over prisoners' voting rights shows their cynical calculation is right. Our elected representatives in the Commons voted against the enfranchising of murderers, but then unelected European judges overruled them. Politicians may talk about asserting Parliament's supremacy, but this is mere posturing and David Cameron knows it.
Meanwhile, our judges in our new Supreme Court (another Blair folly) connive with Europe in its daily interference in our democracy. This follows New Labour foolishly incorporating into law the European Court's human rights laws.
As a result, unaccountable judges use the Court's laws to issue gagging orders against the Press as they try to create their own privacy laws -- something that should be the domain of Parliament.
All these huge changes were presented to voters as being in keeping with the British tradition of a steadily evolving constitution that adapts to new circumstances while keeping the traditional underpinnings intact. But that was a lie.
When Britain joined the European Union -- or the European Economic Community as it then was in 1973 -- this country suffered an historic loss of power.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Rome, for the first time since Henry VIII refused to accept the Pope's authority, a foreign body was placed above our national Parliament and the Crown.
Until that point, the underlying assumption had been clear. Britain -- with a constitutional monarchy, an independent Parliament, accountable law courts and a robust, free press -- governed itself. It was on these rocks that our security and great prosperity were built.
But then things started to change. Losing our empire and super-power status in the years after World War II produced something akin to a collective nervous breakdown in parts of the British establishment.
For much of the ruling class, the idea of throwing our lot in with the Europeans was seen as the only answer to our problems. Many honourable people (including a misguided Margaret Thatcher) were deceived.
What was originally a free trade organisation rapidly became an antidemocratic supra-national monster.
But the most fervent Europhiles -- such as Tony Blair -- were very cunning. They realised that to make Britain more European they would have to dismantle steadily the traditional structures of government and erode this country's sense of its own distinctive institutions.
This was done under the banner of 'modernisation' and 'Cool Britannia'. Hence, we were given devolution based on the European model, European human rights law was incorporated into British law and there were attempts to ditch the pound and replace it with the euro.
MODERNISERS such as Nick Clegg have since taken up where Blair left off, seeking to impose all sorts of unnecessary changes to the character of our national life.
The most recent attack has focused on the traditional voting system for elections. Next Thursday is the referendum on whether to replace the traditional 'first past the post' system with AV, a system that will make coalitions, where politicians do deals with each other to stay in power, more likely.
Mercifully, opinion polls suggest common sense will prevail and voters will decide to keep the traditional electoral system that has served this country so well for years.
Yet even if Clegg is snubbed by voters over AV, he won't give up and will immediately begin planning his next piece of constitutional vandalism.
The House of Lords is in his sights -- he wants an elected Lords because it would give the Lib Dems more seats and more power.
It is quite extraordinary that a Tory Prime Minister has allowed the Lib Dems to embark on this wrecking spree -- when his own Conservative Party supposedly stands for the defence of the constitution. Yet David Cameron has allowed Clegg his cherished AV referendum and is helping him gerrymander the Lords to the Lib Dems' advantage.
Indeed, what is most deeply troubling is that none of the political parties seems prepared to defend the little that is left of our constitution, or to set about reclaiming what has been surrendered.
That means that when the inevitable sad day comes and the Queen -- who personifies the bulwark defence of this country's institutions and traditions -- is no longer with us, Britain will be in treacherous waters.
Make no mistake: the monarchy itself will be the next target of modernisers and republicans demanding radical change. Who will there be to stop them as they embark on their final big battle in their war to kill off the British constitution?…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Yesterday Showed Two of Britain's Great Institutions at Their Best. but Years of Political Vandalism Have Wrecked So Many Others. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: April 30, 2011. Page number: 61. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.