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Pearls of wisdom

Apropos my previous posting:

“The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one meets a powerful person–Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler–one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.”

Viscount Stansgate

I had always seen Tony Benn as a political enemy, or at least an opponent, back in the days when the UK was a democracy. However, while we may disagree about who should own and control property, and the means of production, we were in full agreement on a far more important matter – that WE should make that decision.

5 Comments

  1. JohnSF says:

    6: “What are your current grid co-ordinates?”

  2. john in cheshire says:

    Tony Benn has repeated this ad nauseam. It doesn’t make it any less true. It is, however, the only sensible thing that he’s said in all his political life.

  3. Mr Eugenides says:

    Say what you like about the generally loathsome Benn, but he has always been sound on this subject. From the Commons in 1991:

    “I know that it sounds negative but I have always thought it positive to say that the important thing about democracy is that we can remove without bloodshed the people who govern us. We can get rid of a Callaghan, a Wilson or even a right hon. Lady by internal processes. We can get rid of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). But that cannot be done in the structure that is proposed. Even if one likes the policies of the people in Europe, one cannot get rid of them. [...]

    I ask myself why the House is ready to contemplate abandoning its duties, as I fear it is. I was elected 41 years ago this month. This Chamber has lost confidence in democracy. It believes that it must be governed by someone else. It is afraid to use the powers entrusted to it by its constituents. It has traded power for status. One gets asked to go on the telly if one is a Member of Parliament. The Chamber does not want to use its power. It has accepted the role of a spectator and joined what Bagehot called the dignified part of the constitution, leaving the Crown, under the control of the Prime Minister, to be the Executive part.

    If democracy is destroyed in Britain, it will be not the communists, Trotskyists or subversives but this House which threw it away. The rights that are entrusted to us are not for us to give away. Even if I agree with everything that is proposed, I cannot hand away powers lent to me for five years by the people of Chesterfield. I just could not do it. It would be theft of public rights.”

  4. Sunfish says:

    How to get rid of Murdoch? Turn off your damn televisor.

  5. Nick M says:

    Sunfish,
    He’s doing it for us. NewsCorp is adopting some as yet unspecified mechanism for charging for online content. I think 5p for a Times article was mooted. Fine – I’ll read the Telegraph instead. It’s a complete misunderstanding of how the web works. How often do you glance at an article and thing, “nah” and go onto something else?

    Of the “broadsheets” The Guardian really seems to understand the net, the Telegraph site is a bit staid but works and Times Online is a right mess anyway. The NoTW and The Sun online are basically bingo sites… NewsCorp is a dinosaur. It’s big and fierce and impressive but it hasn’t noticed that new light in the sky that’s getting bigger and bigger…

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