Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Tuesday, January 31, 2006  

So Tony Blair's government last evening suffered a humiliating defeat when a number of its MPs joined with the opposition parties and the House of Lords and voted for amendments to the bill to combat religious hatred. This means that someone charged with an offence under the act would have to be shown to have used "threatening" language, rather than "threatening, insulting and abusive" langauge, as the government intended.

An important victory for free speech; and also an instructive lesson in how politics is practised in a serious country. Could anyone imagine, if it had been Trinidad, government MPs taking a principled stand and going against the party line? Never happen--or if it did, those MPs would be looking for a work the next morning.

True, the size of our parliament in relation to Britain's perhaps naturally mitigates against the variety of opinions that are able to manifest themselves in the House of Commons. Also party allegiance is practically law here, and the government has a guaranteed majority in the Senate--not so in the UK. All of this just shows up our faux-Westminster system of government for the sham it really is, and the unsuitability of our present constitutional and political arrangements, where parliament is a creature of the government, a rubber stamp, and nothing more. Even the prime minister, sincere or not, admits things can't go on this way, and the UNC political-but-not-opposition leader has been borrowing a page from Lloyd Best, showing support for Best's "party of parties" idea, where it's not winner take all, but all take win.

What sort of system should we be envisioning? I don't pretend to know (yet), but I agree with Denis Solomon's position: "if we are to change our system, we have to change it into one that in turn changes us."

posted by Jonathan | 11:06 PM 0 comments


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