Home > Bit of politics > Why pointless parliaments don’t and shouldn’t exist

Why pointless parliaments don’t and shouldn’t exist

Something which surprised me when I first researched moving to Sydney was that the city (in the sense of “wide urban area”) has no governing authority: the CBD and some of the inner suburbs are called the City of Sydney, but the vast majority of the city (including places that are only 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre) is made up of independent boroughs.

This felt familiar: it was also the case in London for 15 years, following Mrs Thatcher’s bizarre ideological crusade against local government, cities, any kind of planning of anything and the poor. And the resulting lack of focus on anything was pretty disastrous for London’s development over that time – hence why we now have a Mayor and an Assembly with control over major strategic issues affecting London’s development.

However, in Sydney, there’s never been much real pressure to do the same – because there’s already an authority that’s well qualified to do the job.

Greater Sydney has a population of 4.5m people, and so it makes up two-thirds of the population of the state of New South Wales. The NSW government and civil service are based in Sydney, and – because it accounts for most of NSW’s people, economy, media, culture, and events good and evil – devote a large majority of their time and budget to Sydney’s governance.

In other words, while the system governing Sydney is a little odd, probably wouldn’t be one that you’d choose if you were starting from scratch, and means that the metropolis is administered at a different level of authority to all the other cities in NSW, the net result is something that works, doesn’t pointlessly duplicate layers of effort, and is pretty much fair to everyone involved.

Sydneysiders, being a laid-back and sensible bunch of people, are happy with this state of affairs, and don’t kick up a fuss about people who live in Wagga Wagga getting to vote for the state government even though they don’t live in the city.

The comparison with the un-laid-back, un-sensible types who devote their time to campaigning for an English parliament despite England making up 84% of the UK’s population, is noticeable.

  1. tally
    April 2, 2010 at 12:31 am | #1

    Wagga Wagga is in New South Wales and that is why the people of Wagga Wagga get to vote in NSW state elections.Wagga has its own local councils and so does the city of Sydney CBD in the town hall in George St with Clover Moore as Mayor.Wagga councilors do not vote on City of Sydney matters and vice versa.
    Now!supposing Western Australian MP's in the Federal Parliament in Canberra, wanted more powers than other states in certain areas,but still wanted to have a say in the affairs of those other states when the MP's from other states could not have a say in devolved WA,we would then have the Nullabor Question and not the West Lothian Question.
    I am one of those un-laid-back, un-sensible types who devote their time to campaigning for an English parliament despite England making up 84% of the UK’s population

  2. April 2, 2010 at 9:08 am | #2

    Yes, that'll be you missing the point, then, which is that much of Greater Sydney's governance is handled at the NSW level, not the City of Sydney level, because the City of Sydney only accounts for 5% of Greater Sydney's population.

    An English Parliament campaigner, missing the goddamn point completely? Say it ain't so, Joe.

  3. tally
    April 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm | #3

    NSW government has the same governance of wagga as the city of sydney no more no less.A state MP from wagga can vote on an issue that pertains to Sydney CBD and vice versa. much of Greater Sydney’s governance is handled at the NSW level,and so is Wagga's!. your research is muddled which leads people to miss your goddam stupid point.

  4. TH43
    April 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm | #4

    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." Gandhi

    …the un-laid-back, un-sensible types who devote their time to campaigning for an English parliament. and "An English Parliament campaigner, missing the goddamn point completely? Say it ain’t so, Joe. John B.

    I'd say we're scoring 2/3 on the Gandhi meter.

  5. April 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm | #5

    @Tally: Sydney is a metropolis which requires strategic planning, co-ordinated transport, policing, etc that transcend municipal boundaries; Wagga-Wagga is not. Hence, significant parts of the administration of Sydney (above and beyond the obvious things that take place at state level for all places in NSW) are performed by the NSW government. The same is not true for Wagga-Wagga. Nonetheless, the people of Wagga-Wagga get to elect the state MPs who play a significant role in the administration of Sydney (above and beyond, etc), whilst not playing a comparable role in the administration of Wagga-Wagga. And that's OK.

    Also, you're an idiot, which leads you to miss goddamn obvious points.

    @TH43: there's nothing I like more than right-wing nutters who're irate about some made-up cause or other comparing their irrelevant struggle to Gandhi's fight for self-determination for hundreds of millions of people. Next time you meet an Indian, I suggest you make the parallel to them.

  6. TH43
    April 3, 2010 at 3:01 am | #6

    Right wing nutter? Since when has the right wing fought for equality?

    Sounds like fighting talk to me. Sounds like we're definately 3 on the Gandhi meter.

  7. TH43
    April 3, 2010 at 3:22 am | #7

    I don’t know much about the way Sydney is administered (about as much as John B knows about the UK system probably), so just to test your analysis, can you confirm…

    > 20% of NSW’s ‘MPs’ are elected from places like Wagga Wagga, outside Sydney
    >These ‘MPs’ are accountable to No ONE (Sydney or Wagga Wagga, or anyone anywhere) on such crucial matters such as Health, Education, Policing, Social Services, Housing, Transport etc that only effect the people of Sydney.
    > The First Minister (or equivalent) is one of these ‘second class’ representatives
    >The First Minister has not been validated by an election: he’s there because he thinks "it’s his turn”
    > The Finance Minister hold his position because he is the First Minister’s mate
    > The First Minister and Finance Minister have signed a solemn oath swearing to hold Wagga Wagga’s "interests paramount” in all their "actions and deliberations", even though they don't represent them on any of the above matters
    > These powerful, unaccountable individuals can be sure that every measure they propose and vote on, will have an automatic 20-odd% of votes in their favour, courtesy of the unaccountable ‘MPs”

    Is this right? If it is and the Sydney people are happy, they must be a right load of saps. Get off your arse and complain, this is an outrageous situation.

    I’m surprised at you Aussies, I thought you had more gumption! It sure has changed since I was last there.

  8. April 3, 2010 at 8:04 am | #8

    Agreed .I deplored the meddling tinker of devolution and I applaud your pragmatic conservative sentiments ? I think, however , you are unfair to suggest devolution served no purpose . Its purpose was to save New Labour. The oil greedy Scots wanted out and without Scotland is an ex Party. Tone bought them off
    Had they completed the process and made a fair adjustment to Westminster powers then they would not made a net gain and so the evolving system was frozen. Naturally pressures have grown and the historic process of adjustment must continue , no doubt you agree
    You could reduce the Number of Scots seats in a rough and ready way or have English areas of competence mirroring the devolved powers . An English Parliament sounds bit pompous but English people have the same one vote as everyone else and it should count as much.?
    Like your conservative objection to Constitutional major surgery though , PR ,AV…and the rest of the nutty schemes I can do without .

    Pity to end this accord but if you support Margaret Hodges loon left Islington or Derek Hattons corrupt Liverpool I can’t quite see why, but then I didn’t go to public school I`m sure you know best.

  9. tally
    April 3, 2010 at 8:37 am | #9

    @TH43
    I was a a trade union meeting last week, it's a good job they don't know i'm a right wing nutter.

  10. TH43
    April 3, 2010 at 1:14 pm | #10

    Tally, I think John B is missing the Daily Mail and the rest of his British Nat friends.

    Newmania, you could reverse the process of Devolution, or you can complete it. Reversing it has no popular support and completing it (ie an EP) does.

  11. tally
  12. April 3, 2010 at 5:31 pm | #12

    There is no 'ENP' TH43 and no clamour for an English Parliament comparable to that in Scotland or even the somewhat indifferent Welsh.I`m not against the idea entirely but I`m not sure its time has come .
    In the meantime we cannot go on as we are with the real possibility of a New Labour Lib Dem stitch up when the Conservative Party has a significant English majority . It may be the your objectives will soon be a lot more achievable and if they try to establish a Lib Lab thousand year Reich under PR then an English Parliament will soon be a reality . I would prefer the sort of evolution I have suggested which I think is a fairer reflection of where we are .

  13. tally
    April 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm | #13

    well letters to the press say there is a demand suit yourselves http://www.crossofstgeorge.net/forum/viewforum.ph

  14. TH43
    April 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm | #14

    Newmania, there are countless surveys that demonstrate that demands for an EP are similar to those in Scotland demanding an SP.

    There is one poll that consistently bucks the trend called the annual British Social Attitudes Survey. Professor Curtice of Strathsclyde University explains this phenomenon to be the result of the wording of the question, which he says is “crucial”.

    Support for an English Parliament falls away if the wording implies, or specifically states that an EP would weaken, threaten, or even end the Union.

    Ask people in England if they want ‘the establishment of an English Parliament within the UK, with similar powers to those currently enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament’ and 68% say “yes”.(1) This is a similar number to those Scots demanding devolution pre 1998.

    Imply that an EP MIGHT mean an alternative to the UK by taking out the phrase “within the UK” and add “England only” and those in favour drop to 51%(2)

    Imply that an EP WILL mean an alternative to the UK (status quo) by asking “…choose between the three main options that have been proposed for England – the status quo, regional assemblies and an English Parliament.” And support for an EP crashes to 20-25%. (3)

    Refer to an EP along the same lines as the Scottish one, viz ‘…now that Scottish devolution is well established – and may be extended – England should now have its own parliament too’. .. and the figure shoots back up to 65% (4)

    This is not restricted to England. When asked if Scotland should be “independent, separate from UK and EU or separate from UK but part of EU” those wanting independence fall to around 25-30%. (5) These numbers very similar to the English “status quo”.

    The latest IPPR report (the one with the worst possible wording remember) shows a huge jump, 29% up from 17%, that causes Curtis to ask if there is now an English backlash (6)

    1. November 2007 ICM Survey
    2. January 2008 ICM Survey
    3. January 2007 British Social Attitudes survey
    4. May 2007 Populus Survey
    5. “Where Stands the Union Now?” Table 3
    6. http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/pub

  15. TH43
    April 3, 2010 at 8:54 pm | #15

    Looks like John B. has given up the fight and has gone home with his tails between his legs.

    Number 4 on the Gandhi meter, we won.

    He might have had the skinniest legs in politics, but that fella certainly knew all about human behavior.

  16. April 4, 2010 at 11:31 am | #16

    Hmm. I'm not convinced that "being too busy with my actual life to join the English parliament ranty fun" counts as "you winning".

    I'm not a referendum-democrat (a reluctant representative democrat at most), so I don't really give a stuff what people say they want in opinion polls. If enough English people say they want a separate parliament, and it becomes an important issue that actually affects people's voting behaviour, they'll probably get one. That wouldn't stop it from being a pointless and silly waste of time.

    (I support regional governments with the same powers as the Welsh executive, so that political issues can be decided on a regional level that actually makes sense, rather than an absurdly centralised national level. Going back to the Australian analogy, the average population of an English region is about the same as the average population of an Australian state, and the power of the state governments is roughly equivalent to that of the Welsh executive. The Tories, being halftwitted, plan to abolish the English regions instead…)

    @Newmania, the LDs and Labour together carry a sizeable majority of the popular vote in England, not just in the UK overall, so I'm struggling to see why an English parliament would make a difference?

  17. tally
    April 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm | #17

    There are no English regions, the North East said NO.In a survey carried out in the North East of England after the failed 2004 referendum for a regional assembly,one of the reasons given by people for voting NO was that they did not like the idea of England being divided against itself. Of course wankers like Band ignored all this and carried on with regionalisation against the will of the people.

  18. April 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm | #18

    There *are* English regions, that's a simple question of fact.

    In the NE referendum, the main objection and reason for defeat was that the proposed NE assembly involved no devolution of any kind – rather, it would take over some powers from local councils whilst not gaining any new powers from Westminster. The spurious bullshit about "England being divided against itself" is entirely made up by the EP nutters.

    In the one English region that *does* have an elected leader and an elected assembly with devolved powers, the system is extremely popular and very unlikely ever to be reversed…

  19. tally
    April 4, 2010 at 6:59 pm | #19

    the spurious bullshit was was given by respondents to a survey in the North East of England after the referendum.I doubt you knew there was a referendum going on in 2004,you know fuck all.
    "raised in London" what does that mean?

  20. TH43
    April 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm | #20

    "…I don’t really give a stuff what people say they want in opinion polls"

    A true Liberal Democrat. Neither Liberal nor Democratic. Just about says it all, but let me dismantle your argument on other grounds.

    For devolution to work, the same rules HAVE to be applied to all. Power should have been devolved to the easily identifiable regions of Britain. For example the industrial, modern south Wales is different from the rural, touristy north Wales. Scotland is far more diverse politically, economically and culturally than England. The Western Isles and the Highlands are Celtic in language and culture, quite distinct from the regions of the Central Belt and the Lowlands. Edinburgh is much closer in every form of culture to London and Manchester than it is to Argyll, Skye or Lewis.

    This Government however decided to devolve power on national lines… the nation of Wales and the nation of Scotland.

    This means that the nation of England should not be denied the same rights and it should not allow itself to be Balkanised that are demonstrably unpopular with both the people and the politicians that are supposed to attend. They are a white elephant that have no where near the powers that the SP has.

    It’s a bad situation, but it’s where we are. Unless we can stuff the nationalist genie back in the bottle and reverse 1998 (I’d vote for it) an English Parliament is the ONLY solution.

    PS. London does not have devolution and was never given the opportunity to vote for or against it.

  21. April 7, 2010 at 7:11 am | #21

    There *are* English regions, that’s a simple question of fact

    Oh quite I can tell you that the excitement when Mercia meets South West and Borders for a game of eerrm …Boule reaches fever pitch,.Even now there are pubs where the wild songs of the South Eastern secessionists are still sung in the bad lands of Sussex. John have you ever said one thing ever that was not Galloway level cobblers ?

  22. hellblazer
    April 7, 2010 at 7:48 am | #22

    Much as I hate to interrupt the glee of everyone convinced they've destroyed JB's points, or what they think are JB's points … just what is a "region" supposed to be, Cardinalia? 'Cause if the North East isn't a region of England, by virtue of history, culture and massive chip on shoulder, then I really don't know what is…

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