Friday, 15 May 2009

Dappy Ideas for Democracy no. 2

I don't want scapegoats -- unless it's an entire "state"-goat!! -- & I don't want David Cameron's "swift" resolution; I want the very bright limelight which our voluptuous political class currently enjoys to linger for an uncomfortably long time, almost as if up in the techie box someone had missed the cue for a scene change, or was dead.

Despite that hope, I can't help sharing an idea which I'm sure will attract a prompt and deep consensus, and solve at least part of the problem. MPs must of course maintain a home in their constituencies, but also must be accommodated when they come to London, unless they have Skype, to sit in parliament. A wing of HMP Pentonville should be adapted for this latter purpose.

Dostoyevsky's old saw, "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons," is a background rationale, as is a long republican-democratic tradition associating public office with private austerity, as is the issue of securely housing our public officials till the war on terror is won. But I'm mainly thinking of the system of parallels between parliament's legislative activities (ROFLMAO) and the practice of release on temporary licence (ROTL).

Like the incarcerated, our representative legislators (1) may pose a threat to society (though the mix of powers & inclinations may be significantly different) and so must be contained by a system of checks and balances, including a separation of powers, high walls, dogs and machine guns; (2) owe a substantial debt to society (beyond the obligations of citizenship); (3) function to deter socially disruptive uses of power through those same uses (raison d'état ought to preempt, and delegitimise, vigilantism and private militarism -- still a little muddled about this one); (4) face the imperative of internalising a complex and alien texture of normativity and organising it as objectively meaningful morality (the "recuperative" goal of sentencing); (5) use cigarrettes as currency and have tattoos which signal gang loyalties. Nonetheless, there are circumstances where it becomes impractical to keep an elected representative or a criminal locked up.

I am available to head a commission!

Maybe we could also involve Dostoyevsky's new Saw! "When Don Touhig MP wakes up, he discovers that his head has been sealed in a box, which quickly begins to fill with water. A self-administered tracheotomy using a pen keeps him breathing until the Chief Whip arrives at the Gideon meatpacking plant . . ."

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