Royal assent and the NHS….

Mark Ferguson, writing on LabourList, has a point. He’s right that it is absolutely democratically wrong for campaigners to ask the Queen to refuse the Health and Social Care Bill as a Jubilee ‘gift to the people’. However, Mark misses the main point that stems from this, the complete failure of our democracy that has backed the valiant campaigners against these changes into this corner. This is not even the first time this has happened. The most notable recent example is the House of Lords desperately trying to amend the Welfare Reform Bill.

Relying on the Lords is another democratic anomaly but they are at least part of the legislature and furthermore they are a clearly subordinate part to the elected Commons. Victories in the Lords really then have mostly propaganda value and increase the pressure to amend a flawed Bill. The House of Lords cannot, however, continue in its current form and no matter how much it does things we like, that will remain the case regardless.

It is utterly unacceptable, from a democratic point of view, to ask the unelected monarch to strike down a majority vote in the Commons which despite its many flaws is elected. True, this government has an electoral mandate which is threadbare but it still outweighs by a considerable margin that enjoyed by the Queen. Refusing Royal Assent for any Bill would set a dangerous precedent which could lead to places with dire consequences for democracy.

Having said that, I entirely empathise with why campaigners feel they should do this. It’s a last, desperate throw of the dice in a worthy cause. Our democracy has failed them and the people who depend on the NHS. However, this begs the question of how we make it better, how we make our Parliament more representative and responsive and whether it can indeed be made so. If campaigners want to carry on the fight for the NHS, to reverse the damage being done, this is the only way forward, not a supine appeal to the unelected monarch whose powers simply have no place in a democratic society.





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2 responses to “Royal assent and the NHS….”

  1. Kate Walton-Elliott (@pyoor) says :

    In large part I agree with what you say, however I’ve still asked the Queen not to grant Royal Assent to the bill. Why?
    – This is a matter of lives. People will *die*, children will be harmed, irreparable damage to our healthcare system will occur when this bill is enacted. Modernising our democracy is certainly a valuable endpoint, but it’s not something that’s going to happen in this parliament, so I will use whatever tools I have in my grasp *now* to try to make this bill not pass happen.
    – The government has no mandate for this bill. Unlike about screwing up welfare, punishing the poor for being poor, and shafting the public sector which was – sort of – in their manifesto, this was something they explicitly stated they would not do. Politicians rarely make promises that have actual words you can ascribe a real meaning to, but Cameron actually *did* make a promise, and *lied* to get the vote. The government have no mandate to stand on, so they can take this legislation and stick it. I’ll campaign and fight everything else with my traditional weapons, but on this one, I will do everything I can to make it not happen.


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I dont disagree with you at all about the gravity of these changes and the fact that yes people will die as a result of these changes.. However, taken to its logical conclusion the same could be said to be true of rule by Royal decree, which ultimately if the Queen veoted the Bill is what we would have. If you set in motion a conflict between the elected government and the monarch then the end point is civil war, potentially.

    I agree about the lack of mandate but I would say 10 million votes still trumps the big fat zero the monarch has. Sorry, but Camerons mandate still exceeds that of the Monarch no matter how much he lies etc etc


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