Yes, I am going to talk about the tendency of those in government to bang-on about their “mandate”. The current government managed to obtain almost 37% of the vote (the same as in 2010, without a majority on that occasion) and so have – in common with many of their predecessors – been claiming a “mandate” to do whatever they want. I’d note that this mandate covers only a quarter of the electorate – and many of these may only have chosen them tactically or as the least worst option – so hardly a ringing endorsement of the full contents of their manifesto (and any mad ideas they may have generated subsequently or were unwilling to reveal). Talking of their manifesto, I wonder what fraction of 1% of the electorate actually read any of the manifestos, let alone that of the “winner”. Even 25% of the electorate seems an over-estimate of the mandate, as many people who will be affected (for good or ill) by the current government were not eligible to vote. I am thinking, in particular, of those yet to reach the age of 18 and who will have much longer to live with the consequences of this government’s actions than the over-65, who seem to have been the mainstay of their support. I did find myself wondering when the last time was that a government had the support even of a majority of the electorate?
I fear this belief that the (probably grudging) support of a small minority of the populace is a mandate for each and every action they can think of (please note, no actual thought may have been involved) might help to explain the legislation mania that has afflicted governments since around 1980. The production of new laws is one of the few growth industries that this country can claim, but sadly it adds little to GDP and even less to the well-being of the population.
Just a couple of weeks in, there have already been two glorious examples of this mania. Firstly, the plan to legislate to remove most of the flexibility that the government possesses to manage the economy by effectively removing any chance to raise additional revenue. Given that a bunch of spending areas have also been protected and we are planning to fritter away huge amounts of money on vanity projects, e.g. HS2, Trident, there seems a major risk of total economic collapse. All it would need would be some event which lowers tax revenues by even a modest percentage, a referendum leading to departure from the EU might be an example, and I can foresee disaster looming for the UK (though luckily, one which would probably confined to these Isles rather than trashing the global financial system). I fondly remember the fun of our brief dalliance with the ERM and expect “the markets” to view this idiotic idea as a similar challenge.
This very day, the government has announced plans to tackle soi-disant legal highs via legislation: nothing must stand in the way of the cloud of depression which has settled over much of the UK, engendered by ever deepening austerity. Some government mouthpiece proudly claimed that this would deal with the issue “once-and-for-all” and, as we know, since being made illegal, heroin and cocaine have not been sighted and certainly have never caused a single problem in this country. As previously noted here, I remain convinced that the government is taking cash from the drugs trade to keep it profitable – does anyone know if the legal high industry was a major contributor to Tory party funds? Still, it is good to know that disaffected chemistry graduates, emerging from university to a life on the scrap heap, have a profitable avenue to use their “book smarts”.
I have two ideas that are somewhat cognate to this discussion and might be able to muster the 20% or so of support that is considered a ringing endorsement in these modern times. Firstly, removing the vote from everyone over the age of 40 (thus disenfranchising myself at a stroke) – I have far more faith in the young, who have yet to have a chance to make a total mess of anything other than their own lives, than those of my generation, who have managed to make a much broader mess. I like to imagine this would encourage longer-term thinking (if nothing else, the young seem to have lots of ideas as to what to do with their time, little of which seems to relate to generating bad ideas for new laws) – though might also lead to a Logan’s Run scenario for we old codgers. Still, on the plus side, that would defuse the pensions time bomb rather nicely.
Secondly, the restriction of membership of the armed forces to people over the age of 40 only – which might reduce the desire to participate in foreign wars just to demonstrate our unrequited love for the US. The more fatal interactions, which currently characterise war, might also be largely replaced by passive-aggression. If nothing else, it should slow down the pace of war – with troops and their commanders alike keen on getting an early night. It will also help to tackle the pensions time bomb!
I do realise that the combination of my two wizard wheezes could be a tad dangerous for those of my age, but when producing legislation there is clearly no need to consider the consequences of one’s actions, so I’m sure everything will be fine!