Thursday, 3 August 2017

The mistake of the mandate

In the days when I was much younger and ( perhaps) more naive, a University lecturer reminded me that the Westminster system is not about mandates.
"We elect people to govern, not to implement a narrow raft of policies" he would say ( or words to that effect ).
He was not saying, I suggest, that politicians should be  allowed to make a swathe of promises and then not be held to account; but rather that we, the electorate, should pay attention to the tenor of the discussion rather than the minutiae.
We are not electing people to implement piddling little policies. that would be far too small,  but to govern according to clearly articulated principles.  This is of course easier said than done.
We, the electorate,  by and large have allowed ourselves to be seduced by minutiae...make my tax go down, stop the boats, free beer for all...
Rather than demanding that our politicians GOVERN according to PRINCIPLE.

The reason why the narrow mandate is a mistake, is that we actually discover there is not one but  a number of mandates (plural)....[housing, infrastructure, security, States' rights, increased wealth, closed borders, care for refugees, better education, military expenditure, lower taxes, improved health care, indigenous rights, marriage equality, law and order, water quality, a republic, farmers' rights, housing costs...... you get the idea...and I could go on]

Thinking back to the last election ( which was close... almost too close) all of these things and more were aired.

The electorate votes, I would say, not for one of these issues . But for the Team it believed most closely approximated most of their views in principle.
Some would hold that border control and lower taxes were what they held to be important. Others that water quality and military expenditure, law and order and marriage equality were what suited them.
We could go on and realise that some of us want part of this agenda and others want a different part.

This is NOT a mandate, this is an accomodation to a way of thinking.

So it is not appropriate or accurate to say that if I happen to have been elected, then everyone agrees with everything I said.
It is not even accurate to say that all those who voted for me ( and in this case it was barely 50%) were agreeing about the things that I was proposing.

There was no mandate for anything.
There was rather permission to govern.
Do not use the Mandate Argument to say...I cannot do this. Rather take the cudgels and govern.
Nothing would seem to be black and white, it is rather an invitation to enter into the mêlée of proper discussion.
Not applying the arbitrary mandates, but rather the principles that engender good government.

I fear that the "mandate argument" is the excuse of the craven to not declare themselves.

I do not believe that this wafer-thin government had a mandate for a plebiscite. If anything the reaction of the Houses shows that they clearly don't.

Get on and govern! You do not have a mandate for a plebiscite. And possibly not for much else either!
Get on and govern ...and realise the art of the possible......which after all according to many luminaries (Including J W Howard) is what politics is all about.

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