On Friday 27th November, Dr. Alan Whitehead MP gave a guest lecture centred around the idea of where power might lay in society.
Whitehead gave the attendees a brief run down of the British Parliamentary system, making a number of interesting points. He posed the question “Who has more power in their state; Barrack Obama, or David Cameron?”. The audience responded with a 50/50 vote, but Dr Whitehead MP then explained why it was in fact Cameron who held the most power in his state. After this, he progressed to a case study of where the power might lie when decisions were being made in the energy sector, one Dr Whitehead MP’s areas of expertise. This proved to be an exposure to new information for a number of people in the audience, presenting a dimension they may not have previously considered, and that can strongly influence business on a global scale.
However, perhaps the most important factor of Dr Whitehead MP’s presentation, was where the power lay in the lecture theatre. For, it undoubtably lay with the audience. A large number of wide-ranging questions were asked of Dr Whitehead MP, ranging from electoral reform to the justice system.
Some of the questions asked included:
Do you believe that Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of using questions from the public during the “new” form of Prime Minister’s Question Time is a good one?
I do support the policy of Corbyn in this area. He sources the questions from social media, email and hand-written letters, and then selects the appropriate ones to address to the Prime Minister. This is important as it prevents Cameron and the government from dismissing the questions simply because they “come from the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition are talking rubbish“. Instead, he must either answer the question, or dismiss a member of the public as being rubbish, something very different to disregarding the Labour leader.
What is your opinion on electoral reform?
I am actually involved in a number of committees and projects around electoral reform, and believe simply put that the government should get a majority and have power by getting the majority of the votes. Currently however, it depends on the concentration of the vote, and thus votes in some areas actually have more power than others. It is my opinion that an Alternative Member System would benefit the country more. I could talk for hours about this, and probably bore you all, but we cannot go on with the current system where UKIP have more votes than the SNP, yet have only 1 seat to the SNP’s 56. While I am not desperate for more UKIP MPs in parliament, change is needed.
Can the government really be considered still to be “Her Majesty’s Government”, and does she have a role in the current power dynamic?”
Of course, the power resides unequivocally with Her Majesty, and she still has to sign all of the laws passed in the UK, and has the power to veto or block any. It is also under her name that the country would go to war, should that ever happen. However, in practise, these rights are not often used, so it can be argued still that the power remains with the government of the hour. The Queen has “invisible power” in the sense of her connections, but constitutionally the monarchy has no actual power.
Are you opposed to the renewal of Britain’s Nuclear Defence System, Trident?”
I have considerable concerns about such an immense spend and the spiralling costs of a missile system that effectively just points at Russia. All of the proposals are a renewal of exactly the same thing: undersea missile systems that can point at Russia. The previous Cold War state of mind is not the way the world works anymore, and we need to instead look at alternate systems.
Finally, were you pleased when Corbyn was elected?
I didn’t actually vote for Corbyn, but I am pleased he got voted in over other candidates! What I am pleased with is the way the entire contest and it’s eventual outcome has reinvigorated the entire Labour party. I am pleased that the former dissident, from both the party and politics in general, individual is now adapting and managing an alliance. How successful this is will determine how good a leader he will become, and the party success at the next election. We will see this over the next couple of years.
These were just a few of the questions put forward to Dr Whitehead. It was a great experience to have an active Member Of Parliament speaking, and the fact that he was prepared to answer such a range of questions was a bonus.
This is an article that originally appeared on the University of Southampton’s Business School Blog, that I am working on reinvigorating.