Help draft a new Dunning resolution

On 6 April 1780 one of the most famous motions ever passed in the House of Common was carried by 233 votes to 215. It was an Opposition motion, tabled by Dunning, which stated “..the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”.

The background was the unpopular and unsuccessful war being waged by Lord North’s Ministry against the American colonists, and the perception that George III and his household held too much sway over his Ministers who in turn got away with too much in the Commons. It successful passage did not lead to immediate fundamental changes, but it was part of a process which finally undermined the North Ministry and the pursuit of an unpopular war against the Americans on very questionable legal and moral grounds. There were many MPs who felt the Americans had been right to resist monarchical and arbitrary power, and who saw the War of Independence as a painful and foolish civil war.

I mention it today because I feel we need another set of Dunning resolutions. Indeed, I would welcome your contributions to recast the old motion in the most topical way. There are some obvious ways of bringing it up to date:

“..the influence of the EU has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”

Or “..the influence of quangos has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished”

Or “..the influence of big money politics and spin doctors has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished”

Just as in 1780 many people felt the government were not listening to their worries and taking action to deal with their concerns, so there is that same feeling today. Just as in 1780 the government was fighting a war it could not win against the wishes of many electors and MPs, so today the government is engaged on a couple of wars which leave the public feeling uneasy. Today it is not the Crown that has too much power, but the EU, the quango state, and some Ministers who use office to damage free institutions in our society.

Maybe the catch all resolution for today should be

“..the influence of unelected and unaccountable bodies and people has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”

This does not have the same flowing simplicity of the original, but today it is not the Crown or just one body that causes the problems. It is the combined aggregation of power to government, and its exercise in undemocratic and unaccountable ways, which is so frustrating for electors and so corrosive of democracy.


  1. Kit
    April 6, 2008

    You forgot "the influence of ELECTED bodies and people has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”

    The attack on our liberties has been instigated our elected officials. Where are the Whigs when you need them?

  2. apl
    April 6, 2008

    “..the influence of the EU has increased, is increasing, and ought to be removed within this realm.

    “..the influence of arbitrary government has increased, is increasing, and ought to be extinguished."

    Either of the above could have a subsidiary clause attached as follows:

    And: The Standards board is an abomination in a democracy and ought to be abolished.**

    **In a democracy any arm of the state that looks over the shoulder of an elected representative and says "yea" or "nay" is an outrage. Typical of something you might expect to be spawned from the (word left out) mind of the former deputy prime minister.

  3. Acorn
    April 6, 2008

    See this link. I have been trying to find out what the equivalent number of "regulatory requirements" are for the UK – any ideas?

    I assume this process in Canada started as a federal Act, but I don't know. Is there any chance of coming up with a similar initiative at Westminster. Would any Select Committee take it on?

    We hear lots of talk about red tape reduction but I can't find any evidence – such as this British Columbia website – that it actually happens to the little peoples' benefit.

    Reply: We have proposed an annual reduction in cost of regulation matched by repeal legislation. The government is now looking at something similar but I expect it is just words and will not be followed through.

  4. D Barfield
    April 6, 2008

    An excellent proposal!

  5. Freeborn John
    April 6, 2008

    I cannot agree that the EU can be equated with quangos, spin doctors or ‘big money’ (presumably business). The latter are all subject to the law of a parliament whose democratic legitimacy derives from a sovereign people. Qango’s exercise devolved power which could be taken back at any time by Parliament. The EU exercises conferred powers set out in international treaties that are far more difficult to change. Furthermore it has a legislative power which (by a declaration of the ECJ) is superior to that of any national parliament in the areas where the EU holds conferred power. And the EU itself engages in a relentless campaign to extend this legislative power into new areas and to replace the rule of unanimity – which s required to preserve legitimacy in all supranational bodies – by qualified majority votes such that EU law can then be imposed on the people of this country against the majority will of Parliament. And EU law once created cannot be changed by any future government we might elect, or indeed by the initiative of anyone except EU Commissioners who never propose anything that does not advance what they perceive (inaccurately) to be the common good of all Europeans; the accumulation of more powers for the EU.

    The American Revolution was influenced by Locke – the idea that government requires the consent of the governed who have a right of rebellion when this does not exist. The EU (like the French and Russian revolutions) by Rousseau – the idea that minorities can be coerced by the general will of a collective. Edmund Burke defended the American revolutionaries saying that a "People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws". Who in the Conservative party today will defend us from the ever growing body of EU law?

  6. Neil Craig
    April 6, 2008

    proportion of GNP spent by government/proportion of people employed by government/number & size of quangos/government controls on our lives/EU power/number & prominence of catastrophe stories in our public life

    A common theme to them all.

    And as a space fan:

    The size of the universe has increased, is increasing & will continue to increase & humanity should be funding, mainly through X-Prizes, ways of exploring & understanding it.

  7. Freeborn John
    April 6, 2008

    Upon further reflection I think there is a case for new Dunning resolution. I would use a phrase such as ‘The influence of agencies insulated from the democratic process has increased …’ and go on to elaborate who those governmental agencies are together with spin doctors, lobbyists, etc.

  8. Puncheon
    April 6, 2008

    How about:

    The influence of the political and media parasite classes has increased and ought to be diminished. No one shall be allowed to stand for public office unless they have worked in a non- political, non-public-sector or non-media capacity for at least ten years.

    Taking account of clause 1 above, All media political commentators shall be forced to stand for public office every 2 years.

  9. John
    April 6, 2008

    Excellent. Although I think that the resolution needs to be strengthened. I don't think 'influence' is strong enough or accurate – the ECJ and other EC bodies have precedence in many instances over our judiciary and democratically elected bodies and people. Perhaps it should be something like

    “..the influence and in many instances precedence, of unelected and unaccountable bodies and people over the democratically elected bodies and people within the UK has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished ”

  10. John
    April 6, 2008

    On reflection "ought to be diminished" should be "must be removed".

  11. Bishop Hill
    April 6, 2008

    My contribution:

    “..the power of the man in the street has diminished, is diminishing, and must be restored."

  12. Richard Fletcher
    April 6, 2008

    Not so long ago I would have said something along the lines of

    "..the influence of press barons has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished.”

    However, with the advent of the internet, their power seems to be diminishing without any help from government.

  13. Sacerdote
    April 28, 2008

    Surely the simplest formulation is "The influence of the government has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished".

  14. nasro
    September 23, 2009

    there is one rampant thing that has increased is increasing and ought to be diminished… it is the brutal barbarity against innocent children in ghaza,and the shameful connivance of those countries who pretend to be freedom and justice loving!!!!

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