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 â€œ..the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminishedâ€.
The background was the unpopular and unsuccessful war being waged by Lord Northâ€™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:
â€œ..the influence of the EU has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminishedâ€
Or â€œ..the influence of quangos has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminishedâ€
Or â€œ..the influence of big money politics and spin doctors has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminishedâ€
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
â€œ..the influence of unelected and unaccountable bodies and people has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminishedâ€
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.