Peace Party Policies
Here are our main policies. Simply click the plus signs below to read them in full.
We seek a radical reorientation of the underlying principles on which our relationships are founded, so that they are based on co-operation rather than competition.
- Resolve conflict by non-violent means, finding common interest, and purpose by listening, talking, mediation, negotiation, arbitration, conciliation and reconciliation.
- Establish systems of conflict resolution
- Disband the armed forces, decommission all weapons, and withdraw from all current military commitments and military alliances. Peace has been shown to be extremely cost effective.
- Close armaments factories and research facilities, and subsidise their conversion to peaceful purposes such as alternative energy equipment manufacture.
- Ban the design, development, sale and distribution of weapons and military equipment.
- Ban all trade in any type of weapon or military equipment.
- Regulate the possession of guns
- Establish a highly-trained ‘disasters emergency organisation’ to help deal with national and international emergencies.
- Set up a Ministry for Peace to develop and promote a peace-oriented foreign policy agenda.
- Respect absolutely the sovereignty of countries with borders ceasing to be barriers.
Peace and the resolution of conflict
The Peace Party works for peaceful coexistence and does not support war which is a morally unacceptable way to resolve conflict. It must never be an instrument of government policy. Governments should always foster and promote peace, and work to remove of the causes of war.
Peace is not only desirable in international relations. It also needs to be expressed nationally through a proper regard for the interests of those with little or no political power, and by preventing commercial exploitation and domestic violence.
We are all responsible for our own actions – but we also share in the responsibility for the actions of government, since these are carried out in our name and with our collective consent. Just as we have a responsibility, as individuals, not to harm one another, so we have a responsibility as citizens and members of a community not to consent to harm being done, whether through military force, oppressive or discriminatory legislation, or other means. We share in a ‘duty of care’ to our fellow human beings.
It is generally taken for granted that when, inevitably, conflicts arise the only way to deal with them is through force. But there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. The principles of non-violent conflict resolution have been the subject of academic study and research for several decades, but have not yet entered public discourse to any extent, nor formed a significant part of any UK political party’s programme until now.
The Peace Party will work for a better and wider understanding of the principles and practice of non-violence, and will explore ways of incorporating into government sound and accepted techniques for peaceful conflict resolution.
Militarism and the armed forces
A society that is determined to resolve conflicts by peaceful means can have no use for armed forces or their weapons. This will also help to assuage some countries’ legitimate concerns about our intentions, and send a message of support to other peaceful countries.
The manpower thus released should be retrained to act on the country’s behalf, both at home and abroad and hardware redeployed. This would enable us to help in disaster relief on a massive scale, to support rebuilding programmes in countries that have been ravaged by war, and generally to foster peace rather than adding to international tension.
We should immediately withdraw from NATO, cancel plans to replace Trident, and dismantle nuclear and all other weapons. Arms manufacturing facilities must cease production immediately, as must the construction, sale, distribution or use of arms of whatever kind.
Giving minorities a voice
It is a fundamental principle of natural justice that no one person or group has the right to impose its will on another person or group — and much of politics, whether national or local, is concerned with settling conflicts of interest between competing groups. Frequently the interests of the stronger group prevail, to the detriment of, for example, ‘travellers’, women, and the poor.
The balance must be redressed by taking seriously the concerns of the poor and the politically weak, providing platforms where their voices can be heard, and bringing competing groups together in a positive atmosphere in an attempt to increase the level of mutual understanding.
Over recent years there has been a move away from adversarial models of conflict-resolution in domestic issues such as divorce and custody of children. The Peace Party supports this trend and will encourage it to be carried further.
Security and human rights
It has been said that the first duties of a government are the safety, security and protection of the people, but it must be remembered that this duty is to all the people, and not just the majority or the mainstream. A legitimate concern for security must never be used to excuse the repression, harassment or persecution of groups within the larger community, or the attenuation of basic human rights.
We are particularly concerned about popular attitudes to immigrants and minority religious groups, and will seeks ways of enhancing their security, freedoms, opportunities for advancement, and status within our society.
The Peace Party supports human rights legislation as a way of setting limits on the power of the state over the individual and on the power of the majority over minorities.
A government can properly claim to be democratic only insofar as its policies and actions have the informed and willing consent of the people.
- Hold annual elections for all public decision-making bodies, electing one third or one quarter of them at a time. This will avoid sudden changes and allow those bodies to evolve.
- Hold all elections using the system of proportional representation which most closely reflects all shades of opinion within the electorate
- Set up and support local committees for small neighbourhoods
- Ensure that there is full education and information on voting – where to vote, how to vote, and, most importantly, why to vote.
- Expand the teaching and discussion of constitutional matters in schools.
- Limit the term to be served by any one political official.
- Devise a new Constitutional Settlement, incorporating a written Constitution that would enshrine the rights of individuals and the limits of State power.
A balance must be struck that promotes and encourages effective involvement in policy-making at all levels from the national to the local, while guarding against the manipulation of popular opinion to the detriment of minority interests. It is imperative that there should be proper channels for individuals and groups to express their views, and that no one should feel that their opinions have been ignored.
This can only be achieved through political and social structures that allow people to decide issues at the appropriate level, combined with legislation that protects human rights.
The right to vote
The right to play a formal part in the democratic process through voting should not be withdrawn from any individual, regardless of status or conduct. We believe, for example, that prisoners should have the right to vote.
Changing the voting system
The Peace Party supports the move towards a proportional voting system for General Elections, in the belief that this will result in government that is more representative of the population.
Referendums and other forms of consultation
Referendums are not part of the “British Constitution”. Where a government believes there is a need to implement a policy that was not envisaged in its manifesto, and which may not be whole-heartedly supported by the people, a referendum may be a reasonable way to establish a mandate, provided it is honestly and fairly organised. But too heavy a reliance on such an ad hoc form of mandating would be at odds with the ideal of representative democracy, and must be avoided.
It must also be recognised that democracy is not just a matter of voting when there’s an election or a referendum. The role of the government must be to represent, and as far as is possible and proper, to implement, the will of the people. This can only be done if the will of the people is known, and it is therefore both the responsibility of the people to make their views known, and of the government to canvass the views of all sections of the community.
The importance of education
A government can only be democratic to the extent that it has the informed consent of the people for its policies. For this to be real, it is essential that young people be properly educated about the role of politics in their lives, and their role, when they become adults, in influencing policies. They should be encouraged to consider the purpose of government, its social and economic functions, and how it affects their lives and those of other people.
Space should be made in the curriculum for the unbiased teaching of constitutional, social and economic issues, as well as an introduction to the ideas underpinning different political theories and philosophies.
Sovereignty of Parliament — and its limitations
It is generally supposed (in the UK) that the best guarantee of fair and just laws is the ‘sovereignty of Parliament’ as the institution that best reflects the will of the people.
This whole area has become confused and is probably not, as many have assumed, ‘the best of all possible worlds’. As we argue elsewhere, the fault lies partly in the assumption that the will of the people, as expressed through its representative institution, Parliament, and ratified by the Crown as Head of State, must always be paramount.
The problem with this assumption is that it is possible for the will of the people as a whole, particularly in times of stress or general hardship, to ride roughshod over the rights and proper interests of individuals and minority groups, in ways that could amount to democratic tyranny. A defence against such excesses would be a written Constitution.
- Work for the provision of conditions to support and encourage a healthy life-style.
- Provide full and independent information about health care — which must continue to be free at the point of delivery and promptly delivered.
- Ensure that mental health services are properly supported.
- Legalise the sale, distribution and use of psycho-active substances, while improving the quality of education so that people can make informed and sensible decisions.
- Drastically improve the provision of advice, help and rehabilitation services under the National Health Service.
- Promote healthy food and sustainable and efficient farming practices, shifting the emphasis away from resource-inefficient animal farming towards crop-based agriculture.
- Eliminate all farming practices that involve cruelty to animals.
- Ensure that any imported GM substances are properly labelled; we believe that genetically modified foods may be harmful to health.
The Peace Party believes that physical and mental health are basic human rights, and that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that proper health care is available to all members of the community whenever needed.
We recognise that individuals have a responsibility not to place an unreasonable or unnecessary burden on a community’s resources, but failure to discharge this responsibility should not jeopardise an individual’s right to health care. Health care should be equally available to every individual according to his or her needs.
We are well aware that there is strong evidence that in many circumstances the human body is able to heal itself without the intervention of “traditional” medicine.
Control of narcotics
While it is proper for the state to ensure as far as possible that people are aware of the consequences of their actions — in particular those that may be detrimental to their physical or mental health, we do not believe it is the government’s job to tell people how to live their lives. Partly for this reason, and partly because criminalisation of the illegal drugs trade is counter-productive (it keeps prices high and helps the trade and related criminal activities to flourish), we believe that a strong case can be made for the legalisation of the sale and use of drugs.
In many ways government policies have tended to exacerbate the drugs problem. Too little attention has been paid to the need to raise the living standards and expectations of people in areas regarded as ‘deprived’, and the support that is provided for the victims of the drugs trade is woefully inadequate. Employment opportunities should be developed in these areas by encouraging and promoting suitable enterprises, and no one suffering from an addiction should be denied appropriate help, support and medical care.
Medical research and testing
In no circumstances should testing of potentially or actually harmful substances be carried out on animals or people for cosmetic or other non-essential products. For medical purposes we must, as a matter of urgency, develop effective alternatives to the use of animals in research and testing, and such alternatives should always be used where available.
Although there is generally plenty of food in the UK, not all of it is healthy. For reasons of culture and sometimes necessity many people are more concerned with cheapness and convenience than with quality. This attitude is encouraged by the major food concerns, which routinely resist attempts by government to introduce legislation, and treat conformance primarily as a ‘selling point’.
The implications for health are serious. The situation is not helped much by the media, which tends to present food issues as a series of scare stories, often contradicting one another, or in the form of rival, ineffective and probably unhealthy slimming regimes.
To help people to make intelligent and informed decisions about what to eat, we would collate the latest genuine, independent and reliable research findings of the effects of diet on health in publicly accessible reports. We would also look for ways to encourage small growers to distribute and sell their produce through ‘farmers’ markets’ and vegetable-box schemes.
There can be no doubt that genetic modification (GM) of crops has brought about, in many parts of the world, significant increases in crop-yields, disease-resistance and other desirable attributes, and that there are as yet no reported cases of serious damage to the environment resulting from the leakage of the modifications into other organisms.
Nevertheless objections to GM remain. Some people are concerned on moral grounds, arguing that the structure of life is too fundamental and ‘sacred’ to permit interference by humans, while others feel that the possibility of catastrophic error cannot be ignored. We understand too little, they argue, of the complex ecology of life to be sure that our changes will always be benign.
In Europe, unlike the USA, these arguments have prevailed so far, and of course, like the USA, we have the luxury of not actually needing to increase our crop yields anyway. In view of this it does seem sensible to apply the precautionary principle: ‘If you are not sure it’s a good idea, and it isn’t absolutely necessary, then don’t do it.’
There remains the question of imported food, which is not under our control and may consequently be genetically modified. Here the principle must be one of freedom to choose. If I do not want to consume GM food I must have the right not to, and this implies that all GM foods, or foods that may contain GM substances, must be clearly labelled as such.
A good supply of clean water is available to every household in the UK, and for this we must be grateful to, among other things, the far-sightedness of Victorian engineers. Inevitably there are now increasing pressures on the ageing infra-structure, and substantial spending is necessary to keep the supply and waste disposal systems in good order, as well as water-conservation measures and avoidance of wastage.
At the same time we must be conscious of the fact that many parts of the world are not so fortunate, and that competition for water is becoming a significant source of tension between countries. The UK must play its part in helping to defuse these tensions.
Everyone, whether young, single, single parents with children, older or disabled people, or conventional families, should be entitled to a safe, secure and peaceful home.
- Ensure that at least 300,000 “housing units” are built every year for the foreseeable future so that everyone has a home of their own that they can afford to rent or buy.
- Ensure that all land is taken into public ownership in order that sufficient land is available for more homes.
- Make full use of sites for new housing that have ceased to be used for other purposes.
- Suspend for up to 25 years all green belts that surround major towns and cities.
- Require local councils to be responsible for the construction and operation of homes for rent.
- Bring all rented homes under public control with responsibility for their operation being given to local councils.
- Bring large homes-building firms under public control to prevent profiteering and to ensure government funds intended for the creation of homes are well spent.
- Bring firms manufacturing and supplying building materials under public control to prevent profiteering.
- Ease controls on immigration for those seeking work in home-building.
- Ensure funding for further education colleges is sufficient to ensure an adequate supply of well-trained workers in building trades.
- Improve existing housing stock.
- Institute shared ownership schemes with housing trusts.
- Ensure that housing programmes contain a mixture of social, rented housing and owner-occupied homes.
- Build all new housing to the highest environmental standards, minimising its negative impact on its surroundings.
Somewhere to live
Although a decent home is one of the most basic requirements of a happy and well-regulated life, many people have nowhere to live, and many more live in unsatisfactory accommodation or are barely able to pay for the accommodation they occupy.
This country has a tradition of ‘home-ownership’ that is often regarded as fundamental to the ‘British way of life’. Arguably, however, this is a model that has only ever benefited a minority of the population, and mortgages are probably the country’s principle form of debt.
It needs to be recognised that housing is first and foremost a basic essential in people’s lives, and should only secondarily be a source of profit, whether from interest on mortgages or from capital gains arising from increases in house and flat values.
Over recent decades there has been a continuing move away from public provision in housing, first promoted in the Thatcher era when local authorities were forced to sell off housing stock into the private sector but forbidden to use the funds accrued to build more public housing. This trend must be reversed.
National government, local government, and housing associations have crucial roles to play in remedying the situation. National government has its role in mandating and financially supporting local authorities, and in developing policies for urban renewal; local authorities should translate the vision to fit local realities and housing associations are in a position to supply expertise and experience.
But even with enlightened housing policies there will still be many people for whom there would be virtually no prospect of having a ‘home of their own’ without more direct and personal intervention. Provision, such as a basic income for all adults, must be made for those who have little chance of achieving a regular income sufficient to pay either a mortgage or rent at a market rate.
This could be done either by certified housing associations or by government organisations that would acquire and retain ownership of properties while transferring all right of use and access to its occupier. Such accommodation would be integrated into housing developments and programmes, and there would be an obligation on private developers to release a certain proportion of the accommodation they construct for this purpose.
Private ownership of land, while undeniably a legal fact, is morally dubious, and we have a responsibility and duty of care to the land we, in effect, hold ‘in trust’.
- Ensure that we work with nature, using only our fair share of resources and recognising that apparently insignificant actions can have far-reaching consequences.
- Regard land as being held in trust on behalf of the whole community.
- Develop high-quality, free local transport systems and low-cost, government-supported efficient forms of long-distance transport.
- Promote the development of non-polluting energy provision that will meet everyone’s basic needs.
- Work towards levels of carbon dioxide emissions to at least those set out in the Paris Agreement.
Why the environment matters
We see environmental concerns as part of a political philosophy based fundamentally on the replacement of competition in our society with a culture of peaceful co-operation.
Humanity has for centuries, or perhaps millennia, seen nature largely as something to be conquered. This was not much of a problem when the total world population was only two million, and our distant ancestors are unlikely to have had a major impact on the environment as a whole. Now that there is a global human population of nearly eight billion and advanced technology on a vast scale we need to have a deep awareness of the existence of the global village.
It’s not just that it’s dangerous to ignore the damage we are doing to our environment. An increasing number of people are finding that a life lived in tune with nature is more rewarding, and somehow more ‘right’. This is a difficult thing to define without becoming unfashionably mystical, but it seems to be strongly felt at some level by many, if not most people. We are an integral part of nature and no domineering is needed.
Ownership of land, responsibility and stewardship
In many traditional societies land could not be owned; there was no such concept. In developed ‘Western’ societies land ownership now seems perfectly natural, but it has not always been so, and relics of an older tradition still survive in the form of ‘common land’ and public ‘rights of way’, for instance.
It would not be easy to put the clock back, but there is much to be said for the idea of land as a common resource. Certainly the ownership of vast swathes of land by people whose ancestors acquired it by force or as a gift from the king for services rendered in battle, seems to have little moral justification.
There is a sense that, morally, all land is held in trust, so that while an individual may be its legal owner, in a deeper sense we can only be custodians, with a responsibility, or even a duty, to take care of it, not to deny its proper use to other people who have a legitimate claim on it, and eventually to pass it on to future generations in good order and repair.
Pollution due to energy generation
It is generally recognised that the major environmental issue of the moment is pollution of the atmosphere. It is reasonable to suppose, and innumerable scientific studies confirm, that this not only causes health problems by poisoning the air we breathe, but also contributes to dramatic changes in climate that will have unpredictable consequences. Much of this pollution is caused by the burning of carbon-based non-renewable fuels such as gas, oil and coal in order to generate energy for transport, manufacturing, and domestic use.
The other major source of energy, nuclear fission, produces a different form of pollution — radio-active waste — that does not directly pollute the atmosphere (unless there is an accident as in the case of Three-Mile Island and, much more seriously, Chernobyl), but is hazardous, difficult to dispose of, and long-lasting. The close link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is well-known; the Peace Party works to eliminate both.
It is clear that the use of fossil-fuels is unsustainable. The amount of ‘anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere (principally carbon dioxide but also methane and nitrous oxide) is already too high and is increasing. Greenhouse gases must be phased out as soon as possible, unless ways can be found to extract virtually all carbon and other pollutants from their emissions. The winning of natural gas and oil using “fracking” must be ended to prevent, among other things, damage to underground water sources.
While there is some political agreement in principle on these points, progress remains too slow. Ways must be found to accelerate the process, whether through taxation, pollution-levies, emissions regulation or more intensive promotion of schemes like carbon credits. Wide-scale re-afforestation can also help by re-absorbing some of the carbon dioxide that has already been released.
Using less energy
Good, well-organised land-based public transport (trains, buses, trams) can be much more efficient than private cars. But it needs to be affordable, comfortable, to run at convenient times, and to connect a much wider range of destinations.
Providers should be required to work together to ensure that their services connect reliably and conveniently.
Government funding should be increased to enable prices to be reduced and standards improved dramatically. It needs to be recognised that a good transport service is of major benefit but cannot be operated as a profit-making business. Nationalisation coupled with more stringent licensing conditions should be considered as possible ways of bringing about the desired changes.
At present around 50% of the cost of the railways system (for example) is carried by the government and 50% by passengers. We should aim for 90% of the cost to be a public expense and 10% to be paid by individual passengers.
Companies should be encouraged, by fiscal and other means, to enable their employees to work from home, and grants should be made available to companies wishing to develop secure intranets to facilitate this. Working from home should replace commuting wherever possible, thus relieving the burden on the transport system. Video-conferencing must replace long-distance travel in all but exceptional circumstances.
Safe cycle-lanes should be mandatory on all new urban roads, and on existing roads where practicable. These should be combined with traffic control systems that give priority to cyclists and pedestrians.
No new inter-city roads should be built unless they can be clearly shown to be of overall environmental benefit, and the same criteria should be applied to any proposals for road-widening projects.
Energy-efficiency of moving vehicles decreases at higher speeds. Serious consideration should be given to the possible reduction of the national speed limit to 60 m.p.h. and speed limits should be rigidly enforced.
Alternative sources of energy
Reduction of energy consumption is not an end in itself — it is primarily a means towards reducing atmospheric pollution and the consequent climatic changes. The longer term objective must be the implementation of non-polluting sources of energy. This must be tackled far more seriously than is the case at present.
Other forms of environmental degradation
Although atmospheric pollution and its effect on the climate is a primary concern, there are numerous other ways in which humans are seriously damaging the environment, polluting the oceans, destroying fish-stocks, damaging the sea-bed, destroying habitats and causing massive rates of extinction.
There are, of course, numerous conferences on these issues, but we believe we should take a lead not only in pressing for but also in developing and implementing solutions. We should, for example introduce much tighter legislation on fishing practices, encourage the development of advanced methods of recycling, and discourage use of land-fill.
Summary of detailed policies for the environment
The Peace Party will promote the need for the right relationship with our natural and man-made surroundings, a relationship that is holistic and organic. There is an overriding responsibility to pass on to future generations the world’s resources, wildlife and plants, cities and transport links, landscapes, water and air, in a far better condition than they are at present.
The Peace Party aims to:
- Ensure that everyone has an equal right to, and use of, the natural and man-made resources of the Planet.
- Ensure that humans, who are part of nature, are aware of the total connectivity of all life on earth and that every action rapidly affects every other across the globe.
- Make sure that all land is held in trust for the use of the whole community.
- Ensure amenities are within walking distance of every home when planning towns and that everyone in a town is within a five minute walk of a bus route.
- Make sure that everyone has access to free local travel with longer overland journeys being more heavily subsidised than they are at present. Ensure that there are good interchange facilities between modes of transport.
- Have well-thought out, rolling 30-year plans in place for transport and development in towns and cities (a far longer time scale than at present).
- Everyone should have access to sufficient , non-polluting energy by subsidising the research into, and development of, photovoltaics for the generation of electricity, nuclear fusion, wind, wave, hydro-electric power, including tidal, waste biomass burning and fuel cells (fromstored hydrogen).
- Replace, as soon as possible, nuclear fission power and phase out the burning of all carbon-dioxide producing fuels – coal, oil and gas.
- Subsidise the storage of “wastes” from burning and nuclear reactions for possible future use.
- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions eventually to mid-nineteenth century levels, to counteract global warming by, for example,
- Subsidising reductions in energy consumption through insulation of buildings and installation of efficient boilers and air-conditioning units
- Encouraging walking and cycling
- Giving car-owners incentives to leave vehicles at home
- Taxing, even more heavily, petrol and diesel in private vehicles and aircraft fuels
- Subsidising the development of, for example, hydrogen- and electrically- powered vehicles (where batteries for the latter are charged from non-polluting electricity)
- Subsidising companies to convert from carbon dioxide-producing to non-polluting processes
- Taxing companies producing carbon-dioxide
- Taxing timber that cannot be shown to be from forests that are re-planted with trees of similar species
- Working with the international community to do all the above throughout the world.
- Reduce methane emissions, to counteract global warming, by
- Subsidising more energy-from-waste schemes, including those combining the production of heat and power
- Managing waste effectively – someone’s waste is someone else’s resource
- Subsidising more re-cycling and re-use of materials and products
Taxing waste put into landfill
- Promote the production and use of plant sources of protein, such as pulses and nuts, soya and hemp, thus reducing the number of methane-producing animals.
- Work with everyone, to combat climate change, to reduce the proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide to the mid-nineteenth century level of 275 parts per million by volume (ppmv) by
- Subsidising tree-planting, including the re-afforestation of land, such as the tropical rain forest, cleared for animal rearing
- Promoting “edible landscaping” i.e. the planting of fruit and nut trees in towns and cities.
- Reduce the possible effects of climate change, e.g. rise of temperature, changes in rainfall patterns, increased windiness and possible local cooling, by
- Subsidising changes in forestry and agriculture – draining fields, introducing irrigation, bringing new land into cultivation to maintain and increase food production, as sea level rises and agricultural land is flooded
- Protecting lands liable to flood as sea levels rise by constructing coastal defences and making existing ones higher. (Such engineering works may have limited life but they will allow time for populations to be moved and for new agricultural land to be brought into use.)
- Planning to re-locate residents, factories, offices, roads and railways, as sea level rises
- Improving water supply, for example by creating canals and pipelines from high to low rainfall areas, by improving water storage both underground and in reservoirs, by the desalination of sea/salt water and by subsidising rain-water collection
- Improving or introducing flood-relief schemes
- Working with the international community to do all the above throughout the world.
- Reduce other man-produced pollutants by
- Subsidising companies to convert from polluting to non-polluting processes
- Taxing the polluters.
Without a trial a ‘suspect’ is just a suspect, and an injustice is done whenever someone is imprisoned without trial and without even the prospect of a trial.
- Introduce a Written Constitution enshrining basic human rights, based on the models of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Use imprisonment only for violent and serious crime where the public needs to be protected.
- Shift the focus of the penal system away from retribution and towards rehabilitation.
- Extend the use of restorative justice (an approach to justice in which the response to a crime is to organize mediation between the victim and the offender, and sometimes with representatives of a wider community.)
- Promote public awareness of the factors leading to criminal behaviour and extend the concept of justice to include a responsibility to compensate and support its victims.
- Reduce the use of CCTV and other aspects of the ‘surveillance-society’.
- Destroy DNA records, fingerprints, and all other information obtained from those not found guilty of an offence.
- Repeal the legislation that prevents prisoners from voting.
Much has been written about justice, a concept that dates back thousands of years, but there are differing views as to what it means. Like education, it is a notion that evokes strong feelings, controversy, and competing definitions. For some, it is summed up by the Old Testament phrase ‘an eye for and a tooth for a tooth’, while others of a more compassionate disposition would place the emphasis on rehabilitation and education of offenders and ‘restorative justice’ rather than deterrence and retribution.
Pre-requisites for justice
However justice is defined, it presupposes at least three things: (1) that there exists a recognised system of laws that require a society’s members to act towards each other within certain normative constraints, (2) that the laws are fair, equitable, and reasonable, and (3) that members of the society can obtain redress should they be wronged or in any way made to suffer as a result of a breach of the laws.
Necessarily, the ‘law of the land’ must be administered by institutions that have nation-wide recognition, and in most modern democracies (including, of course, the UK) it is accepted that these institutions (the ‘judiciary’) must be independent of the government (the ‘legislature’). This arrangement is intended to ensure that the laws themselves are framed and enacted according to the moderated will of the people, by Parliament, but administered independently and without interference by government.
Limiting state power — Human and Civil Rights and a Written Constitution
The sole task of the Courts is to interpret the laws and determine how they should be applied in each case. So, in a sense, the Courts are no more than agents of the government, despite the separation of powers. Admittedly they are sometimes called upon to weigh up the competing claims of domestic law and European Community and Human Rights legislation, but this does not mean that they are in a position, of themselves, to constrain or restrain Parliament, since it would be possible (if difficult) for Parliament to tear up the Human Rights legislation.
The Peace Party holds the view that the ‘sovereignty of parliament’ should not be absolute, but should be constrained within a framework defining the limits to its powers — in other words a Written Constitution. Such a Written Constitution would incorporate (among other things) the fundamental principles of Human Rights such as habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial, the unacceptability of torture and ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, and innocence until proven guilty.
Unequal access to legal processes
It has often been said that the rich and the poor (but not those in between) have access to the law — the poor because they can call upon Legal Aid, and the rich because they don’t need to. The Peace Party will ensure that there is legal aid available to all who need it, otherwise we could very well find ourselves in the position where only the rich have access to justice.
A legal system that disenfranchises most of the population is in danger of losing the respect of that population and of being seen as operating only for the benefit of the rich minority who can afford it. This is not only unjust but also socially dangerous. We recognise that Legal Aid is expensive and would argue for serious investigation into alternatives to costly and divisive adversarial legal processes and penal systems.
Mediation, arbitration, and restorative justice all have a part to play, as could a change, in certain circumstances, to an inquisitorial rather than an adversarial approach.
Enforcement and police accountability
In tyrannical states, the forces of law and order rapidly become conscripted as agents of the regime. Typically this is through a system of under-payment, corruption, and sponsorship, not to mention intimidation. A civilised democratic society by contrast expects its police forces, like its politicians, to be its servants, not its masters — in the sadly out-dated cliches, to help old ladies across the road, to tell you the time, and to look after lost children.
Even in a civilised democratic society however, there is still a tendency for police forces to drift towards increasing authoritarianism in the belief that the more powers they have at their disposal the more effectively they can do their job.
We believe that strict and clear guidelines should be laid down for police behaviour and that where breaches occur (such as the unnecessary use of violence towards demonstrators) the offender should no longer be allowed to continue as a police officer. We recognise that there have been many changes for the better in police culture over the years, but there is considerable room for improvement.
The role of quasi-judicial systems
The then Archbishop of Canterbury was much vilified in the press in 2010 for his suggestion that there could be a place under the British legal system for ‘Sharia Law’ – a code of conduct regulated by Muslim courts. His suggestions were generally taken as suggesting two parallel legal systems – one for Muslims and one for everyone else.
This was of course an absurd and unfair caricature. There are many quasi-judicial systems within the UK, from the rules of the golf-club, to the standing orders of a Trade Union, to the rules of a local school. None of these systems is binding in the sense that the ‘law of the land’ is binding. They are systems that are entered into voluntarily and can equally easily (in most cases) be opted out of, even if this means leaving the organisation they are associated with. Where there is a conflict with the law of the land (vide the case over the admission of women to golf-clubs on an equal footing to men), the law of the land takes precedence. There is no problem.
The Peace Party is sympathetic to the recognition of the cultural traditions of many of the Muslims in our society that would be expressed by supporting the establishment of Sharia Courts subject to the over-riding requirements of British law. Indeed, it is difficult to see how it could legally be prevented in any case.
Detention without trial — ‘innocent until proved guilty’
An absolutely fundamental aspect of our traditional view of justice is that an individual is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Without a trial a ‘suspect’ is just a suspect, and an injustice is done whenever someone is imprisoned without trial and without even the prospect of a trial.
The rhetoric of ‘the war on terror’ has made it easier for politicians to detain people, albeit not very many, without trial, but it is a short-sighted approach. In a war there are no ‘good guys and bad guys’ — it’s just ‘us and them’. Consequently using the language of war rather than the language of law makes it easier for people to decide to be, as George Bush put it, ‘against us’ rather than ‘for us’.
We believe that terrorism should be regarded as criminal, not military, activity, and be dealt with respecting the normal and proper constraints of legal enforcement and investigation.
Education should be free at all levels, and clearly distinguished from training for employment.
- Encourage and facilitate constructive dialogue between parents and teachers.
- Abolish the National Curriculum and ensure curricula are developed by teachers and appropriate educationalists.
- Develop new approaches to teaching that respect the place of the pupil as an active participant in the learning process.
- Encourage the study of the place of the individual in society and politics, and of alternative approaches to conflict resolution.
- Encourage critical thinking and an awareness of cultural and nationalistic propaganda in conventional historical narratives.
Education or training
Too often in our society, education is seen as little more than training for employment. This is a model that it is in the narrow political interests of the government to promote, as it implies that the principle beneficiaries of education, higher education particularly, are its recipients. From there it is just a small step to the argument that education should be paid for mainly or entirely by those who benefit from it.
Education and the civilised society
As long as we see the country’s wealth in purely economic terms there may be something to be said for this attitude, but even then it needs to be recognised that higher education itself contributes directly to the gross domestic product by training engineers, scientists, teachers, and even artists and musicians.
But in fact many of the things we value most cannot be traded and therefore cannot be measured economically. Higher education develops greater understanding, critical faculties, reasoning, and historical, artistic and political awareness. Higher education is one of the marks of a civilised society and if we want to live in a civilised society we need to make adequate provision for it out of the public purse.
The Peace Party believes that society benefits as much from the education of its members as do the recipients of that education, and that education should therefore be funded by the state. This idea is largely accepted for primary and secondary education, partly because they are compulsory, and partly because people tend to see lack of basic education as diminishing the individual’s ability to make a contribution to society. We would like to see the same principle applied to any individual, of whatever age, seeking to develop his or her potential in ways that would enrich society.
What is a ‘good education’?
Educational theorists, politicians and pundits have tended to approach this question from one of two main directions. There are those who see education primarily as a way of fitting individuals into society – teaching them their responsibilities, what is expected of them, the traditions of their country, how to gain employment that will make them an asset to the community, and so on. On the other hand there are those that see education as enabling people to develop their full potential, to get the most out of life, and to become ‘well-integrated’ individuals.
A moment’s reflection will make it clear that a really good education would aim to do all these things, but all too often the two approaches are seen as mutually exclusive. There are important insights on both sides and we would like to see an education system that sought to pass on the high points of traditional culture (classical music, literature, the Arts in general) while at the same time recognising that a child that is not motivated and curious is unlikely to learn much at all.
Schools, whether by that term we mean primary or secondary schools, colleges, Universities, or other institutions of teaching, learning and enquiry, exist, we believe, to enable people to achieve their ‘potential’. A good school is one that does this successfully, not necessarily one whose pupils achieve high examination grades, but unfortunately schools are still seen by many people (but not, generally, by teachers) as places that should fit their pupils for pre-determined roles in the work-place.
This viewpoint, we believe, under-values people. It betrays a fear that unless people – particularly young people – are properly trained and constrained they will come to no good. There is little independent evidence to justify this anxiety, natural though it is. We would welcome, and will promote, a more open approach to education that tries to support the natural curiosity and enthusiasm of the young (and in many cases, the old) and to guide, rather than constrain.
Most teachers are well-suited to this task. They usually have a natural and genuine sympathy with their pupils, and do not by and large need government edicts to tell them how to do their jobs. The continual controversy over ‘educational methods’ and constant obsession with ‘league tables’ sets school against school, and encourages parents to view every school with suspicion. This does both schools and teachers a disservice. We would abolish league tables and encourage a natural, constructive and friendly dialogue between teachers and parents – all of whom have the best interests of the pupils at heart.
Everyone has a moral responsibility to make a contribution to society if at all possible.
- Develop policies to ensure that secure, worthwhile and fulfilling occupations are available for everyone, and that everyone is assured of an income that is sufficient for their needs.
- Ensure that working conditions are compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right of representation in the work place.
- Enact legislation that will ensure that immigrants have the same working conditions, remuneration, and opportunities as indigenous workers.
- Support fair trade.
Work and leisure
Meaningful work can give people a role in society for which they can be respected; paid work provides them with an income. However, there are many forms of work that are financially unrewarded or socially undervalued, but which nevertheless are essential to the smooth functioning of society, or in other ways of real value.
Capitalism is essentially ‘value-free’, in the sense that moral principles and notions of good and bad practice are not inherent in it, even if they appear to emerge in practice. Admittedly it tends to cause things to be produced that satisfy a demand, and it can therefore be seen on balance as a mechanism for good that has served human society well. There is much to be said for this point of view, but it is only part of the story. Capitalism has also produced exploitation, the arms trade, drugs dealers, and slavery.
Unfortunately alternative economic systems, however humane their theoretical rationales, have also created appalling excesses, and the verdict of history at the present time favours a regulated capitalism as the system that gives the greatest scope for enterprise, creativity, and ‘progress’.
The idea of work as a social imperative
What most modern economic systems have in common is that they see ‘work’ (that is, paid employment by someone else) as a social imperative: the maxim is, ‘If any would not work, neither should he eat.’ This makes sense from an economic perspective since economic theories can only quantify the creation of wealth that can be traded.
But this is a narrow, inconsistent and, we believe, inadequate view. It is inconsistent in that it exempts the rich entirely, but more importantly it overlooks the many contributions people make to society in ways other than through paid work, and the fact that paid work is not always beneficial to society. A stand-up comedian gets paid, but someone who makes people laugh in the bus queue is also making a contribution. A carer gets paid (though not usually enough), but people all over the country are caring for others in return for neither reward nor recognition. Cigarette manufacturers get paid, but their main contributions to society are lung cancer, emphysema and huge NHS bills.
From time to time some of these discrepancies are recognised and there is an attempt to canvass public opinion on what would be ‘fair’ wages for different occupations. The result is always and inevitably inconclusive, for the reasons we have already considered – and because what is of value for one individual at one point in time is not the same as for another individual at another point in time.
An alternative approach
The Peace Party would disentangle the basic human right (as we see it) to a decent quality of life from the moral responsibility to make a contribution to society. That is to say, everyone is entitled to a ‘decent life’. Everyone also has a moral responsibility to make a contribution to society. But each of these principles stands on its own – if they are linked in practice it is only by economic necessity.
Of course it is possible to take the view, as many do, that you should only ‘take out’ of the system as much as you ‘put in’, and this is no doubt an excellent guiding principle for one’s own actions. The difficulties arise when it is applied to the conduct of others – who is to decide ‘how much’ a person ‘puts in’? How is it to be measured? The conventional answer to the last question is that it is that economics will decide. But as we have just seen, capitalist economics is amoral. It can only value commodities that can be traded, and ‘demand and supply’ can be a perverse indicator of value. There is a huge demand world-wide for AK47s and crack cocaine, but the world would be a much better place without them.
In principle, the Peace Party supports the view that people have a right to live and work wherever they wish. There is something strange about a system in which capital is able to move freely across national boundaries (sometimes, it has to be said, with disastrous consequences), but people cannot.
In times of national stress immigrants make a convenient target for blame and resentment. It is easy to find, and easier to invent, stories in which immigrants appear to have been favoured over the indigenous population in the allocation of social housing and other resources. Then there is the argument that immigration cannot be supported because resources are not available, an argument which generally overlooks the fact that resources may actually be increased by the immigrant population.
Of course, there are limits to the rates of immigration a country can support without undergoing radical change, but it is doubtful if such levels would ever be reached in practice. Instead of panicking about the possible effects of excessive immigration it would be much more sensible to concern ourselves with how immigrants are treated when they are here. For example it makes no sense to bar an immigrant from employment, and then deny him or her access to social security.
It is sometimes claimed that employing immigrants tends to reduce the standard of working conditions for everyone else. There is some justice in this view. Immigrants will usually come from a part of the world where standards are lower than they are in the UK, and they may be prepared to work for lower wages and in poorer conditions than their British counterparts. Consequently they can be exploited by unscrupulous employers to reduce costs and increase profits, with the result that standards are lowered and indigenous employment is decreased.
Part of the solution to this difficulty is to make it illegal for an employer to employ immigrants for lower wages or in poorer conditions than British employees. This would only have an impact on employers that relied primarily on British workers, and would not help very much in seasonal casual work, and in these situations proper enforcement of minimum wages is the only solution.
British immigration policy is at present openly hostile to immigrants. This seems to be a deliberate policy designed to ‘send a message’ to potential immigrants that the UK is not a good destination. The Peace Party would reverse this policy and set up a Department charged with the specific task of finding ways to settle immigrants, be they economic or political. There would have to be co-operation with other European countries, up to and including arrangements for helping immigrants to settle in the most appropriate place.