A story for Christmas and New Year: The Isle of the Ancient King.

Once upon a time there was an island surrounded by other islands –  both big and small. The island, let’s call it the Isle of the Ancient King, was frequently shrouded in mist. However, it wasn’t only the inclement weather that could obscure things on the fair isle. Many things on the island had been somewhat opaque for many, many years.

Islanders were confused and infuriated by the situation that had come about over a period of years. The island boasted an ancient parliament and the islanders were proud of their parliamentary system. After all, it was given prominent international coverage and certainly the longstanding parliamentary system appeared to be exceptional. Indeed, at one point the parliamentary members were quite capable of  saying no to the neighbour in the largest island, on occasion at least.

However, over a period of time it became apparent to some islanders that things didn’t really make sense and many had the feeling that their wishes were given no consideration. Money was spent on seemingly unnecessary projects, especially road works and CCTV, while funds were scarce when it came to facilities for the young. Sometimes school sport lessons were reduced or funds or planning permission were difficult to obtain for sport projects for youths. 

At the same time it appeared to the people on the island that members of their parliament were actively ignoring their wishes. Developers were permitted to build on school land even though many villagers were not in agreement and it also appeared to contradict a covenant. Even more worrying was the fact that this land transfer was conducted by a minister in a time between terms of government.

It also seemed that there was a desire amongst some ministers to introduce unnecessary legislation. It was blatantly obvious to those who gave these things any consideration that legislation was simply being copied from the biggest island, with further, stricter clauses added. On one occasion the residents had complained about proposed legislation which would have seriously compromised their freedom by placing many people on a covert database. It appeared that this idea had been rejected on budget grounds. Yet, it also seemed that it had later been adopted without any parliamentary discussion and the people were simply confronted with the bill for the secret changes which had been made. The minister referred to them as “new working practices.”

All of these things  – and many more  – resulted in some islanders becoming much more vigilant about what was being proposed in their government. It seemed to some as if they were permitted to vote yet elected members simply disregarded those in their constituencies once the election was over. The residents questioned whether this was really a free and democratic society and in order to gain more insight into what was going on they tried to obtain more detailed information about various matters.

The islanders then discovered that information was not readily available in many cases, and frequently the words “data protection” were given as a reason for not disclosing facts (even though it appeared to them that their own data were not protected since many found themselves, unwillingly, on an education database). How could they possibly ascertain whether the politicians were working in the islanders’ interests or not if information was being withheld?

To further obscure things it seemed that high level meetings were held with parliamentary members on the biggest island and that generally no minutes were kept. Was this how the unnecessary and alien legislation entered the political system, they wondered?

The result was that islanders began to question everything –  while the politicians were less than forthcoming about their actions. Furthermore the islanders began to feel they were being spied on as more and more CCTV cameras appeared, although this tiny island had a very low crime rate. The chief of police kept impressing this fact on the islanders and he constantly reassured the inhabitants that they lived in a very safe place. “Why would they need to install such expensive equipment when there is no money for sports facilities for our children?” asked the people.

At some point it became clear to the islanders that other islands and even other countries had similar issues. It was as if an unknown and invisible force was controlling things both on the Isle of the Ancient King and further afield. But how could this be?

To be continued.

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