International Man of Dignity, anthropologist, and socio-economic researcher / commentator.
the Constitutional Guard
....or the New Co-operative Army
Is it responsible to assume a duly elected socialist government would be allowed to take up governance without corporate/military intervention?
Is it sensible to go to all the trouble of getting one elected without taking precautions to protect it?
Democracy is a fragile institution. As has been seen time and time again, it is very very easy to destabilise. This is even more the case where mass media and sources of information are in the hands of fewer and fewer corporate entities.
Spain in the 1930s was a classic example of a democratically elected government being ousted and murdered by its own military. This was followed by the systematic massacre of tens of thousands civilians. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Civil_War )
In 1933, the US General Smedley Butler attested, on record, to the fact that he was approached by a cabal of corporate and military interests to lead a coup against Franklin D Roosevelt. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler )
More recently, in the 1970s, Salvador Allende, the gentle, be-spectacled, elected President of Chile was bombed and killed in the presidential government offices by his own air force. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Allende ) Even today anti-democratic shenanigans (usually sponsored by foreign governments "protecting their interests" - ie the interests of rich speculators) continue to plague struggling democracies in South America and elsewhere in the world.
We think the UK is too civilised for a military coup to take place, but many believe that as recently as Harold Wilson’s Labour government in the 70s, a coup very nearly took place. And that more recent veiled threats against a Corbyn Labour government need to be taken seriously. (https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2015-09-20/army-plots-against-british-pms-are-not-new/ )
(For dramatic entertainment, see also: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Very_British_Coup )
But even if these events cannot be substantiated enough to convince the majority, the fact remains – democracies are extremely fragile, and not taking concrete steps to protect and defend their hard won fundamentals is simply nothing more nor less than a very poor gamble. Some would even say a profound irresponsibility.
So, what steps can be taken?
The proposal here is to create a Constitutional Guard along the lines suggested below. This Guard should be fully trained for combat but would also undergo extensive and ongoing training and education in the history, purposes, and protection of democracy.
First and foremost of the Guard’s duties would be its commitment to protecting the constitution. Where the constitution is not a single document, it should be extracted from historical legislative record, compiled in one place, and published freely for all citizens generally and for the Guard specifically.
Secondly, the Guard should be committed to protecting the democratically elected leadership. This should be outlined and understood in a formal “chain of command” listing which shows the Prime Minister at the top and descends down through the various elected offices if the Prime Minister or anyone below him/her should be killed or incapacitated. It goes without saying that somewhere in this list will be the Speaker of the House who is also the Guard’s Commander in Chief (see below).
Thirdly, the Black Rod battalion (see below) should be responsible, specifically, for the security and safety of the Houses of Parliament.
The Guard should be deployed, in uniform but unarmed except for notepads, wherever large public demonstrations or gatherings are taking place. Their role is never to intervene (unless there is armed police or military intervention) but simply to observe, record, and act as neutral witnesses for any court proceedings which may follow.
2.3. Oversee elections
Where national elections are taking place (including by-elections), individual Guards should be stationed at ballot boxes, again as legal observers, unarmed except for notepads. In doing so, it may work in partnership with independent civil organisations (such as the Electoral Reform Society) engaged in similar work for similar reasons.
2.4. Other duties
Units of the Guard shall be available for other military duties as determined by the Commons from time to time. However, more than 30% of personnel should not be absent from the country at any one time.
The Guard cannot ever bear arms against civilians. If a government deems it necessary, they have the standard police and military to call upon.
Nor can the Guard ever be called upon to investigate civilians. Any such investigations, if necessary, are to be carried out by other bodies so constitutionally empowered.
The Guard can only bear arms against the military and police in the event that police or military are bearing arms against the government or against unarmed bodies of the civil population.
Similarly, they can only ever be called upon to investigate the military and police.
3.2.Developmental / Custom & Practice
In the course of its work, the Guard will develop methodologies and practices which will need to be reviewed on a regular, formal basis. Such reviews can be carried out by the Guard’s own personnel, but must also be reviewed regularly by the Speaker and the all-party Executive Committee. Where such methodologies and practices are found to be ethical and useful, they may be recommended by the Executive Committee for enshrinement in additional legislation.
4. Structure & Command
The Commander in Chief (CinC) of the Guard should be the Speaker of the House and an all-party Executive Committee (ExCom). The ExCom should be made up of elected MPs in direct proportion to their representation in the House of Commons (to be changeable with each general election). The Speaker should be a member of the committee but not the Chair. The Chair should be nominated from among themselves by the members of the Committee.
The Guard should consist of a Brigade with 4 regiments. One notionally attached to each armed service and one in a rapid deployment air-supported armoured unit based near the nation’s capital. All Guard personnel would be rotated regularly through the 4th rapid deployment regiment.
There should be a Black Rod battalion in each regiment to carry out, in rotation, formal Sergeant at Arms and Black Rod functions in both Houses and to handle Parliamentary security. They should not be armed whilst on these duties, but a wide range of contemporary weaponry should be available within the buildings in the event of any attempted armed intervention.
The Brigade and Regiments should be structured in the same way as standard military regiments, with a Brigadier General and four Colonels appointed by the CinC and ExCom. Barracks should be available in suitable proximity to their duties.
The essential difference is that, except for the General and the Colonels, all ranks within the regiment are to be democratically elected by and from within the troops. And whilst direct orders from officers are to be executed on the spot without question, such orders are always to be reviewed by the troops after the fact in routine daily or weekly meetings.
5. Approximate Current Parliamentary Protection Numbers
5.1.Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP):
PaDP is a branch of Protection Command within the Specialist Operations directorate of London's Metropolitan Police. It was formed in April 2015, with the merger of the Diplomatic Protection Group (SO6) and the Palace of Westminster Division (SO17). Due to its responsibilities, PaDP is an armed command, with most of its officers being Authorised Firearms Officers (including 60 rifle marksmen/snipers). The PaDP provide diplomatic protection and the physical security of the Houses of Parliament, working closely with the House Authorities, particularly the Serjeant-at-Arms (House of Commons) and Black Rod (House of Lords) to provide around the clock security every day of the year.
Total numbers not known.
Managing access and egress are 37 doorkeepers who serve as part of the Department of Chamber and Committee Services (DCCS) in the section of the Sergeant-at-Arms.
6. Approximate Current Armed Service Numbers
Total trained personnel: 82,000 distributed among 72 regiments and 40 battalions.
Total trained personnel: 30,000 distributed among 10 submarines, 64 surface ships, 9 Fleet Air Arm Squadrons. and (Marines) 2 regiments, 3 battalions, 15 squadrons, and 1 “Fleet Protection Group”.
Total trained personnel: 32,000 distributed among 42 squadrons.
6.1.4.Total Military: 144,000
Total trained personnel: distributed among England and Wales 128,000, Scotland 17,000, Northern Ireland 7,200
6.2.1.Total Police: 152,000 (outnumbering total military!)
7. Approximate Proposed Constitutional Guard Numbers
There should be Constitutional Guard regiments in each arm of the armed services. They will have uniforms appropriate to their service but with distinctive colours and badging to show they are with the Guard. Each of these regiments should have its own Black Rod battalion to serve, in rotation, at the Houses of Parliament.
As mentioned above, the 4th regiment will be a rapid deployment air-supported armoured unit based near the nation’s capital. All Guard personnel should be rotated regularly through this 4th rapid deployment regiment.
It is suggested that roughly 10% of the above totals - say 30,000 - should comprise the Constitutional Guard Brigade.
Based on the above, it would seem practical to designate the equivalent of one Regiment from each armed service for Guard duties.
In addition to serving Brigade functions as determined by the Brigade chain of command, these Regiments would also serve with their respective services on active duty missions just as any other Regiment might, with the proviso that no more than 30% of total Guard personnel may be ex patria at any one time.
Whilst on active duties with their respective services, Guard units would be subject to the standard military chain of command. Officers in other units must be obeyed without question, just as within standard units. However, all such orders will be reviewed by the Guard unit and, if necessary, formal concerns raised with the standard chain of command. If there is no satisfactory outcome, the concern will be raised through the Guard CinC and, if necessary, taken through the civil courts.
In combat situations, Batten Down (see below) would be in place, with reviews suspended within a specified time frame.
The 4th regiment will be a rapid deployment air-supported armoured unit based near the nation’s capital. All Guard personnel should be rotated regularly through this 4th rapid deployment regiment.
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8. “Batten Down”
Batten Down is the democratic agreement by a Guard unit, possibly at the recommendation of CinC and ExCom, to suspend all review proceedings in the event of likely combat. Under Batten Down, direct orders from officers are to be executed on the spot without question, and the routine reviewing of such orders is suspended within the specified time frame.
For example, in combat situations, democratic discussions cannot be entertained. In such situations, the unit (regiment, battalion, company, platoon, whatever) agrees by consensus that orders are not to be queried but are to be carried out without question precisely as in the standard military. However, all decisions taken and all orders given are to be reviewed and assessed by the unit at the pre-determined lifting of Batten Down.
Batten Down is always to be agreed with a specified time-frame. And Batten Down time-frames can only be extended by the democratic agreement of the Guard unit itself, possibly at the recommendation of CinC and ExCom.
A Guard unit’s decision to Batten Down can always be overruled by the CinC and ExCom.
The entire Guard cannot be put into Batten Down at the same time. And, although the Black Rod battalion may itself opt to Batten Down, it cannot do so if all other Guard units are already in Batten Down. If the Black Rod battalion is in Batten Down and all other Guard units opt for the same, the Black Rod Batten Down is automatically lifted.
All of this, and its associated responsibilities, must be made unequivocally apparent to each and every member of the Guard. A signed oath of understanding must be provided by every prospective entrant prior to acceptance.
9. Training & Education
Standard military combat and weapons training should apply to all units. This should include specialised training as required by the different arms of the armed services. As mentioned above, each service should provide its own dedicated Constitutional Guard regiment and each such regiment should be trained in all facets of modern tactics and weaponry applicable to that service.
In addition to the standard military training, Guard units must engage in ongoing education and training programmes for their members. This should include external university courses. The purpose of this is to expose members to unbiased representations of history and to all forms of philosophical thinking.
Each Guard unit, throughout the structure, should have a designated Para-legal. A para-legal is an individual who has undergone (or, in the smaller units, is undergoing) specific legal training in constitutional and civil rights law.
An opportunity for cadet-aged young people must be afforded. Alongside standard cadet training, education in Guard internal practices and procedures and in the history, purposes, and protection of democracy should be included.
Every social innovation is exposed to the risk of misdirection, distortion, and corruption over time. To mitigate against this, the Guard must engage in ongoing education and training programmes for its members. This should include external college and university courses.
A key element of the viability and success of this venture resides in the quality of communications - internal and external. For example, the CinC, ExComm, and all units need to be informed immediately of any unit’s decision to Batten Down.
In the event of breakdown or takeover of centralised communications, members of units should be encouraged to maintain private links – perhaps even a designated “buddy” system - with members of other units such that any suspect or misleading intel can be verified via a multiplicity of sources.
Efforts should be made to support the development of Constitutional Guards elsewhere, especially in third world countries. Where they emerge, they should be encouraged to join an international association of all Constitutional Guards to share ethos, experience, and good practice.
12. Where to start
In the first instance, a call for volunteers should be put out among all existing elements of the armed services. The call should spell out in detail the purpose and duties of the proposed Guard.
The first of these volunteers should become the first Black Rod battalion. They should meet with the current CinC (the Speaker of the House) and the all-party Executive Committee and be encouraged to discuss fully and openly the nature of the task before them.
They should then undergo intensive training in the history, purposes, and protection of democracy.
As the first battalion gets bedded in, a further call for volunteers should be extended, utilising the newly existing Guards as ambassadors to go out and find recruits from among their erstwhile colleagues.
When the number of recruits reaches a predetermined point, recruitment should be transferred to standard military recruitment channels but with specialist training for all recruiters. Such training should include meetings with the CinC and ExCom and elements of the non-military training undergone by the Guards themselves.
As the above mentioned Cadets mature, they should be considered for recruitment.
© 2019 Deacon Martin