DIY Constitutional reform

Update Cabinet members are pressing Gordon Brown to launch a big initiative to reconnect the public with politics in the wake of the expenses scandal, announces the Guardian. “The discussions were launched inside the cabinet by the business secretary, Lord Mandelson, when he raised the idea of a British constitutional convention on the model of the Scottish constitutional convention.

What the modernisers inside the ­cabinet want on the agenda is:

• A referendum on electoral reform for the House of Commons.

• An elected upper house.

• Spending caps on donations to political parties.

• A widening of the base from which candidates are drawn.”

Some cabinet members however believe that these ideas are deliverable only in the long term and in any case are too hifalutin to defuse public anger over r over the grubby issue of politician’s greed – which would be the immediate point of the exercise. Even so,if there’s ever a good time to capture the public imagination with ideas of political reform, surely that time is now. So if you think the MPs’ expenses saga is the biggest watershed since – I don’t know – 1688? how would you reform government? The Guardian has set up an on-line forum A New Politics I thought we could pirate. 27 Guardian writers advocate a reform each. It’s all a bit off the top of the head before they all rush off to the pub. Still, not a bad shot. Have a browse and put up your own favourite reform (Declared UK citizenship not required).Some reforms are focused on the Commons show,, getting rid of the flummery , the men in tights “Rt Hon gentleman” etc., and more family friendly hours. Many are about a stronger, more powerful but smaller Parliament, with the power of party whips curbed (David Hencke) backbenchers controlling independent committees with greater independence ( Mike White) and the logical extension, separation of the powers US style ( Martin Kettle). Will Hutton has an interesting variant of one reform likely to happen some time in the next decade, an elected Lords. The Upper House should be co-equal with the Commons ( not as most reformers advocate, the main but still subordinate House of scrutiny). A third of members should be cross benchers independent of party ; the nations and regions should be formally represented ( more peers for NI!) and experts should be co-opted on to committees. For party funding, the next running sore that needs to be tacked after the exes, Seumas Milne says donations should be capped at 1k and social NGOs encouraged to donate to increase their (leftish) influence. As juries have functioned in courts for a millennium why not direct democracy, asks Julian Glover, with citizens’ juries to decide some policy and pick people at random to sit on quangos instead of all that appeal to so-called expertise? And oh scrap the monarchy – but please down get bogged down in that.. And lot’s more.

  • Scooby

    I don’t like the way the US system works and therefore do not agree that there should be a separation of powers. I believe our Parliamentry system isn’t perfect, but I believe it is more efficient in passing laws and holding the Prime Minister accountable.

    As for an elected HOL, I wasn’t aware the Lords was actually relevant anyway and therefore don’t care if they’re elected or not.

  • Brian Walker

    Scooby, You’d be wrong actually. The half-reformed Lords is recognised as the superior House for amending legislation. It’s growing influence is seen not only in the considerable number of government defeats but in government withdrawals of ill-thought measures. Here’s a note on the subject.

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/research/parliament/house-of-lords.html

  • blinding

    Why does gormless Gordon not have an election on the basis of modernising and reforming Britains democracy.

    If anyone believes that the tories are coming out well in this fiasco then they are fooling themselves.

    Gormless Gordon will not do it of course because he is every bit as much the problem as the unfortunate speaker before him.

    Brown might be able to leave with a little dignity if he were to instigate the changes that the public are now demanding.

    This has to be done quickly with an election as soon as possible afterwards.

    I fear Gordon lacks the courage to make any brave decision.