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.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London