Categorised | Conservatives, General, Labour, Lib Dems, World |

Restoring confidence in Parliamentary Democracy

Nothing irritates me more than having people claim that they speak for me and yet, that is precisely what I have to put up with from this government and party leaders. Not one of our party leaders, but in particular our prime minister, has been given a mandate to speak on behalf of the people of this country. Yet, the most common expression coming out of the mouths of all party leaders is “What the public wants is…..”. It is this precisely this arrogance that angers me most and I suspect that there will be others that are similarly angered, although I can’t nor will I claim to speak for them.

However, based on my limited number of friends and colleagues, I can say that I believe the expense scandal is the conduit for peoples anger, but not the primary reason. Instead, based on my straw poll, most people were already apoplectic about the failure of this government to listen to them and the abject failure of MP’s (backbenchers and opposition parties) in holding the Executive to account. The consensus was, that this government had become authoritarian, reckless and completely out of touch with the wishes of the majority. Further, that the introduction of over 3,600 new criminal offences over 12 years had sought to criminalise the majority, whilst offering exemptions for MP’s.  Further, that the removal of long-held and cherished civil liberties had been arbitrarily removed on the pretext of fighting crime and terrorism, using fear as the primary justification. Yet the statistics clearly demonstrate that the loss of liberty has produced no tangible or demonstrable improvement in our daily lives. Violent crime for example has doubled under this government.

All MP’s have an opportunity to restore confidence in parliament, democracy and, of course, members of parliament, but only if they truly understand what angers the public. Speaking for myself, I have listed below what I would like to see introduced in terms of electoral reform/change and manifesto commitments, not every one will agree with me but, unless the party leaders agree with my points, they must not claim to speak for me.

Electoral Reform

  1. Every MP must be required to stand down and seek reselection whenever there is an election
  2. Local primaries must be introduced which allow the local people to select which candidate they want to represent their preferred political party.
  3. The local people must be provided with the means and the ability to recall their MP [The barriers would have to be realistic and there should be a limit to the number of recalls in any given parliament]
  4. Introduction of fixed term parliaments
  5. Removal of the Whips ability to exercise their powers in all matters that are not covered by the ruling party’s manifesto
  6. Introduction of a procedure that allows the public to lodge a vote of no confidence in the government which will lead, if successful, to a new election
  7. Requirement for an immediate election where a party wants to change leader during their term in office [No coronations]
  8. Introduction of Proportional Representation to better reflect the will of the people [There are a number of variations of PR and I would be open to debate on which would be the preferred option taking account of the fact that no electoral system is perfect, but FPTP is not in my view, representative]
  9. Boost the power of select committees, provide stronger investigatory powers and require that the chair is elected by secret ballot rather than appointed
  10. Require all major legislation that is not contained in the Manifesto to be put to the people in a referendum
  11. Allow the civil service to be answerable to elected ministers only [i.e. not parliamentary aides or peers]
  12. Introduce a fully elected, but much smaller upper chamber [I would suggest that members of the upper chamber are all independent to avoid a situation where laws are simply rubber stamped]
  13. Devolve power from the centre and provide for more local democracy and accountability
  14. Repeal any law that provides members of parliament with legal exemption or special tax concessions which are not available to the public [With the exception of parliamentary privilege]
  15. Limit the number of new laws that can be introduced during any parliamentary term and for each new law introduced, one existing law must be repealed
  16. Party leaders must be made legally responsible for the introduction of all manifesto commitments
  17. Remove Ministerial Veto
  18. Limit the powers of the prime minister to prevent this country going to war without the consent of parliament
  19. Make ministers responsible and accountable for what they say outside parliament as well as inside [Ministers’  must the same type of sanction for misleading the public as they do for misleading parliament. We need an end to spin]
  20. Prevent all political parties from using ‘positive discrimination’ to select candidates based on race, gender or religion
  21. Require that all candidates seeking selection to represent their constituents have been resident in the ‘seat’ for not less than 5 years [This will ensure that the candidate has local knowledge and limit the powers of the party leaders to parachute prospective candidates into safe seats]
  22. Introduce a limit on public borrowing as a percentage of GDP, above which they must seek a mandate from the people through a referendum [No longer should it be possible for a PM to have the power to virtually bankrupt a country without recourse to parliament or the people]
  23. Place a limit on the Executive, above which they must gain parliamentary approval, for investment in private sector institutions
  24. Introduce tighter regulation of quangos and lobbyists
  25. Increase the power of backbench MP’s to hold the Executive to account and, if necessary, overturn unpopular legislation
  26. Members of Parliament rather than the Government must set the Parliamentary timetable
  27. Require that all new legislation is only passed when or if at least 35% of MP’s are present to debate and vote

 Manifesto Commitments

  1. Repeal the Human Rights Act
  2. Draft and legislate for a Bill of Rights that seeks to embrace the protection of the people, not least from the introduction of arbitrary new laws which seek to remove, reduce or infringe the civil liberties of the majority [Based on the principles of the American Constitution rather than a citizens charter]
  3. Provide a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
  4. Halve the number of Quangos in one parliamentary term
  5. Scrap the Tax Credit Scheme and return to a simplified tax regime using tax codes and thresholds
  6. Review the Barnett Formula used to determine funding for the Scottish Assembly with a view to bringing it in line with England
  7. Cancel existing, ongoing and proposed IT/Database projects including, the NHS Database, the Travellers Database, ContactPoint, the Communications Database
  8. Review of the RIPA Act with the aim to limit the investigatory powers to the police, security services, HMRC and DWP
  9. Repeal oppressive civil liberties legislation that has resulted in the routine monitoring and recording of the actions and activities of all UK citizens rather than the minority that could justifiably be monitored.
  10. Complete a full scale review on the use of CCTV cameras
  11. Allow DNA to be retained only in cases where someone has been charged and convicted. All other DNA samples to be removed within 45 days of election
  12. Introduce a means by which the public can demonstrate their support or objection to debates or proposed legislation in the form of an online petition [Such as the existing Downing Street petition site, with a minimum number of votes being required before the point is debated in parliament]
  13. Review and remove Health & Safety laws that seek to impose the will of the government where a commonsense approach would be more appropriate [Health & Safety laws are crippling business and government arrogantly assumes that the people of this country need a nanny state or are incapable of carrying out their own risk assessment]
  14. Review and remove the raft of so called ‘PC’ laws which, instead of outlawing discrimination have simply ended up identifying people as being different, or in need of legal protection. This discourages integration rather than promoting it. Many of these laws are in fact discriminatory in that they provide positive discrimination.

I am not a constitutional expert, nor can I claim to have any parliamentary experience, but that is the whole point, it should not and must not preclude me from having an opinion on how our system of parliamentary democracy functions. The details can be debated, but the fundamental points I have raised above need to be addressed if we are, in my opinion, to make parliament more accountable and return power to the people. You, of course, at least for the time being, are entitled to your own views, provided they don’t fall foul of the new laws enacted under New Labour. Hopefully, once collated, there will be a true consensus on what the people want, rather than MP’s, Ministers or party leaders telling us what we want.

Once parliament is truly representative and accountable to the people, then we may start to see a slow, but sustainable return of confidence in politics, politicians and democracy.

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10 Comments For This Post

  1. CJ Says:

    Electoral reform: Certainly is required…

    1) absolutely
    3) not so sure about that
    4) Oh yes!
    5) yes! or make whips illegal altogether as “anti democratic”
    6 & 7) Absolutely
    8. PR doesn’t work, but FPTP isn’t good either, although is produces strong government – if only we could have GOOD government too!
    9 to 15) EXACTLY!!!!
    16, 17, 18, 19) hmmm… some of it
    20) very definitely
    21) 3 years
    22 to 27) I’ll vote for that!

    Manifesto Commitments: What commitments? They say one thing and do something else – however…

    1 to 3) Oh, very definitely
    4) Why only halve? Permit 5 max!
    5 to 10) absolutely!
    11) I agree with the principle, but it’s difficult to impliment since DNA from UNKNOWN people, killers and so on, are vital YEARS later in catching a culprit. Samples can also be used to CLEAR an individual as DNA technology advances – difficult one!
    12) yes and publicise it!
    13 & 14) YES, YES, YES, YES!!!!!!

    If only we were neighbours, we could discuss this all night over a pint. Still, with all the hoo ha going on at present, perhaps the time for change is now, eh?

  2. CJ Says:

    I have no idea why it put a smiley in there. hey ho… never mind

  3. Frustrated Voter Says:

    @ CJ: Well we agree on far more than we disagree on, which is a bloody good start! I could debate the DNA issue all night and doubt there would be too much consensus, most people in my experience have very entrenched positions on the retention of DNA. A pint would probably be quicker than my appalling and slow typing…by the way, I have removed the smiley for you, looks like it was because you used the number 8 and a ).

    One final point, when a party sets out its manifesto, it is an ‘offer’, if the electorate accept these commitments, than that is an ‘acceptance’, so for all intents and purposes it is a contract. Therefore, someone must be held responsible and accountable. Labour reneged on a number of their manifesto commitments and that truly angers me.

  4. Free the British Says:

    An excellent set of proposal, but as much as I fully support most of them, it is hard to believe that we can expect our current crop of MP’s to do anything about electoral reform given it is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

  5. Charlie Says:

    A great list and I agree with most it, but this is the problem. Most people in Britain would agree with most of that list, but no party comes even close to it so we’re stuck. So much for democracy.

    6. I especially like this one, but think it should be extended to MPs too, as far as I know, and I could be wrong; once elected the only way to get an MP out of his seat is to kill them, and tempting as that is in some cases it is a little extreme. If enough constituents register in a vote of no confidence, there should be a snap election.

    12. I have to admit I am a fan of an unelected chamber, but would prefer it if it were made up of ordinary people, like a Jury. Perhaps have local people nominate someone in their area to serve in the House of Lords for a year. It would certainly give the ordinary people a voice and a view and show what a misnomer the House of Commons is.

    20. This one really gets my goat. I have no problem voting for a woman, a man, a white, black, pious man or an atheist as long as they have the same or similar views to me. But I despise being made to vote for either crony a. or crony b. It is not democratic, it means we simply get more cronies in Parliament with little or no ability and the only people that are really represented by these people are the party leaders.

    I should have the right to vote for whomever I choose and because they represent my views. The irony is, in the Euro elections, the person I most agree with is Deva Kumarasiri, a Sri Lankan born immigrant; yet I am precisley the demographic that this ‘positive discrimination’ is meant to marginalise.

    Sadly he is standing for UKIP, he’d get my vote but I don’t really support UKIP or like any of the other UKIP candidates, but I still haven’t decided yet.

    21. I also strongly agree with.

    I also agreed with virtually all the manifesto points, especially 12. That should already be law. It is bizarre that in the 21st century we have no official way of getting our views across en masse.

  6. Frustrated Voter Says:

    @ Charlie: Thanks for your comments. I have to admit that I used to be a fan of an unelected House of Lords, which was until I saw it filled with Labour cronies. The problem with this is party politics can come into force with laws rubber stamped instead of debated aloud. I like the idea of ordinary people being sent to the House of Lords, the only issue is, 1 year would probably not be enough, it would have to be longer and I suspect, we would need at least some people that had a legal background. The problem with voting in a House of Lords is, it could conceivably end up having the same ‘make up’ as parliament unless we used a different method of voting!

    Of course you are correct, it doesn’t matter what we want, the chances of parliament giving it to us is fairly remote, unless of course, we all revolt 🙂 . But that has probably been outlawed under New Labour legislation brought in over the past 12 years…..still, don’t even get me started on that!

  7. CJ Says:

    @Frustrated Voter: Thanks for the edit. Yes, I know exactly what you mean about the DNA thing – it can’t be an insoluble problem though, surely. Yes, of course you’re right about the manifesto thing, but incoming governments rarely find things are as they believed – even allowing for the lies of the outgoing mob – so it might nbe a bit unfair to lumber them with a legal requirement to do everything they wanted to when they thought there was some momeny left.

    By the way, having used the “R” word in your reply in your reply to Charlie, you do realise that GB’s secret army is at this moment surrounding your house (or someone else’s, because they usually go to the wrong place).

  8. Frustrated Voter Says:

    @ CJ: When considering Manifesto commitments I had in mind things like the Lisbon Treaty, Privatisation of the Post Office etc. No matter my personal thoughts on these things (I did not vote for them), these are commitments and it is a clear snub to those that did vote for them. Take your point about the “R” word, but they are so self-obsessed at the moment, they may well leave the rest of us alone.

  9. David George, TWOP Chairman Says:

    The problem with parliamentary democracy is that it requires us to trust elected representatives with, effectively, absolute power. We trust them to act unselfishly, despite the demonstrable fact that the basic drive of every man is selfishness.
    The answer is not reform of a system which contains this basic flaw. The answer is True Democracy – or OMG (Online Majority Government), as we now call it. This form of government will use a moderated online forum. Anyone will be able to express an opinion, but only registered voters will be able to cast a vote; and there will be measures in place to combat fraud and rigged voting. The government will become an executive body which will carry out the will of the people as expressed in these continuous online referenda, but that executive will have no power to set policy.
    This is the only way in which those who pay tax – basically, everyone in Great Britain, including private companies – will be able to exercise the power that they rightly have over that which they are paying for.
    TWOP exists to raise awareness of OMG and to raise funds to create the revolution that we need to bring OMG about. Our website is in need of updating, but it does contain basic information about who we are and how to get involved with us. We urge everyone who is genuinely dissatisfied with government in Great Britain, and everyone who actually wants to do something to change it, to join us.

  10. Robert A Pullen Says:

    I, like most of the people that i talk to have completely lost faith with the political elite of this country. We are constantly reminded that this country of ours has no money left, but money for bombing Libya comes from the treasury reserves. How much is in this reserve? Milliband says Labour have lost touch with the people. That is some sort of joke! Politicians from ALL the parties carry no confidence of the british public at all. We get to put a cross on a piece of paper once every five years then whoever is leader of the main party gets to implement their policies on all of us.Wo betide anyone who tries to get in the way of the will of the prime minister as the full wrath of the whips is bought to bear. The last 15 years in particular have seen a return to the Jim Hacker style of leadership as portrayed in YES PRIME MINISTER. The only thing that matters is celebrity status, and popularist policies with the loonies who run this country and in particular Europe. When will we if ever see a government once again running the country in a manner to which it should be. I doubt very much that a return to proper governance will ever be seen again.

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Has Grodon Brown destroyed our faith in parliamentary democracy | Power to the People! UK Politic's Blog, Commentary and Opinions Says:

    […] We need change and we need it now. We do not want another talking shop that will allow this government to see out the next year. We need real reform. If we are to accept that we have no choice other than to retain our current prime minister and this pathetic government, then we must know that this will be the last time that we will be held to ransom. We need fixed term parliament, we need the power to recall individual ministers, we need the power to demonstrate a vote of no confidence in a government, we need the power to determine which local candidate will serve our local party, we need the power to vote on manifesto promises rather than having to accept an all or nothing situation, we need the power to have existing legislation repealed or changed to better represent the interests of all the people rather than a small section. In fact, what we need is power returned to the people. See Restoring faith in parliamentary democracy. […]

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