Reboot the whole political system

Clearly, the UK has a dysfunctional political system that no longer works. Here is a simple Five Point Plan for a new democracy; 1) State funding for parties with no donations allowed at all from organisations or companies. A cap on private donations of £500 per private citizen per annum. A list of all donations to be available online. 2) Proportional representation. I am not talking about AV or anything that is a compromise here. We need a proper system of PR. I suggest that STV be adopted at a constituency level. 3) Automatic registration of voters once they reach the right age. This should be reduced to 16. 4) Lords reform. The Second Chamber should be reconstituted every five years, following a general election and made up from members chosen from party lists in the proportion of First Preference votes only (under the proposed STV system) cast in the general election. 5) Relocate parliament away from Westminster to a new purpose-built modern building (or campus of buildings) located somewhere more centrally in the UK. This would clearly require a rethinking of the location of the civil service too. However, moving away from London would be more than just symbolic. It would represent a transfer of resources and infrastructure away from the south-east to elsewhere in the country.

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  • Carole Flint
    commented 2016-07-30 17:39:57 +0100
    Bob Crossley – my name isn’t Caroline and please do not patronise me.

    I rather hope that the PLP will soon no longer feel the need to challenge Mr Corbyn, on the basis that he is no longer the leader of the party.
  • Bob Crossley
    commented 2016-07-30 15:49:35 +0100
    Caroline, Your £500 limit helps the parties of the rich. If you haven’t got the mathematics to see why that’s so without explanation it’s quite difficult to help you, but let’s start with the idea that for every one person who donates £500 to the Tory party (and a great number of Tory members can afford that) the Labour party would need 20 people to donate £25 (a sum which apparently is itself so way way beyond what most Labour “supporters” are able to afford that there were howls of complaint when it was declared the supporters’ registration fee). Now Labour has more members than the Tories do, but not 20 times more.

    I will suggest as an alternative a limit of £25 per person per year. That should cut the Tory advantage a bit, especially if the PLP keep challenging Corbyn every year.
  • John Littler
    commented 2016-07-30 14:28:11 +0100
    I would go further and get rid of the men in tights banging on doors to be let in, hooks for swords and the rest of the anachronistic nonsense.

    I would make the monarch purely ceremonial and not with residual powers, to have the powers replaced by a constitutional court.

    The adversarial chamber also contributes to terrible government and often contrived opposition, as well as damaging policy swings, as we have recently had on energy policy. The Scottish Parliament has a far more constructive and better informed quality of debate than the Commons. The Commons should be sat in a semi circle and the hoohah public school nonsense should end.
  • John Littler
    commented 2016-07-30 14:22:24 +0100
    George Savvides suggest that voters need educating before we have PR. That sounds like a 19th Century argument against letting the oiks ( or Women) vote at all. If we have universal suffrage, votes should reflect what people vote and not where the voters live, or a stitch up combined with a lottery.
  • John Littler
    commented 2016-07-30 14:17:49 +0100
    Great stuff and absolutely vital to unlock a swathe of other reforms and better quality government decisions.

    AV + which is proportional but with two classes of MP, is not ideal. It was on offer by Labour in ’97, but Brown squashed it once the majority was in, no doubt swollen by centrist voters keen on PR. All highly cynical.

    I just disagree about moving Parliament. For one thing, they built it there in a magnificent building, with the Upper House bolted on and the big time keeper above. So many of the bodies they have to deal with are in Central London and the transport infrastructure to support it all and which might not manage it elsewhere.

    The way to get decentralisation is not to centralise somewhere else, such as Birmingham
    ( Banbury is the town furthest away from the sea in all directions), but to have regional bodies with small assemblies and a decent budget, so the infrastructure, arts money and other fundings are not all concentrated massively in London. Thousands per person are spent in London, while it is about a fiver each in the North east, looking further incongruous with relatively prosperous Scotland next door. Yet the levels of taxation are the same in all of these places?

    The assemblies in Wales and especially Scotland have proved that this focus and democracy from assemblies brings financial benefits to the people, which we should have across much bigger England.
  • John Littler
    tagged this with love 2016-07-30 14:17:48 +0100
  • George Savvides
    commented 2016-07-29 20:53:35 +0100
    1) Don’t disagree in principle with state funding but I think it might be difficult politically. Agree totally with the idea of preventing companies from donating and the idea of the cap on individual donations. The exact level of the cap is up for discussion of course, I think a lower cap would be better for Labour.
    2) I don’t think we’re ready for PR yet. In my opinion we need to reform the media so that voters are properly informed first.
    3) Auto-registration of voters is a great idea.
    4) Lords reform is important but I think it should be put on the back burner. Labour has a majority in the Lords at the moment and there are other morre pressing issues. In the short – medium term, smaller changes could be made to reduce the numbers such as: exclude all hereditary peers, exclude peers who are not fully engaged with the work of the Lords, exclude the more recently-appointed peers (a reasonable option as numbers are too high and need to be managed down.)
    5) I’m not sure about relocating parliament. It looks like it could be a costly exercise which would also divert resources from more important matters. In addition, it would be difficult if parliament was geographically isolated from whitehall so the civil service mght have to move as well.
  • George Savvides
    tagged this with like 2016-07-29 20:53:34 +0100
  • Carole Flint
    commented 2016-07-29 19:48:13 +0100
    Bob Crossley – why “shame on me” for suggesting a cap of £500 per person, per annum? That doesn’t preclude ordinary people from making smaller donations to the level which they can afford?
  • Liz Allmark
    commented 2016-07-29 18:26:02 +0100
    Also to make breaking these rules a criminal offence!
  • Liz Allmark
    tagged this with love 2016-07-29 18:26:01 +0100
  • Bob Crossley
    commented 2016-07-29 17:00:37 +0100
    Here as some contraindications to your suggestions:
    1) If you can afford £500 to give away to a political party you are are likely to favour parties representing the rich. With other organisations like TUs banned from funding parties this suggestion is a direct attack on the poor. You should be ashamed of yourself.
    2) STV is itself a compromise form of PR, even though you say you don’t want any compromises on PR. It is also as susceptible to gerrymandering as FPTP and excludes small parties with widespread rather than localised appeal. I suppose you must feel STV favours the party you yourself support, as you offer no explanation for why you prefer it.
    3) Personally I’ve no objection to automatic registration of voters at birth, births are registered already after all. Please explain how you keep track of everyone’s movements throughout their lives and how you know that they’re voting in their own (presumably STV) constituency, and not voting in more than one constituency in the same election You’d still need a local register wouldn’t you, or you could end up beset by mass electoral fraud?
    4) No objection to an elected Lords, nor to electing them by PR list. But the system you’re advocating is badly flawed. I might want to vote for someone as first preference in the Commons but prefer another party in the Lords (for example, because I liked the person, or my favoured party wasn’t standing locally). I can’t do that under your Heath Robinson system. Voters cope with two Ballot papers when local and national elections coincide, so I can’t see why you need to do everything with one paper to elect two Houses under two separate systems. Again I can only assume you have a Party preference which would benefit from the system you propose, as you offer no justification for it.
    5) As a Northerner I love the idea of slapping London in the face, but moving Parliament out of London sounds like a wasteful extravagance to me and also absolutely pointless. One place (London) will lose out a little (the commercial centre would stay where it is and that is most of London) and another place will gain a little. Two centres would start to drain the life blood out of the rest of the country instead of one. This sounds like an overall loss to me. I don’t believe the real problem of over-centralisation in the UK can be solved just by relocating parliament.

    So 0 out of 5 from me. Actually, more like 0 out of 6, because I would also contest your assertion that the only way to solve our constitutional problems is to start from scratch. It isn’t the only way. It almost certainly isn’t the easy way either. There are many, many problems to solve in writing a constitution from scratch, which is why in general only new countries, or countries emerging from a war or revolution try to do it. If you look at how some of those attempts turned out you’d be very wary of making a reboot proposal. Unintended, unforeseen and unpleasant consequences turn up everywhere.

    I would advocate refurbishment, rather than rebuild. Your List PR (if by St. Lague method) elected Lords, perhaps with some qualification as to experience (and definitely voted for on its own ballot paper), could be empowered as a constitutional convention. Their task would not be to propose a vast new plan, or even a cheap and cheerful package deal like yours, but to find a consensus on individual improvements. A slow way forward and unexciting but less prone to silly mistakes, and more able to correct them. It would, I think, be more likely to be accepted too as an arbiter of constitutional change without recourse to media circus of a referendum.
  • Bob Crossley
    tagged this with dislike 2016-07-29 17:00:36 +0100
  • Shan Morgain
    commented 2016-07-29 14:57:36 +0100
    Carole Flint replied to my suggestion saying:
    " If there is no pay but someone has to serve for 10 years on minimal expenses, surely this would prevent a large number of people from offering themselves up as candidates? "
    Ah -not a compulsory 10 years poor things, just a maximum period.
    But the lack of pay is important unless it’s pegged at the same rate as the minimum wage and they have to demonstrate hours of attendance and voting. Far too many of those in Parliament in both Houses draw lavish pay for very little contribution. Remove that incentive and we’re left with the desire for fame and power.

    Fame can be controlled by rules about giving individual press interviews.
    Power is unavoidable as it is a position of power and influence. Possibly a feedback mechanism like people can easily vote electronically on whether they approve a speech? make short comments on it? Like TripAdvisor!!!! A person of integrity will weather unpopularity. The unconfident could have a personal support service, someone to talk to about coping with negative feedback. The pigheaded and selfish might be pressed to rethink.
  • Carole Flint
    commented 2016-07-29 13:58:01 +0100
    Shan Morgain – I rather like your idea that a new upper house could be split into areas of expertise, but where would you see the members being drawn from? If there is no pay but someone has to serve for 10 years on minimal expenses, surely this would prevent a large number of people from offering themselves up as candidates?
  • Shan Morgain
    commented 2016-07-29 13:51:10 +0100
    I like almost all of this, especially the funding no. 1 proposal.
    Where I do not like it is a 5 year change point for an Upper House. We need to have an Upper House that provides a long term view, and draws in expertise. I would suggest a system of departments – Administration/ Foreign Affairs/ Health/ Welfare/ Eduvation/ Transport/ Economics & Business/ Children/ Gender & Minorities/ Arts & Sports etc. People can be nominated to a dept. and over 3 years gather votes. They are not allowed to campaign but public lists are posted online and in libraries. Tenure is 10 years once achieved with very minimal expenses, no pay. Vacancies are filled by the top name on a department list.
  • Shan Morgain
    tagged this with like 2016-07-29 13:51:10 +0100
  • John Southern
    commented 2016-07-29 12:29:40 +0100
    If a group like UKIP has the energy and resources to get started it is just as eligible for state funding as other parties. The alternative is an undemocratic group making decisions about eligibility in advance.
    I want constituency meetings to have a public element and an “in camera” element for members only. the MP must be legally bound to attend (say) 75% of all meetings.
    With so much counting done electronically the STV system is practicable.
    Moving out of Westminster will only inconvenience those who have too much commercial involvement already.
  • John Southern
    tagged this with like 2016-07-29 12:21:05 +0100
  • Carole Flint
    commented 2016-07-29 10:02:58 +0100
    I’m not sure that the Palace of Westminster is really that important as a location, nor that it represents democracy these days. I’d say that for many people it represents privilege and disconnection from the rest of the UK. The building itself is in need of a massive overhaul and is ill-equipped for the modern digital world.

    As for the idea that party lists for a second chamber would be made up of similar people to the Commons, well, there could be rules about who could be included or excluded. I’d like to see former MPs being excluded for a period of maybe 10 years before they could be put on a list and for the lists to have a regional complexion. I would also expect lists to be 50/50 male and female and to reflect the ethnic balance of the general population.
  • Patrick Nelson
    commented 2016-07-29 09:49:01 +0100
    “1) State funding for parties with no donations allowed at all from organisations or companies.”
    This idea has problems (should the govt. really fund UKIP when its members often promote intolerance etc) – better to leave funding of parties to members and supporters but to cap spending on political campaigns.

    “Lords reform. The Second Chamber should be reconstituted every five years, following a general election and made up from members chosen from party lists in the proportion of First Preference votes only (under the proposed STV system) cast in the general election.”

    1. The introduction of careerists into the House of Lords – 2. Making the House of Lords subject to political whims by 5 year terms – to avoid this they should be 10 or 15 years at least. – 3. The diminution of the important perceptual differences between the Lords and the Commons by filling them with the same type of people.

    “Relocate parliament away from Westminster to a new purpose-built modern building (or campus of buildings) located somewhere more centrally in the UK. "

    This idea of relocating government to a more central location has some merits but relocating Parliament to an ugly soulless modern building (or indeed a beautiful one) would likely be very unpopular indeed. Buildings have an effect upon those in them – our Parliament is a symbol stability and democracy. To symbolize the continuity of Parliamentary traditions and values it would be essential to construct the new central “Westminster” according the aesthetics of of the original, but really would the benefits of such a project outweigh its massive costs?

    As for a cap on private donations of £500 per private citizen per annum, a list of all donations to be available online and a proper system of PR. These are all things that we are in desperate need of.
  • Carole Flint
    published this page in Join the debate 2016-07-29 09:06:42 +0100