Friday, May 22, 2009

Bring the UK Parliament into the twenty first century

No comments:
The MPs' expenses controversy has seriously undermined the public's faith in the current political process and its politicians. Its no surprise that people have lost faith in the present system and many of the MPs in it. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Gerald Gannaway from Knowle Park (Feedback: MPs expenses scandal, Bristol Evening Post, May 21).

Something that makes it even worse is that the more recent political bodies set up, the London, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament, have always operated under much more strict rules. It’s utterly appalling that the UK Parliament has not at least matched the processes and standards they can see elsewhere in the country.

Yes we need to ensure that the system is cleansed of MPs who don’t know right from wrong when making expense claims and that a completely open, transparent, independently verified system is put in place – but we also need to take the chance to make root and branch democratic reforms to bring our out of date UK Parliament into the twenty first century.

These ideas (and more!) should be on the table: a written constitution so we all know where we stand; decentralization of power to give more influence to local communities and regions; electoral reform so that all votes count; a Bill of Rights; laws to enable Citizens Initiatives following a local or regional referendum; a system with rules to facilitate the recall of MPs and Councillors between elections, if enough of their constituents want it; 4 year fixed term parliaments; a fully elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords…

With elections to the European Parliament and local councils coming up on June 4th many very people are wondering whether it's worth bothering to vote at all. This worries me. If the turnout is really low it makes it easier for the BNP to win a seat. So to voters who cannot bear the thought of voting Labour, Conservative or Lib-Dem, I’d say what about voting Green!! Not only will this help Green Party MEPs and Councillors get elected, it is also a positive vote for both the present and the future, including deep reform of the system.

As was said in the recent Green election broadcast - if you don't want things to continue as they are, if you think fairness, integrity and the environment belong in politics then vote Green.

Yes to cleaning up politics - but lets get deep reform of the political system too!

1 comment:
Radio 4 – 21 May 2009, 8:40am, transcript of interview about cleaning up politics and deep reform of the political system.

(JN – interviewer James Naughtie)
(CL - Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader, MEP for the South East and Parliamentary Candidate in Brighton)

JN – "You, of course are not in the House of Commons."

CL – "Not yet"

JN – "Let’s not go there at the moment. Looking at it, from the
outside, do you think we going to get deeper reform than simply
cleaning up expenses and allowances?"

CL – "I certainly hope we do. I do believe that there really is a once
in a generation opportunity here … that there is so much anger, not
just about the expenses issue, but about the way that’s symbolic of a
Parliamentary system that is pretty rotten. If you look at how
unrepresentative the people are who supposedly represent us in
Westminster, the very few numbers of women, the very few numbers of
ethnic minorities, if you look at the way that there are so many safe
seats where people just don’t think it’s worth voting anymore. There’s
an interesting correlation between those in those very safe seats, and
those who are most likely to be abusing the system. Basically, they
have felt very complacent. We need to shake that up."

JN – "Then you’re making an argument for electoral reform."

CL – "Absolutely. We need to have a much fairer voting system, some
sort of system of proportional representation, where the people in
Westminster will look more like the people that actually elect them,
not just men in grey suits, doing things behind closed doors, that
people don’t understand, and when they do understand, they feel very
very angry.

JN – "We’ve been here before. The argument about PR has been going on
for, a very long time, let’s say, 25 years in the public context.
There has never been sufficient weight of opinion in the House of
Commons really to get it on the formal agenda. What makes you think it
will happen now?"

CL – "Because we are in completely unprecedented times. You spent the
last 24 hours talking about how amazing it is that the Speaker has
been forced out. Never done before in 300 years. We really do have an
enormous opportunity here. There’s that lovely phrase from the chief
of staff of the White House, "Don’t waste a crisis." This is a very
big crisis, but don’t waste it. We don’t need to just deal with the
expenses system, awful though that is. We really need a root and
branch transformation of our Parliament, so people can feel proud
about it again, so that public life is something honourable again – it
certainly isn’t today - so the whole parliamentary system is alive
again. Parliament shouldn’t just be something that happens behind
closed doors in Westminister. Politics needs to be much more vibrant,
much more alive. This is a real opportunity to do that.