The expenses scandal, corruption, an exodus from parliament expected; these past few months have been quite dramatic. The public have never been so animated about politics; everywhere I go people seem to be talking about what is wrong, what needs changing; even my students in the east end of London are talking about politics. It is clear something is happening. Thank goodness our politicians are listening, we hear constant calls for power redistribution, a real English (slow) revolution.
“POWER TO THE PEOPLE!” is their rallying cry. They are even willing to change the laws to get this; elected police chiefs, parent controlled schools and patient controlled hospitals. En masse we will all soon be involved in committees delivering our services and Tower Hamlet’s council even had an evening where people could vote to decide where money was spent and saved. Well fair enough – I don’t have time here to debate whether these are good policies or not but I wish to highlight one major point: These changes have nothing to do with political reform.
The public are angry at MPs and Lords, not their local headmaster or nurse. What is needed is a more fundamental shift in power away from Westminster, away from the party structures and away from the unelected quangos. We need caucuses in each constituency where the local people can elect who they want to stand to face the election; this would enable local people more of a chance. The local party structures are one of the most effective strangle holds on local democracy.
We need a system where any local person who wants to, can realistically get to become the MP without having to spend a 5 year apprenticeship brown-nosing at a conference in a deprived seaside town. We need to abolish unelected agencies which spend public money and have no clear means for being held to account, such as the highways agency. Fundamentally we need to ensure that those who hold executive power are always and solely there through election. This means ending now the loop hole which allows appointed peers to be co opted into the cabinet- notably Lords Adonis and Mandelson who wield massive power without election.
The public are not disengaged, they are disenfranchised and politicians need to stop hiding behind the idea that the people aren’t interested. They are – they’re angry and they want change. People will vote when they can see that it has real influence. We need a more direct democracy where power is firmly located with the people, and not a dictatorship which flirts with democracy every 4 years when it’s a bit drunk. Parliament needs to lead this change by sorting out its own structures before it devolves power within the public service. “Noses out of the trough gentlemen the party is over” the people are calling. Heed the lessons of the winter palace.
Former BUCF Vice Chairman – Ryan Castle