The Elephant in the Room- Reform

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


4 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Room- Reform

  1. I really enjoyed that, a very strong layout of the problems and an accurate reflection of the feelings of the general public.

    There are some interesting recommendations there however the moment you talk about more ‘democracy’ in this country, it takes a lot of traditional British establishments and structures under question including the monarchy and FPTP system of voting. If you want everyone’s vote to count then the PR system is most suitable system but is it necessarily the most sensible?

  2. Hey, thanks for the positive comment.

    I suppose democracy in its original definition is not what i am calling for.

    We certainly do need to abolish FPTP voting, i do like the proposed system of preferences as i do think PR causes a string of weak governments.

    I would also like to see us review the Irish system of referendums, i think that we really are not consulted enough as a nation on the major issues.

    I am a monarchist i must admit and i don’t think having an elected president would re-enfrancise people, we just need to reform the PM system.

    Another point i forgot to mention was that perhaps it is time to review the idea that voters do not elect a person, but a party. No one elected GB as Prime minister and i think we should have had a vote.

    i hope that adds some more clarity, probaly not,


  3. Two quick points…

    I don’t think that the Alternative Vote idea is a good one. It’s largely a sop to the Lib Dems, and has been shown to be less proportional than the FPTP system. Furthermore, I disagree with it on principle. It means that while some voters have one vote, others have two or three. So In absence of a better system I would stick with FPTP, but perhaps introduce caucuses to involve a broader spectrum of the constituency.

    I think you’re right, however, that we elect individuals. Candidates may choose to align with a certain political party, but it is the local MP we vote for. Our Member of Parliament then enters negotiations with their party colleagues to find a suitable leader in the Commons. If constituents do not approve of the choice of leader or the party’s policies, then they can abstain or vote for an alternative at the next election. Both MPs and constituents need to re-engage with one another.

    On another note, I think that local authorities need to have more freedom over their tax and spend policy. At the moment they are tightly constrained by central government to the detriment of local initiative, enterprise, and community involvement.

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