There is a massive disconnect between those that rule and those that are ruled in this country. Politics and politicians have never been so poorly thought of. The UK (or England in particular) has never been more centralised. Personally I have a high regard for our politicians and the vocation they seek to follow, however they do not help themselves and my high regard is not shared by most.
Donald Trump made a play of saying he wanted to drain the swamp of Washington. I don’t believe there is a swamp to drain in Westminster (though I am in a minority) but I do believe that the waters could be clearer and the connect between those that lead and those that are led could be repaired. Three things need to take place if this is to happen. These three things aren’t sexy policies and actually very procedural, but will make a mammoth difference to politics in the UK.
- We need a fair electoral system. This election, like those past, will be decided in only a handful of areas. Literally 100,000 voters effectively decided the result of the previous two general elections. If you are a Labour voter in Maidenhead or a Tory in Barnsley Central your vote doesn’t matter – in fact it is effectively wasted. That is because of the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries and the patently unfair first past the post voting system. As the graphic below shows, it took just over 34,000 votes to elect each Conservative MP, 40,000 for a Labour MP, only 26,000 to elect an SNP MP but it takes nearly 4 million to elect a UKIP MP and over a million to elect a Green. We have a fairer system to elect our MEPs (though that won’t be needed any more) yet this is engineered by the parties as it is a closed list system. We need a system where you are free to vote for individuals and that every vote matters. Until the people believe their vote matters, we won’t arrest the ever decreasing voter turnout. This is vital to connect an MP to their constituents.
- Correct the over-centralisation of England. England is one of the most centralised countries in the Western World. Westminster’s tendrils stretch into every facet of decision making in this country. Scotland and Wales (and Northern Ireland if they can get over their current difficulties) have an assembly with significant powers devolved such has health care, policing, education etc. I’m not agitating for an English assembly – this would effectively be the same as we have currently – decisions made in Westminster. Power needs devolving down to the lowest possible level. Only this way will the people have true representation and accountability. People will say not another layer of bureaucracy – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Over time we can develop regional assemblies with powers akin to those of the Scottish assembly. We can empower town and parish councils to give them greater responsibilities. This means we can phase out unitary, metropolitan and county councils – reducing bureaucracy and paying devolution pay for itself.
- Scrap the arcane house of Lords. The House of Lords is the second largest legislative assembly in the world – beaten only by the Chinese National Peoples congress. It is also totally unelected and full of ex-MPs, political appointees and sycophants. Just for turning up a peer gets £300 per day. It is effectively the most expensive Old Peoples Home in the country. It is a relic of the 19th century and has no place in a modern democracy. It should be scrapped and replaced with a democratically elected assembly that has the power to review and revise legislation set by a House of Commons elected using a fair voting system.
Tony Benn, in is final speech in the House of Commons, posed five questions we should has the powerful. I believe that these three proposals would help answer these questions in a way that repairs the connection between the electorate and their representatives and will heal the damage to the reputation of politics and politicians. How many of these principles will appear in the manifestos ahead of the General Election? I will vote for a party that stands by these three principles.