The independent London newspaper

Our broken political system needs a shake-up

04 October, 2020

• THE current state of our politics makes major reform more important and pressing than ever in my lifetime.

Under the current unfair, undemocratic, voting system used for the House of Commons the Conservatives have a large and undeserved majority with 364 seats.

If we used the same electoral system as the London Assembly, the Welsh Senedd and the Scottish Parliament they would have around 282 seats, well short of a majority but still the biggest party.

The big winners in a fair electoral system would be the Liberal Democrats who would go up from 11 seats to around 72. Labour would also get a few more seats.

If Islington Council were to use the same system Labour (the party of which I’m a member and have voted for since my first election in October 1974) would go down from 47 seats to 30.

The Greens would get around eight seats instead of their current one. Both the Liberal Democrats (six) and the Conservatives (four) would also be represented.

Reform needs to go far, far, further than the electoral system however. Among the changes we urgently need are:

• A written constitution entrenching essential rights and freedoms, requiring an enhanced majority of two-thirds of both houses of parliament to be amended, the appointment of judges by an independent appointments commission, the entrenching of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, and the right to judicial review of all executive decisions, laws, regulations, and by-laws.

• The replacement of the House of Lords with a small, elected, upper house of no more than 60 members elected by nations / regions using a proportional system on a long mandate with one-third of members retiring every two years.

• Constitutional entrenchment of the role and powers of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, Northern Ireland Assembly, the Greater London Authority, regional metro mayors, and local government.

• Enhanced autonomy, decentralisation, and powers for local and regional government with the right of local voters to create or rescind the office of executive mayor and or introduce proportional voting systems after a referendum on the initiative of the council or five per cent of the registered voters.

• A modernised and compulsory voter registration system with votes being extended in all elections to all legally resident persons over the age of 16.

Why can a legally resident South African vote in a United Kingdom general election, but not an Angolan? A Cypriot but not a Greek? A Canadian but not an American? We all pay taxes and have to obey the law.

I’d also move parliament out of London to the north of England (Preston, Leeds or Manchester) with Westminster being only used for the state opening of parliament, ban MPs and members of the upper house from any outside employment, halve the number of MPs from 650 to 325 and properly resource their offices, hold a referendum on maintaining or abolishing the monarchy, and make voting compulsory with “abstain” and “no candidate listed” options.

We need to be bold. Drastic change is needed.

Highbury Station Road, N1


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