Remaining consistent with calls for reform, such as Ed Miliband’s concern that Parliament “looks to many people like a 19th-century institution“, Jack Straw has set the ball rolling for a cross-party talk on constitutional reform, one in which David Cameron has been kind enough to agree to, setting his views on reform in today’s Guardian.
Those reforms, in brief (thanks to an article posted on Liberal Conspiracy) are;
• Limit the power of the prime minister by giving serious consideration to introducing fixed-term parliaments, ending the right of Downing Street to control the timing of general elections.
• End the “pliant” role of parliament by giving MPs free votes during the consideration of bills at committee stage. MPs would also be handed the crucial power of deciding the timetable of bills.
• Boost the power of backbench MPs – and limit the powers of the executive – by allowing MPs to choose the chairs and members of Commons select committees.
• Open up the legislative process to outsiders by sending out text alerts on the progress of parliamentary bills and by posting proceedings on YouTube.
• Curb the power of the executive by limiting the use of the royal prerogative which allows the prime minister, in the name of the monarch, to make major decisions. Gordon Brown is making sweeping changes in this area in the constitutional renewal bill, but Cameron says he would go further.
• Publish the expenses claims of all public servants earning more than £150,000.
• Strengthen local government by giving councils the power of “competence”. This would allow councils to reverse Whitehall decisions to close popular services, such as a local post office or a railway station, by giving them the power to raise money to keep them open.
The LC article goes on to comment on how Cameron continues his party’s opposition to proportional representation. This sets a precedent for Alan Johnson to push for a referendum on electoral reform and his support of Alternative Vote Plus.
Certainly proportionality, representation and equality are issues that could well return voters back to the Labour Party, and away from the fringe parties – whose presence is only, as this European election will prove, to provide a protest.
Roy Hattersley has been speaking today at Hay Festival about;
“There are many other basic ideas that socialists have to apply, with some care, to the modern world – among them the relationship between freedom and equality and the extension of genuine democracy.
Support for those principles is stronger than support for the Labour party itself. Far more people support socialist objectives than vote Labour. Many Liberals want a sustained assault on inequality. So do many Greens. Thousands of voters who feel no allegiance to any political party, and are antagonised by the unavoidable expediencies that accompany party politics, support all or part of the egalitarian agenda. The best, and perhaps only, way to secure a sustained period of progressive government is to mobilise all those forces in a radical alliance.”
And how true this is.
More influence in reform by Alan Johnson could at least margin the view by voters that Labour care little about the reform agenda, at best it could ask some serious questions again about the responsibility Labour has to return to socialism. For socialism is not simply a political referent, but a committed agenda for representation, and its high time questions like these are asked.
Moreover, it is hardly surprising that David Cameron, amid talks on radical reform, is not shifting on the question of electoral equality.