Faith, Reform and Danger

Michael Sparling

There are many things I believe need to be done to confront this latest, dramatic crisis over faith in British politics.

Firstly let me say that it is sad that the anger directed at Westminster has had such a negative impact on those at a local level who are out there doing their best for their communities in difficult circumstances. Certainly, Members of Parliament, the institution of Parliament itself and also the party machines have a lot to answer for.

Now is not the time for appealing to the status quo, so here are some of my thoughts on what can be done.

Labour were bold in the early years of this government, particularly in the area of constitutional reform. This process needs to be taken further now. If the events of recent weeks don’t serve as a catalyst for further reform, then the government’s constitutional reform agenda can credibly be called into question. I believe that the Jenkins Report needs to be revisited urgently. Electoral reform at Westminster is still outstanding. House of Lords reform too must be prioritised. The change initiated in the early years of this government was decisive, necessary and long, long overdue. That said, the current settlement is a half-baked job that further undermines Parliamentary authority and any remaining faith the public have in the institution. I believe that there should be fewer Members of Parliament. Almost countless millions have just voted in India and yet they have fewer Parliamentary representatives. This could be managed effectively by introducing border changes resulting in 50 fewer returns over the course of the next three Parliaments. This will not be a popular one, but I believe that Members of Parliament need to be reimbursed adequately in the form of their salaries. At the same time I believe the allowances system must be culled and the new transparent arrangements managed by an external, independent auditor. 

Ultimately, whether those who are angry like it or not, we need politics. The dangers of protest votes and knee-jerk reactions in this election are, as I have stated in previous postings, all too clear. Those families who need help the most are the ones who will ultimately suffer if those elected in local communities and to Europe do not have the capacity to govern or represent fringe sentiments – not the politicians whose wrath such protest votes are aimed at.

Michael Sparling is the Labour Party candidate in the Devon County Council elections (Tavistock Division)