Friday, 24 October 2008

Labour's constitutional nightmare

ELEVEN years of Government meddling has given us a mish mash of constitutional reforms which have weakened the nation state and body politic in the United Kingdom and caused confusion among the public rather than the clarity which devolved government was meant to bring.Since the 1997 election, Scotland has been given its own parliament, and Wales, Northern Ireland, and London their own assemblies with varying degrees of power.

England was meant to have directly elected regional government, but that project was kicked into the long grass when voters in a referendum in the North East threw out the plans.Instead, unelected regional assemblies were imposed on England without any consultation and they have proved so disastrous that even this quango loving Labour government has decided to scrap them.

The English account for 85% of the British population, but the Government doesn't see the iniquity of laws relating only to England being voted on by Scots, Welsh and Ulster MPs whose constituents are not affected by the legislation.The hereditary element of the House of Lords has all but disappeared, and there is no consensus on how many lords and ladies should be elected by the people or what to do with existing life peers, bishops, and judges.

European elections are now conducted on a regional party list system, leaving most people totally unaware of who their representatives are in Brussels. The devolved parliaments and assemblies are elected by a chaotic mix of first-past-the-post and proportional representation, but with two landslides under its belt, Labour is in hurry to introduce PR for Westminster.

Meanwhile, a government which seems almost contemptuous of parliament - MPs and peers sit for fewer days at Westminster than ever before - relies more and more on the Royal prerogative.

It's not all bad. A supreme court is being established in the former Middlesex Guildhall which will end the ludicrous and totally confusing situation that we now have of the “House of Lords” being the ultimate court of appeal.

In fact only the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, as they are known, sitting in the upper house, hear final appeals on all civil cases throughout the whole UK and on criminal cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. (In Scotland, the final criminal court of appeal is the High Court of Justiciary). Lords reform is seen by ministers as the final piece of the jigsaw. But it isn't - the Commons needs overhauling to correct the deficiencies of devolution, while serious consideration should be given to a devolved parliament for England and fewer national MPs.

The Government ought to have the courage of its own convictions and complete the introduction of unitary local government in the shires of England so that the whole of the United Kingdom except London is administered by just one tier of all-purpose councils.Instead of a Royal Commission into the constitution, devolution and local administration, Labour charged in with different solutions for the four home nations without considering the possible outcomes. Thus we have the unintended consequence of Scotland heading for full independence.

Although Ken Clarke headed a Tory commission, its findings have been all but forgotten. The first comprehensive look at the constitution has come from an unlikely source - the UK Independence Party.As you might expect, How We Are Governed rails against the European superstate. claiming that 80% of laws affecting the UK originate from Brussels. To “rescue” British democracy, UKIP wants us out of the EU, but leaving that aside, the party does have some policies worthy of further consideration.

n A hybrid upper House of 100 appointed Lords and 200 elected senators plus 12 law lords and five bishops.

n The Commons to meet one week a month in English session debating England-only legislation.

n Direct democracy - echoing radical plans from Harwich's Tory MP Douglas Carswell - which wound allow local referendums on controversial planning schemes and direct elections elect health boards, county police authorities, chief constables and mayors.

n Switch to the alternative vote system of PR, retaining single member constituencies.

David Campbell Bannerman, UKIP's deputy leader and prospective Euro candidate for the East of England, said: “We are being governed increasingly badly. Decision making has become far too centralised in Brussels and Whitehall. We need to scrap all unaccountable regional government and return powers to local councils“There's a real appetite in East Anglia for a return to democratic control. UKIP trusts the people and democracy more than bureaucratic control by unaccountable technocrats ­- whether from Brussels, Whitehall or the town hall.

“Britain needs more direct democracy. We call for a referendum on the proposed new Suffolk and Norfolk unitary structures.”Mr Campbell Bannerman said: “We need direct democracy, a referendum on the proposed new Suffolk and Norfolk unitary structures: local government is important and the people should decide their desired structures through the ballot box.”


Edinburgh said...

The Alternative Vote is NOT a PR voting system. While it would ensure that each MP had at least the support of half of those who voted in each constituency, it would do nothing directly to ensure PR at any level. In some circumstances the Alternative Vote could distort the voters' overall wishes even more than FPTP usually does.

If you want to make the House of Commons properly representative of those who vote, you must elect several MPs together. That is only way to get shared representation that will be fair representation.