Politicians must embrace real change, say democracy campaigners

Politicians must embrace real change, say democracy campaigners

By staff writers
9 Feb 2010

The House of Commons will today be voting on proposals to legislate for a referendum over whether to replace the current First-Past-the-Post electoral system with the Alternative Vote system - and campaigners are urging that the process of political reform should go deeper and further.

Unlock Democracy commented this morning: "It is welcome that the government is finally contemplating reforming our decrepit electoral system, but it has decided to press ahead very late in the day and has opted for what we consider to be at best an inadequate measure. We will continue to make the case over the next couple of months for proportional representation and giving the public greater say over what system should be adopted."

The campaign group continued: "While the government focuses on half-measures for reforming our electoral system, there are a number of significant reforms that risk falling through. As a result of the expenses scandal last May, the government initiated a series of reviews intended to reform parliamentary expenses and to make Parliament more relevant. Both these processes have made progress over the last few months but despite this are now under threat. We need public pressure to prevent this from happening."

On 23 February 2010, MPs will debate the proposals made by the House of Commons Reform Committee chaired by Dr Tony Wright MP. These proposals would massively reduce the power of the whips in Parliament by enabling backbenchers to elect the chairs of select committees, have greater control over what Parliament debates and even enable the public to petition to have issues debated in the House.

Reformers are urging their supporters to back these proposals. But Unlock Democracy says that there will be serious attempts to thwart them from those who want to retain the status quo.

The group said: "Instead of just allowing MPs to submit amendments and vote on these proposals in the normal way, the government is planning to use an obscure system which would force each proposal to be revisited in excruciating detail if just one MP objects to the proposal."

The concern is that under these circumstances the reforms would be unlikely to be adopted before the general election.

Meanwhile, some MPs are pressuring the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to weaken the proposals made by Sir Christopher Kelly to reform the parliamentary expenses system.

Unlock Democracy declared: "We can't allow politicians to bury reform once again. These two reforms, while insufficient on their own, are a litmus test for whether our political class is capable of engaging with the need for political reform at all."

Meanwhile, the wide-ranging political reform coalition Power 2010 (http://www.power2010.org.uk) is delighted that members of the public are voting in their tens of thousands on refining a range of possible reforms to five key pledges to be put to MPs in the run up to the general election.

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Ekklesia is a member of the Power 2010 colaition. You can vote to "change politics for good" here: http://www.power2010.org.uk/votes

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