Sunday, 9 August 2009

Parliament & Democracy

Obnoxio the Clown posts on an article by Michael Portillo in the Times, discussing Parliament, PMQs, the role of the Speaker and his 'performance'. Both the article and Obnoxio's comments contain many valid points, but Michael Portillo's article does not address some areas in sufficient detail, in that the House of Commons is not the only area - within our democratic process - that requires change.

The Speaker of the House of Commons should, logically, 'control' the House and in this respect Michael Portillo makes a valid point when he says: "We learn nothing during question time and he is not held to account. Gordon Brown’s prevarication is symptomatic of the contempt that, since the days of Tony Blair, the prime minister has had for parliament." - so why does the Speaker not exert his authority and demand that that accountability happens? Bercow, having said that announcements should be made in the House of Commons - and not through the media beforehand - why has he not acted, in the instances where this has continued?

The problem is that PMQs and ministerial statements are not the only areas of the House of Commons that requires change. As has been suggested previously, Chairmen of Select Committees should be elected by ballot; the budgets of any NGO (following the required 'cull' in this area) should be questioned by Select Committees and agreed, together with their subsequent performance; MPs, now hopefully subject to open primaries in the first instance, must also be answerable to a recall system, in order to negate the power of the Whips, thus making them directly accountable to their constituents in respect of how they vote.

One important comment by Michael Portillo is worth repetition and that is to do with the appointment of peers to ministerial positions, without any 'oversight' by MPs. Another innovation to improve our democracy would be 'appointment hearings' - as in America - whereby those proposed for ministerial office can be questioned and made to justify their suitability for office.

Michael Portillo, making the point that MPs behave like local councillors, involving themselves in 'local' issues which have nothing to do with Parliament, leads one to suggest that if power was truly devolved to local people this problem would not arise. By making local authorites self-financing and responsible for all matters within their area would (a) make local councillors more responsible to their electorate and (b) re-awaken the electorates interest and participation in local politics.

It is generally acknowledged, by those interested in politics and the well-being of Britain, that much is wrong with our democracy as it now is and that, consequently, a radical overhaul is required to fix the problem. As a result only the complete introduction of those proposals* encapsulated in The Plan, will provide the desired result. The most important of these, our withdrawal from membership of the European Union, would thus allow our MPs, with the agreement of the electorate, to once again decide Britain's future - and please note the emphasis on the words 'with the agreement of the electorate'!

It cannot be repeated enough that, unless Britain does withdraw from the European Union, a 'constitution' will still exist, except that one word will have mutated into three - 'The Lisbon Treaty'.

* And for those that favour a Land Value Tax, rather than a Local Sales Tax - we can talk about it!

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