Wednesday, 10 June 2009

What To Do About Parliament


This is a textbook example of how not to sort out the mess that the UK's political system has got itself into. The Westminster Village and party politics can't save us – it is the Westminster Village that got us into this situation in the first place. Does Gordon Brown seriously believe that the solution is just yet more consultation?
There is a better way. Just as the Sustainable Communities Act requires councils to establish community panels to make proposals, Parliament could set up a Citizens' Convention to look into how to make our political system more accountable and ethical and give the final say to the public. Like a jury, a Citizens' Convention would consist of ordinary members of the public. It would be independent of government. Protected by statute, the process couldn't be halted by a general election.
Fortunately a number of MPs across the political spectrum do get it. On Monday, Labour MP Martin Caton – supported by a cross-party group of MPs – tabled the Citizens' Convention (Accountability and Ethics) Bill[1]. This would set up a Citizens' Convention and would require Parliament to respond to its proposals. It would be make recommendations on, among other things:
How to bring elected representatives to book when they step out of line;
How to change the way in which Parliament is run to ensure that the government is properly held to account;
Whether to change our electoral system, and how.
The Convention – or 5% of the public – could insist on a referendum if any of its proposals were rejected. The public would have the final say.
The Citizens' Convention Bill could become law in a matter of weeks if the party leaders agreed to give it parliamentary time. We just need to convince them.
It is crucial we make this happen. Following the expenses scandal, the UK's political system has never been more discredited. More people are disengaged with politics than ever. All the party leaders now say they accept that we need to open up our political system. These are fine words, but what we need now is action.
That's why I'm asking you to write to your MP right away and ask them to:
Support the “Citizens Convention (Accountability and Ethics) Bill” by signing Early Day Motion 1573;
Urge their Party Leader to take steps to enable it to become law in this session of Parliament; and
In the interests of transparency and clarity, to let you know whether they will support this Bill.
(An “Early Day Motion” is a sort of petition which MPs can sign to publicly express their opinion. They rarely get debated but they play a crucial role in demonstrating how strongly MPs feel about a certain issue).

To make it easy for you, our friends at 38 Degrees have created this handy tool to help you write to your MP in a matter of minutes. Simply type in your post code, personalise the standard letter (including your own words will make it much more effective) and off it goes.

By spending just five minutes doing this today, you will make a big difference. With the Sustainable Communities Act you have already proven that people power can make a big difference. The political class know they are on the ropes at the moment. We have never had a better chance to get real reform.

Best wishes,
Steve Shaw

Local Works

PS Please send any responses you get from your MP to or (if they write by post): Alex Runswick, 6 Cynthia Street, London N1 9JF

No comments: