THE VILLAGE SOAPBOX
Rone sets out his blue print for a change in British politics and has his say on top salaries
Time for Change
It seems to me that we have not been governed wisely for many years. We have seen a widening of the gap between rich and poor and witnessed unbridled and immoral greed in many quarters. The political elite have put themselves above the rest of us and ridden rough shod over public opinion. There has been a series of decisions that I would regard as mistakes. These might include:
Taking us to war in Iraq; Privatising the railways; Inadequate control of immigration; Failure to maintain and develop our nuclear power; Failure to encourage the environmentally friendly utilisation of our immense coal reserves; The deregulation of our financial services (with the consequential collapse, credit crunch and unbelievable increase in national debt); Failure to adequately support our manufacturing industry; Selling council houses without adequate strategy to provide low cost housing; The introduction of the Private Financing Initiative to further increase our national debt (like spending on Barclaycard); Numerous misguided policies on education; Failure to adequately safeguard our national interest within the European Union; and many others no doubt.
I am sure that many people in this country have similar views and their discontent is greatly heightened with the knowledge that each government has had practically dictatorial powers despite having a minority of the electorate voting for them. The scandal over the abuse of the expenses system by MPs is the final straw for many. The manner in which MPs decide their own remuneration and their own rules for claiming expenses with no independent scrutiny should never have been acceptable. I don't doubt that many are like me, totally fed up with the whole Westminster club. There are growing numbers of calls for a complete overhaul of our parliamentary system. Many suggestions for change have been put forward in recent weeks, I agree with almost all that I have seen and I would like to see most, if not all, of the following implemented:
1. A written constitution.
2. Compulsory voting with the provision for voting for 'none of the above'.
3. Revision of the House of Lords with the complete removal of all hereditary seats.
4. Some form of electoral reform to ensure that we do not get governments that are only supported by a minority of the electorate. (Not a simple PR but perhaps something akin to the system used in the Republic of Ireland.)
5. A big reduction in the number of MPs, much more than Cameron's proposed 10%.
6. Parliaments of fixed term.
7. A rule whereby the body of electors associated with an MP can recall that MP and, if an appropriate number of those electors so decided, can sack that MP.
8. An end to the yah-boo politics exhibited in the House of Commons with the associated school boy behaviour. Possibly requiring a revision of the seating arrangements to give a semi-circular chamber in order to get away from the confrontational layout. (That could possibly necessitate abandoning the existing chamber)
9. An end to the power of the whips so that MPs are able to vote according their beliefs and conscience. With Select Committees operating outside of the power of the whips, their membership appointed by election by all MPs.
10. MPs salaries (which I believe are too low in comparison with other important positions) to be determined by an independent panel together with a tightly controlled system of expenses such that only expenses necessary in the execution of their duties are sanctioned.
11. An end to the nepotism that pervades the whole of Westminster, the political dynasties and the growing trend towards professional politicians that have never lived and worked in the world outside of Westminster or local government.
12. An end to an oath of allegiance that precludes those who believe we should be a republic from standing for election.
13. An end to the constant reshuffles of ministerial posts. The present policy of musical chairs cannot possibly be a recipe for efficient government. Ministers are often not in post long enough to fully grasp the nature of their task.
Of course the only people that can bring about these changes are those in power. Unfortunately those in the two major parties are very attached to the almost absolute power that the current system gives to the winner of an election, so they are likely to introduce as little change as they can get away with. It is possible that, because our present government is most unlikely to be returned at the next election, and they know it, they might be willing to initiate the introduction of some of these measures so that future governments are more democratic and have less dictatorial power. Although there most likely motivation will be an attempt to improve their popularity. There is not sufficient time to bring about major changes before the next election, however, therefore the best we can hope for are promises in manifestos and, like Tony Blair's promise for electoral reform, the promises will probably be quietly forgotten after the election. It is an appalling state of affairs where the political elite are able to ignore the wishes of the public in what is supposed to be a democratic state.
The recently disclosed salaries of the top BBC presenters demonstrates once again how some people have lost touch with reality. I suppose that the BBC directors were resisting these disclosures because they were ashamed to admit their gross profligacy with the public's licence fee money:
Jonathan Ross £6m, Graham Norton £2.5m, Jeremy Paxman £1m, Terry Wogan £800,000, Fiona Bruce £800,000, Chris Moyles £630,000, John Humphrys £150,000.
Most people dream of winning the National Lottery, for them it is only a dream, but for some of these BBC people it is like winning the lottery every year, even twice a year.
For my part I would sack Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton and cut the rest by at least half, with the exception of John Humphrys whom I would pay the same as Jeremy Paxman.
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
"How is the world ruled and how do wars start? Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read."
Karl Krauss, Austrian writer 1909.