Sunday, June 07, 2009

Will Hutton, constitutional glutton

Will Hutton summarises what is wrong with British politics rather well:

Departments of state and, with them, great swaths of public spending, are treated as political spoils. With Geoff Hoon's resignation as transport secretary, this department alone will have had four secretaries of state in three years. It's a similar story in defence, with environment and energy only marginally less hard hit; these are all departments with long-term planning horizons, but whose political leaders are birds of passage. What chance is there of difficult decisions being taken? Systematic policy developed? Of careful attention invested in how effectively and efficiently cash is spent?

Damn straight. The problem is that, as Charlotte Gore points out when discussing proportional representation, a new constitutional structure is a procedural story and as such something no one has the slightest bit of interest in. Except me and other political geeks.

But all the moralising nonsense spoken about MPs and Parliament over the last few weeks ultimately comes back to problems inherent in the system. The press commit the fundamental attribution error and assert that the problem is with the character of individual MPs, rather than a problem endemic to the way the system works.

My own thoughts on parliamentary reform are with those of Thomas Paine, and I describe them over on Charlotte Gore's discussion of an elected Lords.

They are as follows:

Why not have the Lords elected for terms of (say) 12 years, and also have a term limit of one term per person?

Have 300 lords with 1/3 elected every four years.

Also set a time-limit of say, 12 years, until people who have served in the Commons can subsequently run for office in the Lords.

Combine this with an upper age limit of 35 for lords and you have a chamber that consists of older (and hence more experienced) non-career politicians that are not required to respond to every tabloid-editor’s whim or whip’s demand and can use their own moral and intellectual judgement on whether to accept or reject legislation.

Also you need to have separation of the legislature and executive, have independence of tenure of the legislature (i.e. elections every four years), and use the STV PR system to select MPs in the Commons.

And I still want my pony.

And otherwise I basically agree with this Martyn Richard Jones guy[1]. Lashings of democracy.

[1]: The only slight note of disagreement with Richard Jones is with his point 11 - "Elections for all Public offices - no appointments on the nod" - I assume he doesn't mean to elect every clerk and mid-ranking bureaucrat by popular vote. But apart from this he seems bang on the money.

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