The Growing Clamour…

28 05 2009

As MP’s continue to live in fear for their jobs, and, as has been suggested by some, perhaps even their lives, the Independent has found ten “respected figures at Westminster” for their solutions to the problems. Which, it seems, is increasingly in the call for political reform. Which is, apparently, an idea that has been floating around in the heads of many surviving MP’s for a long long time. Apparently.

The cynic in me suggests otherwise. The only way out of the hole is to push the case for political reform. And so they are. I will come back to the issue of reform shortly, but first I want to look at the continuing issue of expenses.  I’ve written previously about the hypocrisy of the Great British public, but I want to elaborate upon this a little more. I am convinced that anyone in the same position would have done the same. If they were not being stopped by those who should have prevented such abuses, they were inevitably going to claim for what they thought they could. It is easy for the public to act all high and mighty over this subject, but it should be remembered that MP’s are only human, with the fallabilities that the rest of society has. Now I do not condone what they have done, but I think I can understand it.

Anyway, returning to the issue of reform. David Cameron is climbing out of the political wreckage with a lot of credibility, if only because it has given him the opportunity to look more like a man of the people than ever before. His suggestions for reform, whilst not entirely new, certainly carry a lot of weight in the midst of the current predicaments. He has talked of “Progressive Conservative”, in much the same way it seems as Tony Blair once talked about “New Labour”. Two of the suggestions that have emerged are set-term parliaments and a change of system. Of course there are others, but it is these I wish to discuss.

I think I agree with the notion of a fixed-term parliament. The notion is easy to talk about and promote at the moment, with the clamour behind the idea, but in reality it is much harder to bring into practice. Fixed-term parliaments would tone down the level of party-politics that exists at the moment. Rather than the PM calling an election when his party is performing well in the polls, instead he would be forced to have it at a certain time, regardless of poll performances, regardless of situation or circumstance. Regardless of anything. It takes away frustrating uncertainty that grows with not being able to have a say when the chips are down for any government. There are problems with the idea of fixed-term parliaments, I will admit, but I think that for politics to move forward, steps such as this need to be taken.

The second issue is that of the system. People have criticised the ‘first-past-the-post’ system as being too ineffective, and not representative of enough of the electorate. Chuka Umunna, a Labour candidate, writes that it’s a “ridiculous situation” where “around 100,000 voters in a few marginal seats decide the outcome of an election”. Possibly. However, I do not think that the alternative is much more conducive to a strong, and more importantly, a stable country. PR, I would suggest, only serves to weaken any government into a fragile coalition incapable of making significant progress. I have never been convinced by the PR system and cannot see it providing any more answers than the system we currently have.

As I mentioned previously, there are  many more issues that come with political reform, many of which will be explored by the politicians in the coming weeks. There is one thing that is clear though. The idea of reform is very clearly on the table, and it won’t be going anywhere for a long time. What is to be seen though is whether Cameron can manage the pressures of promises with the reality of government.

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