Thursday, May 21, 2009

A moment for wholesale reform

The BBC's Brian Wheeler has a lengthy article here, arguing that a moment has arrived where wholesale reform of British politics is up for grabs:

Anyone watching MPs debate emergency reforms to their expenses system will not have detected a whiff of revolution in the air.
It felt like business as usual in the Commons chamber - the same exaggerated courtesy between "honourable members", the same self-congratulatory jokes.
There was little sense that the ground was shifting beneath the MPs as they spoke.
Yet that is what a growing body of opinion believes could be happening - that we are witnessing the dying spasms of a centuries old and peculiarly British way of doing democracy.
Indeed, so shaken has the political establishment been by the expenses scandal that they are suddenly contemplating all kinds of ideas they had previously rejected as unwise, unworkable or hopelessly idealistic.
These include (but are not limited to):
• Proportional representation - Ending what critics see as the inherently unfair "first-past-the-post" system of electing MPs
• Fixed term parliaments - Ending the advantage to the ruling party of choosing the polling date
• A written constitution - Setting out voters' rights and limiting the power of government
• A fully elected second chamber - Ending the power of patronage and expelling the few remaining hereditary peers
• Curbing the power of the whips - Freeing MPs to to vote with their conscience more often rather than following the party line
• Fixed terms for MPs - So they do not become too cosy and complacent in their roles
• Boosting the power of select committees - Electing the chairmen rather than having them chosen by the whips and handing them greater investigatory powers

Good Lord. It's like waking up in the middle of a Liberal Democrat conference.

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