Charter 2009

Matthew Cain suggests a 9 point charter to take the sleaze out of politics:

1. A re-open nominations box on all ballot papers

If this is to be meaningful it needs to matter. I suggest that if RON gets more votes than any other candidate, the election has to be re-held within a certain timeframe.

Fair enough.

2. A ‘recall’ option for MPs

MPs should be able to be recalled by their constituents. This wouldn’t prevent them standing in the subsequent by-election. And the threshold would have to be high enough to prevent knee-jerks or MPs making brave long-term decisions. So I suggest a recall would only be successful if it was signed by the number of people who voted for the MP +1.

That or 40% of the number of people who voted in the last election, whichever is the smaller.

3. Fewer MPs

It is right that Britain has more MPs than most countries (per head) because we have one of the most centralised systems of government. But we could have fewer MPs without damaging democracy or politics. The MP-constituency link must be maintained. European or GLA constituencies are too large to be meaningful. But do Southampton, Northampton, Milton Keynes and Reading need 2 MPs each?

If we hd an AV+ proportional representation system, where 80% of MPs were elected in constituencies, and he other 20% topped up to make the result proportional, then the unfairness caused by constituencies not all being the same size would be a lot less.

4. Fairer remuneration

MPs’ remuneration must be clear, easy to understand, transparent and fair. It should be set by an external body with democratic accountability and sufficient authority that MPs won’t be able to override it or play games with its recommendations.

Either that, or allow each constituency to decide how much its MPs gets paid.

5. Hippocratic oath

Matthew Taylor advanced the notion of a hippocratic oath for local councillors. MPs should take an oath to serve their constituents first and foremost.

Only if it is legally binding. If it isn’t, there’s no point.

While we’re at it, MPs should be legally bound to the manifesto they wrere elected on: they’d be required to vote for it in all parliamentary divisions, and to make a good-faith effort to implement everything on it. The punishment for not doing so might be an automatic recall election, or being docked a month’s salary.

6. Job description for MPs

The Economist highlighted the changing role of MPs. We need to know what they are for – beyond being caseworkers that help people (or give the perception) jump the queue.  The JD should come with template reports (and the resources) to tell their constituents how they have performed right across the piece – not the often glib reports that are currently in fashoin.

7. An independent speaker

The role of speaker has become too politicised – due to the actions of all parties. There are ongoing concerns about the balance of power between the legislature and executive. An independent speaker with respect from within the house – but particularly amongst the public – would be a short term way to ensure moral authority in the office and ensure that the successor is elected in a proper process, unlike the concerns over the election of Michael Martin.

8. Legitimate parliamentary regulator

Parliament needs regulation. But a commissioner along the current lines is an affront to democracy. The Standards Board model hasn’t been great for local government either. ippr’s proposals for a Citizens Assembly are a great place to start and deserve full consideration. But maybe a reformed second chamber could also perform a comparably role.

9. Standing constitutional convention

MPs shouldn’t be the guardians of the constitution. They have too much invested in the status quo. A standing constitutional convention should be responsible for annual reports on the state of democracy, the case for reform and the effectiveness of recent changes.

Quite right: MPs often have a vested interesd, e.g. in preventing electoral reform, and so they are the last people who should be in charge of the constitution.

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One Response to Charter 2009

  1. Pingback: MPs’ expenses: a call to action « Amused Cynicism

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