Posts Tagged ‘constitutional reform’

Labour should lead on constitutional reform

04/06/2011, 01:00:43 PM

The first few years of the last Labour government were radical in a number of ways, and particularly in the way we tried to reform our constitution. We (mostly) swept away the hereditary peers in the House of Lords, threw open a lot of doors and windows onto the workings of government with the freedom of information act and devolved power to Scotland and Wales. This led – not as critics predicted at the time to the formation of a pair of jumped-up local councils – but two thriving institutions that have helped to foster new political systems, a process given expression in spectacular fashion in Scotland a few weeks ago.

As with other areas of policy, we began to lose our radicalism the longer we were in government and our enthusiasm for constitutional reform petered out almost to nothing. We set up a commission to examine electoral reform and then rejected Jenkins’ sensible, moderate proposals for entirely political reasons.· Lords reform was voted on innumerable times and the last proposal – when MPs finally stopped rejecting all of the permutations put to them – got nowhere.

Had we pressed ahead with our plans for a mostly or wholly elected Lords there would have been a second chamber election mid-way though this parliamentary term, giving us a chance to put a new Labour agenda to the public and – in the event of a win – prove to ourselves and to the country that we can be election winners again. A Labour win would have inflicted a mortal wound on the government and provided the perfect springboard from which to launch a general election campaign.

In the end, we didn’t go ahead and now Cameron has assured himself a strong position in the Lords by stuffing the upper house with Tory and Lib Dem apparatchiks. Had we gone ahead with Jenkins’ AV+, then the progressive majority that exists in the country would have been translated into the election results and the progressive rainbow coalition touted last May that was a nice-but-impossible idea would have been entirely workable.

Ed Miliband shouldn’t let his recent unhappy dalliance with electoral reform blunt his aspirations for changes in the way we conduct public affairs, nor convince him that the British public have no appetite for changes to the way we do politics. As a result of the way it was conceived – a Liberal Democrat demand for entering into coalition – the referendum was seen by most through an entirely party political lens and became a referendum on the deputy prime minister and not on the change he was proposing. (more…)

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