Posts Tagged ‘Labour party democracy’

We must ensure that fewer MPs means more democracy

14/09/2011, 01:00:13 PM

by Andy Howell

Much of practical politics is about dealing with paradox and balance. At one end of the political continuum we have creativity (risky) and at the other caution (inaction). Those at the creative end of the spectrum have to be brave enough to cope with the Daily Mail, the Express and, of course, Murdoch. Those who stay cautious may feel safe, but inaction and indecisiveness tends to see events pop up and bite them on the bum.

There is a great deal of indignation among Labour’s ruling elites about the Tory-Lib Dem government’s plans for boundary reform. They argue that this is all a fix to bash Labour; and in many senses they are right. But it is worth reflecting on lost opportunities as well as considering how we deal with the review and subsequently position ourselves on constitutional reform.

There has long been a widespread view, for which I have some sympathy, that we have too many MPs. The Lib Dems, in particular, have been vocal in pointing out that Labour did very little in power to think about representation and constituencies; our electoral law and practice is based on registered voters and not on population. Labour — they say — was simply too comfortable with falling turnout and poor voter registration. There may be some truth in this, but Labour’s real failure was in not reforming Parliament.

Quite simply, the job of a backbench MP does not look that great when viewed from outside. Why do we need so many MPs simply to act as voting fodder for the executive? Labour missed a massive opportunity to act imaginatively and decisively in renewing our system of governance. Select committees should have been given more power, more independence and — critically —more resources with which to carry out their work. Our leadership should have been more comfortable with the relaxation, or reinvention, of the traditional “whip” system.


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