We believe there are profound faults and failings in the UK political system, to the extent that the democratic principle itself is now compromised.
The Democratic Deficit
In recent years we have had expenses scandals, cash for questions, paying family members as ‘employees’ who do no actual work and MPs passing legislation from which their friends and families receiving a financial benefit. More worryingly, we have witnessed in this parliament a Coalition Government pushing through legislation that brought in a massive NHS reorganisation that was not in any manifesto and which had no democratic mandate.
There are more insidious problems, perhaps not so visible to the public eye. Peerages are awarded to party donors who have powerful vested interests in the corporations who stand to benefit from legislation, who then also have the power to influence that legislation from the House of Lords.
MPs are given jobs in the private sector after leaving public office. High level employees in the public sector are recruited from the companies who benefit from public sector contracts. Backroom staff in Westminster are ‘loaned’ from the management consultancies which represent global corporations, and have links to US or other foreign parent companies allowing the corporate sector to be disproportionately represented in the policy making of the country.
The "first past the post" voting system is broken. We support a move towards a fairer, more proportional voting system. We believe the voting age should be reduced to 16 to involve young people in our political system and encourage greater political awareness and engagement.
Existing broadcasting rules unfairly penalise new and smaller parties who are caught in a vicious circle as they are denied coverage based on previous performance. The media effectively prejudges election results and deny voters the chance to see the full picture.
We are also concerned about the so-called "gagging law” (the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill ) that will have a chilling effect on our democracy by restricting freedom of speech and campaigning by voluntary organisations, charities, campaigning groups and trades unions, while doing almost nothing to prevent political lobbying by wealthy individuals or corporations.
The overall effect of all these factors is to undermine public trust and confidence in both the individuals (MPs, peers and civil servants) and the wider political system. This has resulted in increasing numbers of people failing to engage with politics at all, destabilising our very democracy.
We are calling for
- Much stricter control over MPs’ and Peers’ ability to support legislation where they or their family have a personal or financial interest. This exists in the current code of conduct, but it must have the force of law behind it.
- A review of party “whips” and the practices of voting with party and without attending debates.
- The introduction of “recall” - the power of constituents to remove misbehaving MPs.
- A monthly People’s Question Time.
- An end to the ‘revolving door’ through which civil servants, politicians and corporate employees put profit before professionalism as they move between the private and public sectors.
- Much greater control of, and transparency into, corporate lobbying and corporate influence over civil servants and elected officials and an end to the employment of corporate representatives in public decision making posts.
- Greater transparency and control over corporate lobbying and influence in Europe.
- Appoint an independent Commission to investigate a move towards a system of PR.
- Lower the voting age to 16.
- Liberalisation of rules governing access to the media and the public via hustings both before and during election campaigns.
- The repeal the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.
House of Lords reform
We support a completely new second chamber to review proposed legislation.
This would be made up of nominations from elected regional assemblies plus a politically neutral panel to nominate experts from across society – science, technology, health, education, business, charities, the voluntary sector, local government and trade unions.