Now the dust is settling on the MP’s expenses scandal, we can turn to the urgent reform of the political system.
Our politics have been seriously flawed for years because of the failure of its most important principle, the separation of powers. The idea that Parliament should hold the government to account, then provide all of its main movers and shakers is a nonsense, almost demanding corruption and failure.
The first thing to do is to vote for a Speaker who will stand up for Parliament. Interim Speaker Widdecombe or whoever it turns out to be can make a big difference, quickly, to restore Parliamentary power and self respect. The Speaker will firstly insist that Prime Minister’s Questions is a twice weekly gig again. Tony Blair moved this to one day a week, signalling his contempt for Parliament. Also the Speaker should insist that any action the government proposes is announced to Parliament first, as convention demands. It would be quite easy for the new Speaker to insist on this, by making it clear during PMQ’s that he/she will take no nonsense. The Prime Minister will be told in no uncertain terms to sit down and listen. This is the way it is going to be. If not, expect sanctions that you will not like.
The next phase will be much more difficult and time consuming and will take a Constitutional Convention. This should make sure that no member of the government will be a member of Parliament. If the government wishes to recruit from Parliament, the MP will resign, and a by-election will follow.
The Prime Minister will be elected by separate, popular vote. Again MPs need not apply unless they resign. It follows that this will make the Parliamentary committee system much more powerful because government will have no part in its makeup.
Members of the House of Lords will be voted for single, five year terms. No money, just expenses, one term.
The PM’s tenure will be for a maximum 4 years, at his discretion. Parliament will be 4 years, fixed. This will soon get out of sync, but so what? Salaries won’t be very high, which will encourage second jobs. MPs then might gain some knowledge of the real world. No second homes, just expenses for overnight stays. Winners will need to have 50% of the popular vote. If not, there will be a runoff a week later between the top two. If the French can do this, why not the British? There will be primary elections for every constituency, which will be cut to about, say, 400 from the current 650-odd. Primary voting will be limited to party members. This should encourage people to join parties, raise some money and make sure we never hear the cry again for state funded political parties. There will be a power of recall if enough signatures – 10% of the electorate? – can be gathered if an MP’s acts have been particularly egregious. The Welsh and Scottish Parliaments will stop having separate elections. Welsh and Scottish members at Westminster will meet for a couple of days a month at Cardiff and Edinburgh.
I’ve saved the most important thing to last.
Our Parliament has been gradually undermined and devalued by our membership of the European Union to the point that more than 75 per cent of all the laws come from the dictatorship in Strasbourg. Britain will have to withdraw from the E.U. Don’t worry, that won’t harm our living standards, but even if it did, surely the restoration of our freedoms and self respect would be worth it.
Truly then might we call it the Mother of Parliaments, not the Mother$£%&*+!??***er it has become.