Labour are looking for policies to fix Britain’s broken democracy. Here’s 5 ideas

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 25th June 2020

The Labour party is currently consulting on its policies for political reform and the overhauling Britain’s broken constitution.

The call for submissions to the National Policy Forum’s Justice and Home Affairs Commission is open to Labour supporters as well as civil society groups, campaigners and the wider public.

The consultation, titled “Devolution and the Constitution after coronavirus” notes: 

“Despite the huge changes delivered by previous Labour governments, the UK remains more centralised than virtually any comparable country. There remains a monopoly of power in Westminster, which desperately needs to be spread across every town, city, region and nation of the United Kingdom.

“It’s clear we need a new constitutional settlement and a large-scale devolution of power and resources to address these regional inequalities.”

There are five key questions to respond to:

  1. How can the principles of federalism help to reshape the devolution settlement in order to maximise the opportunities it presents?
  2. In developing a new approach to devolution, what lessons can be learned from the success of the Welsh Labour Government, and from the devolution of powers
    to Metro Mayors and combined local authorities?
  3. After the pandemic, how can we strengthen the role of Parliament and the courts in holding the government to account?
  4. What role could a constitutional convention play in helping to forge a new long-term national consensus about how our country is run?
  5. When thinking about reform, which areas of the constitution present the most pressing concerns?

The ERS works across all parties, and will be calling for proportional representation, an overhaul of the unelected House of Lords, and a shift towards local, genuinely democratic decision-making.

In the ERS’ 2019 report on how we can build a new democracy, we called for: “A move beyond the centralised ‘Westminster model’ of governance, towards a consensus model. Power should be dispersed across our democratic institutions, bringing power closer to people and enabling governments to work together to develop policy for the long term and in the interests of the whole of the country.”

Politics for the Many have also published Baroness Pauline Bryan’s publication on federalism, ‘Creating a Constitutional Moment‘, which sets out a good road-map for change.

In a piece last year, ERS Chief Executive Darren Hughes set out some vital reforms that can bring about real democracy and a stronger voice for voters:

“First Past the Post voting is finished. We need a fair proportional system, so we can all be heard – not just a few voters in swing seats. Instead of having to ‘game the system’ and vote tactically, people should have real choice and a guaranteed voice, wherever they are. That includes shifting to proportional representation for local elections in England and Wales too (Scotland and Northern Ireland already use a fair method, STV).

“Secondly, through replacing the unelected House of Lords with a PR-elected second chamber representing nations and localities of the UK, we can spread power outside of London. Alongside citizen-led devolution, this would be transformational.

“Thirdly, we need to tighten the ‘nuts and bolts’ of our democracy. That means closing the loopholes in online campaigning, with proper transparency for unregulated political ads, an end to the risks of foreign funding, and an update of electoral registration – so that our right to vote is guaranteed (9.4m people are estimated to be missing from the electoral roll). And it means parties opening up about their diversity gaps, by reporting on how representative their candidates are.

“We also have to recognise that politics isn’t just what happens every five years with an X in a box. Democracy can and must be deeper than that. We want to see a constitutional convention involving citizens to work through the detail of democratic reform. And we should see an expansion in citizens’ assemblies – where we can work to find common ground on complex, contested issues.

“All of this can help us move towards a fairer political system that empowers all of us – and encourages a culture of cooperation, not outrage.”

You can add your views on proportional representation and a democratic overhaul to Labour’s consultation here.

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