Beyond Brexit: Report calls for end to ‘Westminster model’ of governance to renew faith in politics

Posted on the 25th May 2019

        •       Strictly embargoed: Saturday 25th May, 00:01. Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
        •       Full briefing: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Westminster-Beyond-Brexit_Briefing.pdf
        •       Full report: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Westminster-beyond-Brexit-Ending-the-politics-of-Division.pdf
        •       For comment, to arrange an interview or for more information, contact: [email protected] / 077194728820.

The Electoral Reform Society have set out proposals to rebuild Britain’s democratic system from scratch, in a major new report 10 years since the expenses scandal rocked faith in politics.

The UK’s leading democracy group will condemn ‘woeful inaction’ in the face of public distrust in politics, as “Westminster Beyond Brexit: Ending the Politics of Division” sets out a path for shifting to a new political model for the UK: beginning with replacing the House of Lords with a fairly-elected second chamber to represent and negotiate between the nations and localities of the UK.

New polling for the ERS reveals that voters feel they have almost no power to influence political decisions, do not feel represented by parties in Westminster, and believe the UK’s political structures discourage much-needed cooperation.

Exclusive new BMG research polling [1]:

•       Two-thirds (67%) of people feel like they have no or very few opportunities to inform and influence decisions made by their elected representatives
•       Almost half (47%) of people do not feel at all or very represented by parties at Westminster
•       While 64% of people think that our political system should encourage cooperation between political parties, only 19% believe that it currently does so

The ERS are calling for parties to back new proposals for an overhaul of Westminster’s ‘broken structures’, in this major new report on Britain’s post-referendum constitutional landscape.

The Society have renewed Lord Hailsham’s warning that the UK resembles an ‘elective dictatorship’ in the absence of democratic reforms. They argue the Brexit deadlock must provide the impetus for a comprehensive overhaul of Britain’s centralised Westminster model.

In a major intervention, the ERS point out that attempts to bring power closer to voters in England have been top-down and economically-driven – rather than based on how voters want to be represented.

The ERS’ extensive analysis leads to proposals to fix the ‘crumbling Westminster system’, including plans for a democratically elected second chamber with representation of all the nations of the UK and English localities, as well as greater use of ‘deliberative democracy’ through citizens’ assemblies to ensure people can influence the policies that affect their daily lives locally and nationally.

The Society has launched a call for a ‘Constitutional Convention’ – with citizen involvement – to put the UK’s ‘crumbling structures’ under the spotlight and reform Westminster.

Key Recommendations:

1.      The UK should shift away from the centralised ‘Westminster model’ of governance, towards a consensus model: People can and should be given the power to shape the future of politics in a more active and consistent way. 1. The public should be involved in shaping the big constitutional questions of our time. 2. The public should be involved in politics throughout the decision-making process, not just at election time
        2.      The next government must reform the House of Lords as a priority. No more reviews: there have been nine attempts at reforming the House of Lords, if we only consider white papers, commissions, draft bills and acts. It is time for real action.
3.      An elected second chamber must serve as the forum in which the four nations – and England’s localities– can work together in the 21st century. This reformed chamber would be where UK-wide, sub-national, and cross-border issues are discussed
4.      An English Constitutional Convention – led by citizens – should consider devolution within England, building upon the work of local citizens’ assemblies and other deliberative democratic processes to give people a say on how they are represented
        5.      Citizens’ assemblies should be used at the local level in a systematic and embedded manner to deal with complex and contested issues

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research, Electoral Reform Society:

Few can deny that Westminster is falling apart, in every sense. Like the building itself, the political system is crumbling. Faith in politics is declining – and yet over the years almost nothing has been done to deal with the decay.

“Westminster’s broken voting system and unelected House of Lords reinforce the power-hoarding tendencies of our political system, leaving voters alienated and disillusioned.

“The need for a wholesale renewal of our democracy is now more urgent than ever. This report sets out a bold vision for how we can get there and shift to a less polarising politics.

“Citizens should feel energised and supported by their democracy. So we need institutions which are representative and responsive to people’s needs. And we need spaces where citizens can directly engage in politics at different times and levels.

“This is why we’ve set out proposals for overhauling the unelected House of Lords and bringing power closer to the people. It is time to rebuild politics at Westminster and to give the public a genuine say in the future of their country and communities.

“Now is the time to grasp the nettle, to rebuild our democracy on stronger and fairer foundations. Politicians must rise to this challenge and commit to the reforms needed to build the democracy we so desperately need.

“The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill was debated in the Commons for the first time on Wednesday. But the restoration and renewal of politics itself has been swept under the rug. It cannot be ignored any longer.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

REPORT BRIEFING: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Westminster-Beyond-Brexit_Briefing.pdf

FULL REPORT: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Westminster-beyond-Brexit-Ending-the-politics-of-Division.pdf

[1] ERS poll conducted by BMG Research (fieldwork 7–10 May 2019), sample 1,541 GB adults. Data weighted.
[2] See https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/after-notre-dame-we-are-taking-action-to-save-the-palace-of-westminster-90n69bhh0

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