MPs call for ‘Constitutional Convention’ to democratise politics amid breakdown at Westminster

Posted on the 8th October 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 8th October 2019
  • Contact mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630 for interviews, further information or comment

A cross-party group of MPs have today launched a call for a citizen led ‘Constitutional Convention’ [1], to modernise and overhaul our broken Westminster politics and ‘democratise’ the UK.

The call follows concerns over prorogation and the handling of Brexit, with the six MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, as well as the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, warning that trust in politics is at rock bottom – and political reform is needed to help restore faith and unite the country.

In a letter to the Financial Times today [2], the MPs are backing the Electoral Reform Society’s call for a Constitutional Convention, inspired by a similar processes’ success in Ireland in modernising the constitution.

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The prorogation shambles has highlighted the weakness in our constitution: we’re constantly just a hair’s breadth from chaos. As we’ve seen the gentlemen’s agreements that hold our fragile democracy together are often only as good as the paper they’re not written on.

“The Brexit debate has often felt miles away from people’s real concerns and interests. Meanwhile Westminster remains centralised and out-of-reach for millions across the country. From an unelected Lords to a broken, one-person-takes-all voting system for picking MPs, the political system is bust – and citizens must be part of reshaping it after Brexit.

“This is a crucial call and it’s fantastic that MPs are stepping up to the plate, to demand a positive vision for our constitutional shape of our country.”

Letter in full

“The prorogation saga shouldn’t have needed to be resolved through the Supreme Court. Sadly, however, our constitutional arrangements are reliant on an unsteady mix of norms and precedents, many of which are only as good as the paper they are not written on. We need to put our democracy on safer ground and restore faith in our political system.

“We cannot go back to business as usual. We are calling for a government-backed Constitutional Convention, involving citizens in renewing our political system. It is clearer than ever that the outdated Westminster system needs an overhaul.

“We know from Ireland and other countries that constitutional assemblies can successfully bring people together, away from partisan politics and polarised rhetoric. As the Electoral Reform Society notes, “deliberative” conventions are a way of bringing in wide-ranging perspectives and priorities from across the country, ensuring that the public are at the heart of important, once-in-a-lifetime democratic change.

“We may all have different views about what changes should be made, but we agree in the principle of citizens helping to shape a more positive future for our democracy. The gentlemen’s agreements that used to pass for our constitution have broken down. It’s time for voters to help write a new rule book for the 21st century.”

Signed,

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat, Bath

Caroline Lucas MP, Green, Brighton Pavilion

Alex Sobel MP, Labour & Co-Op, Leeds North West

Jane Dodds MP, Leader, Welsh Liberal Democrats, Brecon and Radnorshire

David Drew MP, Labour & Co-Op, Stroud

Angela Smith MP, Liberal Democrat, Penistone and Stocksbridge

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] More info here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaigns/democratic-innovations/citizens-assembly-on-brexit/

Read the ERS’ briefing on Citizens’ Assemblies https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/parliamentary-briefings/a-uk-wide-constitutional-convention/

[2] “Let citizens help shape the future of our democracy” https://www.ft.com/content/3c97e780-e8f9-11e9-a240-3b065ef5fc55?segmentid=acee4131-99c2-09d3-a635-873e61754ec6

 

Read more posts...