The political reforms that were lacking from the King’s Speech

Author:
Mike Wright, Head of Communications

Posted on the 8th November 2023

Democracy was a conspicuous omission from yesterday’s King’s Speech. The pomp and ceremony of the occasion was the government’s last chance to set out a legislative agenda before the next election. Yet despite Rishi Sunak himself saying that our politics was ‘broken’ at Conservative party conference last month, there appeared to be no moves by his government to reform our creaking democratic institutions to help fix it.

Here are a few important changes we would like to see in a King’s speech, that was serious about strengthening and repairing our democracy.

My Government will repeal  voter ID

This year’s English local elections saw voters required to produce an accepted form of identification to cast their vote. This resulted in 14,000 people being turned away and barred from exercising their basic democratic rights. At the ERS, we have long argued that voter ID is a solution in search of a problem, as there have been non-existent levels of personation fraud (pretending to be someone else to cast their vote) in previous elections, with just one conviction and one caution recorded at the 2019 general election.

It is clear voter ID is now causing a problem where there wasn’t one before and threatens to see thousands more turned away at the coming general election. Also, large parts of England, as well as Scotland and Wales will be encountering the rules for the first time, having not had local elections this year, causing further scope for confusion and disruption. Voter ID has clearly been an unnecessary step backwards for our democracy and should be scrapped before it causes any more damage. Agree? Add your name to our call.

Legislation will be introduced to reconstitute the Lords on democratic principles

The House of Lords has been a regular source of controversy and scandal over this parliament, with Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list throwing a harsh spotlight on how peers are appointed to the second chamber – and that is before Liz Truss has her reported honours list. Watching current and ex-prime ministers hand out jobs for life to their friends, supporters and donors has never bolstered public trust in our democracy. Yet, this term has seen the conventions around the Lords tested to destruction as there has been collapse in restraint that means the Lords is around 800 members, making it the second largest legislative assembly in the world after China’s National People’s congress. This is a damaging and unsustainable situation for our constitution.

We need to axe the current bloated Lords and replace it with a smaller elected chamber, one where the people of this country – not ex-prime ministers – decide who shape the laws we all live under. Agree? Add your name to our call.

My Ministers will bring in legislation to reform our electoral system

This parliament will be known to future generations as one of chaos. It saw the year of the three prime ministers, including the shortest serving in history, as Westminster has been consumed with infighting. It is clear our political system is not working and politics is not focused on solving the big problems the country faces.

The dysfunction has at times made things worse for people already struggling with a cost-of-living crisis.

The electoral system underpins our political system, deciding who sits in parliament and then forms our government, and the distorting First Part the Post system is at the heart of the malfunctioning Westminster. It is clear we need to reform our electoral system to ensure we have a parliament that accurately reflects the way the country voted and is more focused on the needs of all voters, no matter where they live.

That starts with bringing in a proportional system such as the Single Transferable Vote, which would give us a far more representative parliament while preserving the constituency link. Agree? Add your name to our call.

Until we hear a King’s speech that deals with these major issues, we will be stuck with, to quote the Prime Minister himself, “the undeniable sense that politics just doesn’t work the way it should”.

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