Andrew Boff is a resident of Hackney and
a Conservative activist. He led the Conservative Group in the London
Borough of Hillingdon when they took control of the council in 1990,
and more recently trebled the Tory vote in Queensbridge Ward.
> Policy summary
To give London's voters the power to propose binding propositions on the executive or to recall the Mayor.
> Policy explanation
The perceived disengagement of the governed and the government has more to do with the people feeling out of the loop between regular elections rather than any failings in the voting system. At all-out-elections they must choose between parties that may have some of their views, but not all of them. To address this, politicians put into place sham “consultations” which often amount to nothing. Voters often feel like they don’t have a say.
A “Voters initiative” procedure will give people the power to control their government and to put into place objectives that are often lost in the overall party programmes. To prevent abuse of the process a set percentage of the registered electorates names on a petition should be raised within a fixed period (eg 10% in two months). Propositions would have to be legally sound before they could be submitted to ensure that they were in the remit of the Mayor. There would also need to be a guarantee that both 'for-and-against' arguments would have equal opportunities to be presented.
The same procedure would also be used to replace an under performing official as in the case of California's lacklustre Governor, Gray Davis. In London, this, of course, would apply to the Mayor.
> Political risks and opportunities
Would this be seen as power to the people or an abnegation of the executive’s responsibility? The Mayor’s platform would have to take account of likely propositions (which is no bad thing). There may be propositions that are contradictory to the thrust of the administration or, indeed, other propositions.
In answer to this, executives will have to explain why they are doing some unpopular (though perhaps necessary) things and reconnect with the people who put them there.
We have a chance to change local democracy itself. To send a message that the Tories are the engine of delivering REAL power to the people.
> Questions for ConservativeHome readers
- What restrictions should there be on the subjects of propositions?
- How many names should there be on a petition to trigger a proposition?
- What should the time limit be on a binding proposition?
- What other levels of government should propositions apply to?
The proposal is that propositions should only be put to the electorate at the next ordinary elections and would use the electoral machinery that is already in place. Additional costs would be for checking the petitions, an extra print run of ballot papers and the additional time for counting. For London, this would amount to about £3 million per proposition.