Jack Perschke: Fixed term Parliaments, compulsory voting, an elected Lords and more powers for councillors - a recipe for constitutional reform
Jack Perschke is the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Derby South. He is a former Captain in the army and spent three years as an aid worker after leaving the army. He now advises businesses and government departments on implementing complex and high value change programmes.
With all the talk about constitutional reform I wondered if it wasn’t time for us to start a debate about what, as Conservatives, we want our democratic system to look like.
To kick off, I’ve had the following thoughts:
The outcomes I want from any constitutional change are:
- Increased power to local communities and the democratic organisations that represent them. I don’t want any more focus groups, citizens' juries or online petitions: just good old-fashioned elected representatives with the power to make a difference.
- Greater simplicity in the voting system and more clarity of responsibilities. The closer you are to the voter, the more aggregated power you should wield.
- Increase accountability for MPs – no more job for life, no more consequence-free floor-crossing.
- No more “wasted” votes – just because you hold a different view from those around you it should still count somewhere.
- Democracy across our system - Local, Regional, Commons, Lords and Number 10.
Here, in essence, is how I’d make happen:
- The hardest bit is the most important. Local government must align with national government. Every constituency MP should represent part of a local authority with a specific number of local councillors dedicated to holding him/her to account. We cannot continue with a system where some constituencies have parts of three local authorities in them and some council wards have parts of three constituencies in them. We’ve got to line up our democracy. While we’re doing it, we can cut the number of parliamentary constituencies by about 30%.
- Geographically re-aligned, we must now make ourselves aligned with time. A fixed-term parliament will allow local elections to be held in thirds every year with the fourth year dedicated to a general election. Referendums, euro elections etc will have to fit within those cycles. This national “voting day” is when all our elections happen. It becomes fixed in the calendar, marked with a bank holiday and it is compulsory to vote.
- The Commons is elected via the simple first-past-the-post system that allows for strong government and the Lords is elected via proportional representation. The Lords contains 100 members, each elected by region. Everyone’s vote now counts.
- MPs, once returned, are now accountable to their local councillors who live and work closest to the voter. Should two thirds of their local councillors demand it; an MP can be recalled and forced into a by-election: this will prevent consequence-free floor-crossing, fraud or disinterest. Furthermore, should the results of local elections reflect a shift away from the party in power over the course of a parliament enough by-elections could in theory be demanded to change the government.
- Any government that changes the Prime Minister must go to the country at the next “election day”.
A billion practical problems I admit, but let’s start a conversation about what we’d do in an ideal world. No such ideal world exists, of course, but it’s always more likely if we act like it can.