Pam Giddy is the Director of POWER2010.
The Government’s deathbed commitment to electoral reform reveals just how bankrupt our politics has become. A major constitutional change, flung into the pre-election cycle for no reason but to cause problems for the Opposition. If this is how our politics is reformed, little wonder it – and its practitioners – have sunk so low in the public’s esteem.
And what’s there to look forward to? In Wednesday’s Telegraph, David Cameron wrote:
“When it comes to the things we ask from politics, there is a sense that the system is self-serving, not serving us.”
True, not serving “us”, David – but sure enough serving you. It’s a sorry state of affairs that the reform David Cameron chose to promote in response to Gordon Brown’s proposals is to cut the number of MPs by 10%. 10% less abusing of the public’s trust, fine; now Mr Cameron, what about the other 90%?
Cutting the size of Parliament is OK but should not be the focal point of Conservative policy for democratic renewal. Other proposals lie in the Conservative armoury such as strengthening select committees and increasing the number of free votes. In POWER2010’s Deliberative Poll last month these two proposals received resounding support from a gathered microcosm of the population, given sufficient time and information to understand the proposals they debated; meanwhile, support for Brown’s Alternative Vote actually fell over the two days from 43% to 36%! The public deserve real representatives, with the power and independence to defend their interests against a colossal executive, not just fewer of them.
This would be a step in the right direction. But democratic renewal is about more than the changes we’d make to politics, it's also about how we make them. Where is the robust and sustained Conservative engagement in public discussion, debate and consultation? Mr Cameron’s article continued:
“The truth is that people don’t want a new voting system.”
A bold assertion - but is there not a discussion to be had here? The Deliberative Poll drew up a shortlist of 29 ideas to reform British politics and to renew British democracy, these ideas are now open in a public vote where a move to a more proportional voting system is currently in the lead with over 5,500 supporters.