Shoestring manifesto (2): A healthier democracy
In yesterday's first instalment of ConHome's 'Shoestring Manifesto' we proposed that the next Conservative government aim to radically improve the teaching of British history, to designate a national day and to ensure better care for our military as part of a commitment to patriotic renewal. Today we look at ideas to improve our democracy.
- An equalisation of the size of parliamentary constituencies. We called this 'Fair Seats' in January 2008.
- Fewer MPs. David Cameron has proposed a 10% reduction (but why not 20%?).
- Automatic referenda for councils that want to impose large increases in council tax.
- Automatic referenda for any attempts to transfer more powers from Britain to Brussels.
- Elected Police Chiefs.
- More elected City Mayors. These are the Whitehall ministers of the future. Too few current ministers have executive experience.
- A reduction in the number of unaccountable quangoes.
- An end to 'double-jobbing'.
- Some form of 'English Votes for English Laws'.
- Abolition of the £10,000pa Communications Allowance that favours incumbent MPs over challengers.
Here are a few other commitments that the Conservatives should promise:
- Shorter parliamentary recesses (although not necessarily more parliamentary days overall).
- A power to recall MPs, mayors and other elected officials who lose the confidence of voters between elections.
- Fixed-term parliaments to stop Prime Ministers fiddling with election dates.
- A 5% to 10% annual reduction in taxpayers' funding of political parties until it is completely eliminated. Only when parties can no longer rely on the taxpayer will they be forced to go and raise their money from real voters. At the same time there should be a low cap on the amount of money that parties can raise from any one individual so that funding is genuinely democratic.
- Meaningful readoption procedures for sitting MPs so that people selected for a 'safe seat' don't think they have a job for life. This is more of a party matter than a parliamentary matter. During the next parliament it may be unnecessary because the reduction in the number of MPs will necessitate readoptions across the country because of boundary changes.
- Fully democratic internal party selections.
- US-style election debates between the party leaders.
- New powers for Select Committees in the Commons to oversee departmental budgets including the power to veto specific items. This idea comes from The Plan by Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan.