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"Ban anyone from under the age of 30 working as researchers in Parliament. If their research staff had lived a little MPs might be better advised."

Too right. I can't believe spotty little graduates pull a few strings and end up as Special Advisors to senior politicians when they've never done a proper job in their lives.

I really like your ideas and the public need to see this kind of package rather than a dribble of seemingly random changes to how Parliament works.

Here's my idea:

Politicians have always been disrespected. This endless stuff about restoring public trust only focusses more attention on the problem. What will redeem politics is an end to the managerialism of today. If there was a real divide between the parties. if one said it was going to cut taxes and I mean really cut them. If one said it would have a referendum on moving back to a free trade relationship with Europe. If one promised an English Parliament. If these things happened people would have a reason to vote and all this stuff about snouts in trough would be forgotten. The snouts have always been there but we used to excuse that because politicians at least delivered change.

I think that this is a good starting point for a debate, I would however like to see something concrete on changing the nature of the conflict of loyalties MP's have between the voters who elect them and the party machine that will promote/advance them.

Not only end up as advisors but in the case of Comic DC as the leader. Half of his problem is that he has never experienced life outside of the cosy westminster village or the public school/ oxbridge finishing school system

I would also reiterate Daniel Hannans comments about ensuring that there is clear visibility of the conseqences of electoral choices. The agency relationship between central government and local government is deeply corrupting in this respect since it enables crap local autorities to blame the "grant" for high taxes when even a cursory lookover of what they do would show a catalogue of nepotism and waste.

Agree with the vast majority of suggestions although fixed term parliaments will be very difficult to organize if there is a minority government.

I particularly liked the suggestion of a minimum age of 30 for researchers. Actually, the problem is not so much immaturity of the researchers (who subsequently fledge in full blown MPs) its the lack of experience in real life, which contributes to the remoteness of "Westminster Village" from the rest of the country. I would suggest a minimum of ten years working in the private sector, at least five of those years at very low level, in order to find out how ordinary people live their lives. Then there is a chance that politicians might actually make a difference, and earn some respect from ordinary voters.

"Public education"

Education's part of why people hate polticians. The better educated we are, the more we see what kind of people *they* are. Unfortunately, you seem to be assuming we're at fault, not them.

"More decisions to be taken locally."
"A massive return of powers from Europe to Westminster"

That's a bit wishy-washy. How about a massive constitutional rebalancing of power to decentralise huge wodges of virtually all political power from Europe *and* Westminster back to the people with whom the power rightly belongs.

Eliminate the departments of health and education while we're at it. They should be funded by the treasury but run locally. It's clear that Westminster cannot be trusted with health and education.

"Much greater public scrutiny of appointments to quangoes and other publicly-funded bodies to prevent them being stuffed with inexperienced people with good political connections."

Public scrutiny? Again, wishy-washy and half-arsed. How about making ALL such posts directly elected?

"A term limit for The Speaker."

Perhaps. Maybe a better option would be to make the speaker be independent of parliament's whims entirely.

"Radical reform of Prime Minister's Question Time so that it delivers real accountability. If the PM doesn't answer the question The Speaker should require him to do so."

Can't work, won't work. All politicians are experience regular liars. There's no way you'll be able to make Prime Minister Dave answer any question he chooses not to.

"Fixed term parliaments so that Prime Ministers cannot manipulate the electoral cycle."

Absolutely. I'd set the length at two years, like the US House of representatives. I'd also remove the Royal Prerogative over appointing the PM, and have Parliament elect the PM for a fixed four-year term.

"Free (unwhipped) votes on any Bills that weren't included in a party's manifesto."

Removing a party's right to whip its members as it sees fit would be a probably-illegal infringement of members' right to free association.

"Stopping MPs from Scotland and Wales from voting on laws that only affect English constituents."

Again, wishy-washy. Why not allow the English to have their own parliament? Why is it good enough for the Scotch but not for us?

"Seats of equal size so that an English voter has the same representation as a voter in Scotland or Wales."


"Ban anyone from under the age of 30 working as researchers in Parliament. If their research staff had lived a little MPs might be better advised."

Although simply being 30 doesn't guarantee that one is a sheltered saddo with limited experience of life outside the Beltway.

"Fewer MPs with bigger staffs so that they can afford to properly scrutinise legislation."

This I don't understand. How does the number of MPs affect their ability to individually do their jobs?

"Higher basic pay for MPs but fewer, smaller allowances."

No chance. MP's pay should be fixed at the male median salary for the entire UK.

"All MPs' expenses must be receipted, however small."
"MPs should declare lunches paid for them by journalists."

Yes, and yes.

"A legal requirement for MPs who defect from the party they declared on the ballot paper on which they were elected to resign their seat within three months and seek re-election."

Again, a bit wet. Why not simply forbid defection? Invariably floor-crossing quislings are bed-blockers anyway, taking a seat away from a potential future star of the party.

If you want to cross the floor, get selected and elected the proper way. Like EVERYONE ELSE has to.

"Replace internal disciplinary procedures for MPs with the threat of police investigation and punishment through the courts."

Removing parliamentary privilege would be a major constitutional upheaval. Are we ready for any unintended consequences?

"An end to state funding of political parties. If parties cannot raise the money directly from voters they don't deserve to be in politics."

Too right.

"Eliminate all forms of positive discrimination in favour of women or ethnic minorities."

You know, it's okay to have an 'aspiration', it's not okay to have a target for such things. Two words: HAZEL BLEARS.


"Genuinely democratic internal elections so that all members have the decisive say in the selection of MPs and MEPs."

Well, yes. I'd like that too, but it's unreasonable to expect CCHQ not to want to express their preferences too. They have a vested interest in the outcome as much as we do, and expecting them to be an impartial observer is naive and impractical.

"US-style debates between leading politicians."

Since the PM is not elected, he has no need to put himself up to that kind of scrutiny. It's a constitutional issue.

"The introduction of binding consultations rather than the sham exercises currently dominant."

The outcome of all consultations will always been decided in advance. No minister will launch a consultation he can't control. Why would one bother?

"Parliament to hold an annual referendum on one big issue of national importance."

No. What we need is a Swiss-style plebiscite provision.

*We'll* decide what's important and how often we have the referendums, not Parliament, thanks very much.

Basically, we need to democratise the UK government. As the Ministry of Justice keeps telling us we have a 'representative democracy', not a genuine democracy. The people have no real say. The people are not sovereign - Parliament is sovereign. We need a new 4-page constitution that starts off with the words, "We the people...". We don't need state funding to achieve real democracy because we don't need the existing parties. Parties conspsire like cartels anywhere to keep themselves in power and do deals with their competitors. There are lots of recommendations for improving democracy in the Power Enquiry report - none of which have been implemented.
The problem is that our professional, career-oriented politicians in all the main parties obviously do not want democracy. They like what they've got. It's a shame that the misguided people don't want them or believe them or trust them any more. It seems unlikely that the Conservative Party will behave any differently. As Louis XV is alleged to have remarked, "Apres moi le (or was it la) deluge". Unless there is real change, we could end up with heads on spikes. Scenes that we have seen on TV in Kenya could happen here.

"Parliament to hold an annual referendum on one big issue of national importance: Our membership of the EU, an English Parliament, the replacement of income tax with green and other taxes, our troop deployments in Iraq."

Will there always be something of suffi9cient magnitude to discuss? Better to allow for referenda when required

Oh come on 'Bexie', you make some really good observations on other threads sometimes, why descend @ 10.49 to a catty over-worked cliche, you don't KNOW, what you are claiming.

However I agree with your second post @ 10.52 about the corrupting influence of agency relationships between central and local government - and I would add to that the waste of money in the process. It would be interesting to know the 'nepotistic and wasteful local authorities' that you appear to have experience of!

3 years working at tfl for a start... I would probably be breaking confidences to say more.
Otherwise a good source would be to read the rotton boroughs section of Private Eye. They get to see merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local officials giving favorable planning decisions to developer friends, dodgy public property sales the list goes on and on.

Bexie @ 10.49 may express it a little cattily, but it doesn't alter the fact she has a good point.

The current Leader of the Opposition and the probable next one (currently Foreign Secretary) are just two high profile examples, from both sides of the House, of that depressingly growing number of MPs, ministers and shadows who've been in and around politics since before they left university.

Time was when front benchers, let alone prime ministers, had years of life experience as well as political experience behind them. Churchill experienced a war first hand before going into parliament, experienced another (horrific) one during a break from being in the cabinet, and became prime minister - with his best years still ahead of him - over THIRTY YEARS after first joining the front bench.

OK, so he was a one-off. But the point remains that the culture which has developed in the last 18 years (since the advent of John Major, basically - at the time the youngest PM of the century) of the cult of youth, is deeply depressing. Not only does it devalue experience and public service but in my view gets close to the nub of the issue of respect in politics. Because it's not as if it reflects our population, which is ageing. Why should we respect jumped up juvenile politicians lecturing us about how to live our lives when they're hardly out of school themselves. There was a wonderful example just the other week - I heard George Osborne on the radio, quite rightly criticising the government for dithering over Northern Rock, but then ruining it all by saying: "It's taking us back to the bad old days, as those of us who - er - remember reading about the 1970s will appreciate".

OK so I was a bit catty about it, but it does make the point. Look at the current front bench and tell me who has had a job outside of the beltway in some form (therefore lobbying consultancy's and charity's are excluded also) and it tells a depressing story.

The Politicians need to understand the way the small businessman and self employed feel, particularly at this time of year, when an increasingly thuggish tax office is demanding money off them, they need to understand what it is like to send out 500 c.v.'s and get not one interview. They need to understand what it is like to get mugged and not bother to report it to the police because the victim feels that the police's treatment of them will be worse.

That is the reality of British life and our political leaders seem not to grasp this.

One other idea about better democracy at Westminster might be to copy the American model, whereby the next president is elected before the sitting one leaves office.
These days you need a seamless transfer of power (look what Brown had to deal with immediately he became PM, so that a government can be chosen and ready to take over the moment time is up on the old one. At the moment, terrorists might well choose the early morning after an election to attack.

The referendum proposal would certainly have been fun in the past. Hanging would be back, Homosexuals would be locked up, black people would be deported, BT, BA et al would never have been privatised, and Mrs T would have been impeached in 1981.

I think I'll stick with the liberal elite.

The biggest turn-off for me about modern MPs is their contrived polytonality. The all look the same, sound the same and are beginning to think the same, Labour copying Tory and vice versa, all going around in a loop with very little original thinking. This surely is the fault of the selection process and the quest for A-Candidatism. I'm a big fan of Boris Johnson because he is a real person with his own style and dare I say 'foibles' but thats how real people are and I believe that is what makes Boris popular as a character. Of course political parties do have to have discipline and have to sing from broadly the same songsheet, but this shouldn't lead to the appalling polytonality that is turning so many people off politics.

Some excellent ideas here.

DC seems to have grasped that considerable reform of politics is something the public at large wish to see and he should now be encouraged to run with the ball with the brief to be innovative and radical. Labour does not yet get this and can be left flat-footed, looking old fashioned and trying to defend that which is no longer acceptable or defensible.

This is a means of putting some clear blue water between us and Labour which we should go for now.

I have taken the liberty of a detailed comment here:

I welcome these suggestions and certainly anything that promotes greater debate is a good thing.

There are too many proposals here to debate in detail (of the 25 I support 20) but in summary whilst these proposals certainly are positive and would improve the current situation they do not for me address the key issues. These are:

1) Our political system and constitution belong to the people and should be managed by an independent democratically elected body outside the control of political parties or government.

- In particular all consitutional changes should be voted for by the electorate in a periodic referendum (once every x years say)

- All the system for investigating and judging MP's behaviour and actions should be totally independent of Government, Parliament & Political Parties.

- The control of politicians terms and conditions of employment should be totally independent of Government, Parliament & Political Parties.

- Key organisations involved in the provision of our political system (ONS, NAO, Electoral Commission) should be totally independent of Government, Parliament and political parties.

2) There is nothing here to improve the quality of our elected representatives. MP's must be made to have at least 5 years experience at a lower level of government. Other professional/ educational qualifications could also be made mandatory.

3) With a growing population, a reduction in MP's would be a significant reduction in the electorate's democratic representation (particularly in England) unless another level of representation (e.g. an English Parliament) is provided a reduction in MP's would centralise further power in this country. In effect any reduction in representation is a reduction in our democratic rights.

4) A greater level of direct democracy for key roles in public institutions. Roles such as an 'independent' Speaker of The House and the Director General of the BBC should be elected by referendum.

Michael Fabricant's proposals whilst welcome are too little too late. NO Government should ever be allowed to abuse our political system to the level that this Labour Government has been allowed to do ever again!

I go along with most other people regarding these ideas. I am not sure about replacing disciplinary procedures for MP's with the threat of a police investigation etc:. I would have thought that if the Speaker of the House, was not totally subservient to one party, and was fully cognisant of his job - like Betty Boothroyd, that such threats would not be needed, but maybe 'times have changed'!

Regarding an age requirement for researchers, and a preference for MP's with more experience of life outside politics OR trade unions (as that is also limiting!), I agree with other comments. Too rapid a rise in the theatre of the HoC's, can lead to a fantastical ego-trip, and if there has been no experience of life outside the House or the trade union heirarchy, that in-experienced person will be less likely to fully understand the responsibility if their position.

Does the English voter not have the same representation as the voter in Scotland and Wales, if so, that is outrageous and should be remedied.

I chuckled at Martin Croxall's comment on positive discrimination for women!

"Ban anyone from under the age of 30 working as researchers in Parliament. If their research staff had lived a little MPs might be better advised"

Sorry, but this is utter nonsense.

Check www.w4mp.org for the pay guidelines for MPs' researchers. Show me someone over 30 who is willing to work incredibly long hours for that paltry amount of money, and I will show you someone who is clearly not bright enough to be advising senior politicians.

I can't believe you are seriously suggesting that we need LESS young people in the Tory Party!

An English Parliament is the only answer. The more politicians tell us we can't have one, the more English people want one.

The Tories would win with a massive majority if they went for an English Parliament. Perversely, such a policy might even increase their support in Scotland (not that I care about Scottish opinion anyway).

However, Tory MPs are so congenitally stupid they will just dribble Cameron's nonsense about an imperfect Union being essential.

I'm so sick of politicians I now want independence for England.

Some good ideas, but the usual meaningless Tory rhetoric of "localism" is tiresome.

The way to achieve smaller government is to limit the amount of tax they take. It's that simple.

But none of the big parties want to discuss the idea of setting a limit on the amount of *our* money they can plunder.

In short, it is time to set a maximum tax freedom day.

I agree with Stephen Gash. An English parliament is where we're heading. The only time the Conservative Party will realise this is when they start losing their seats to nationalist politicians, as they did in Scotland. But it will be too late then. Like the Scots, the people of England will never trust the Conservative Party again.

I'm so sick of politicians I now want independence for England.

You mean, you're so sick of politicians you want to add yet another layer of them.

Oh grow up, little Englanders. England dominates the UK, economically, geographically, politically and culturally. That's why Scotland and Wales got a measure of devolution (note: NOT independence). England cannot be independent from the United Kingdom - it IS 85% of the United Kingdom.


Support the notion that England cannot be independent of Scotland and Wales just because we have been tied to them in the past? Some of us have moved on, as this wise person noted on another thread today:

"Just because we used to do something doesn't make it in any sense acceptable. We have all moved on I hope."

Why be 85% of something you don't want to when you could be 100% of something you do?

And of course, without the uk, there would of course be no 'additional layer' at all, just an English Parliament replacing the UK one.

However there wouldn't be laws imposed on England using the votes of Scottish MP's who had already rejected such laws for Scotland...

Good quote that, very sound. And yes, fair point - BUT -

without the uk, there would of course be no 'additional layer' at all, just an English Parliament replacing the UK one

Which means an end to the UK. Breaking up the UK into its four independent countries is a fair enough intellectual position to hold, though I don't share it as I am fundamentally a Unionist (and English too, by the way - I have no Scots or Welsh blood).

Practically though, there are difficulties. Scotland could possibly stand on her own outside the UK (the SNP obviously think so, though I'm not sure how sound their judgement is), but there are far fewer people around who think the same of Wales. So already you have problems with an independent England with no UK framework - Wales would be tagging along for the ride, which rather defeats the object.

And as for Northern Ireland... well, without the UK they would come under considerably increased pressure to join the Republic. And as we know there's a sizeable number of people in Ulster who would never be prepared to see that happen.

Breaking up the UK would surely create as many problems as it solved for all of us.

Nigel Rathbone resorts to the usual tedious "Little Englander" taunts. The Conservatives are becoming pretty well despised in England. England is the Conservative Party's natural consituency. It wouldn't exist without England yet the Tories take the English for granted. The Tories sell the English down the river at every given opportunity. The evidence shows that English people want an English Parliament. As a proportion, more English want Scotland to leave the UK than Scots want it.
An English Parliament could actually result in fewer politicians, not more.
And poleeze somebody tell me what England actually gets out of this blighted union with Scotland and Wales - and let's not forget the benefits heaped upon England by being chained to Northern Ireland.
The Tories have been exposed for talk-big politics while blissfully signing away our national sovereignty while smiling.
The Tories dragged us into the Common Market under the most stupid terms imagineable, signed the Maastricht Treaty with useless "opt-outs", dug the channel tunnel, introduced Euro-regions into England and started the rot. None of that is forgotten.
Tory membership is falling like confetti and all they can do is call former Tory voters "Little Englanders". Then they expect us to accept an English Grand committee proposed by a Scottish Tory parachuted into an English safe seat who headed the Scottish Grand committee which was such an abject failure it led to the Tories being wiped out in Scotland and Blair becoming Prime Minister. Since then the Tories have provided the most supine opposition thus ensuring they will never see power again. Labour has betrayed the north of England. The Tories have betrayed all of England and for what? The Union? Do me a favour, in case you hadn't noticed the SNP holds power in the Scottish Parliament and the Tories only survive because of the electoral system actually designed to keep the SNP from power.
Nigel Rathbone you are the one who needs to grow up - after you've woken up.

"but there are far fewer people around who think the same of Wales."

It will just join the EU like every other small nation and leech off the big members. It will be fine.

We'll then lose our UN sec council seat, which is a bonus, imho, leaving us to take our place in international politics as a smaller nation concentrating on home issues first, rather than simply servicing the ego of our politicians by playing the "big fish".

I would like to see England as the most prosperous nation in the world. To do that, we need to dump the baggage.

It is time the tory party started think English. With up and comming political parties that are on the horizon ie The English Democratsn and the British National Party.
The next General Election will be very interesting indeed

Re Constitutional Innovation, Westminster Democracy and Europe;

The amendment proposed last night in Parliament on Lisbon Clause 6 by Hague(first class speech as usual) to block the working of the Lisbon ratchet clauses is absolutely essential.

Fair enough not to answer the question "what does not let it stand mean?" yet. The fight is not yet over.

However I do hope the Tories will have a manifesto commitment to introduce this Clause 6 amendment as part of their eventual answer if Lisbon gets through? (and perhaps also one of Mr. Cash's amendments giving precedence to the 1688 Bill of Rights should be seriously considered?)

To solve the immediate crisis the whole of the nuLieBore regime should be arrested. B’Liar, Brown and every cabinet member since they tricked themselves into power should be executed. In the case of B’Liar and el Gordo this should be in public on prime-time television. The method should be the traditional hung, drawn and quartered. The recoding of this should be shown to MP’s after each queen’s speech with compulsory attendance.
Going forward:

1) A complete ban on anyone with a law degree or any of the ‘professions’.

2)Every MP must have worked for ten years in the private sector the last five years before standing must have been at a senior level.

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