For those of us who are enjoying the last Bank Holiday of the Summer with weather in Sussex at least, that seems ideal, its hard to turn our attention towards things a wee bit more serious. Alternatively for those focused on the earthquake in Italy or the wars being fought, some apparently in our name, across the world means that matters as trivial as our democratic structures are almost irrelevant. However as the clock ticks and the date changes into September one of the matters that will be reported back to Parliament is from a body called the Boundary Commission. They are tasked with coming up with a ‘fair’ allocation of constituencies along the lines set out by the Government. The headline objective they have been given is to reduce the numbers of constituencies down from 650 to 600. However there are many ways of achieving such an objective, even if it was the right target. By setting the criteria for change more precisely the Government gets to determine which party and its seats are most impacted. It is no surprise that with a Tory Government in power, that around 60% of the constituencies which will disappear are ones currently ‘safe’ in the hands of the Labour Party. As the Commission report is published, there will be a debate and votes on the proposals and the Conservatives will come out with a smile on their faces, unlike the other parties. Once again the wishes and concerns of less than 1% of the population will dominate the outcome of a matter that is supposedly being prepared for our benefit.
We need change and frankly tinkering with a few lines on the map to reduce our obese Parliament to 600 is little more than a waste of time, although a one party state which is the likely outcome is of much greater concern. I would personally like to see a far bigger change in the number of constituencies and the size of the House of Commons to bring our democracy in line with many other nations and reduce the cost of what appears to be a baying cackling mob most Wednesday lunchtimes. I would personally like to see it reduce to 400 or so. I would like to see this change introduced with a reduction to the voting age to 16 or 17. I would like to see an even greater reduction to the size of the House of Lords and a way for all of us to determine who gets appointed or elected to the second chamber, using a process that ensures that party politics does not dominate. I would like to see the electoral system changed to one that contains a proportional element that means that in an area like Sussex, far less than 87.5% of the MPs are from one Party. The change must also come with the ability to speak to MPs outside of our immediate constituencies so that all of us can legitimately speak to an MP from any party including the one in Government to raise our concerns about the latest policy being enacted. Otherwise all policies run the risk of being deeply flawed and wisdom from the country being lost to a Government that claims to represent the nation as a whole.
The above suggestions are not new and not unique to me, there are probably others that I would happily support. However none of those will ever be considered by our Parliament because there is no one with sufficient influence to ensure that my voice or these ideas will ever be heard. The few real democratic reformers in our Parliament are either silenced by their own party or in a party that lacks any real strength to introduce them. Look at the recent attempt by my MP, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party to ask Parliament to reconsider votes for 16 and 17 year olds. We all need to be able to speak and collectively supported ideas to be heard. Otherwise our MPs are destined to see more men and women wearing masks such as in the picture above, and the support for groups like 38 Degrees will grow and their voice will reach a deafening pitch. Few people in our nation really want anarchy, but at present the people in Westminster who have disproportionate amounts of power are playing straight into their hands. Yesterday Anna Soubry MP tweeted “Join us! All party group campaigning for an #“ although I support the objective of having stronger ties with the EU, I want a group that is not just ‘all party’, but one that is open to people like me who believe that none of the political parties should decide how the country should be run. Instead I want the country to respond to values and principles, and the the only rosettes should be pinned on the winners in craft fairs and horse or dog races.