Again and again, politicians with brains (a dying breed, but there are a few) are saying that politics is broken in Britain – but they never suggest anything to sort that out. At best, they talk of radical reform, forgetting, apparently, that “radical” comes from the Latin, meaning “root” and go on to talk of the need for radical reform without ever getting to the root of the problem. I heard one such MP on Radio 4 this morning.
So let me help them. At the root of everything that is wrong, is a system that, for all intents and purposes, is two-party. When was the last time we had a Prime Minister or a Cabinet that was not either Conservative or Labour? Forget the recent Con-Lib coalition. It was still Con-dominated.
And it will not help matters if the minor parties, which are also parties and behave that way, make minor inroads into the House of Commons with a few here and a few there. A ridiculous convention requires that after a general election the leader of the party with the largest number of seats be called to the Palace to asked to form a government. And that will, unless there is a total change to the whole issue, always be either a Con or Lab.
So let’s break this by electing a minimum of 326 independent members of the HOC. And as many more than that minimum, as possible. That won’t be a party, but it will be the largest group. So who will be asked to the Palace? Forget convention and tradition. Look where they have taken us.
The answer – no-one from Parliament. The first act of a new HOC under the control of independent MP’s should be to break the link, forever, between Parliament and the Executive in an Act that makes it illegal for an MP to be a Minister. And for any member of the Executive to be an MP.
Then arrange, immediately, for Parliament to place advertisements for applications by anyone who thinks they have the qualifications to run the departments of state – and for each department, qualification means demonstrable experience and expertise. Set up Select Committees composed entirely of independent MP’s, to interview applicants, and once the committees have their preferred candidates, these would-be CEO’s are put to a joint sitting of the Commons and Lords for approval, which must be by a majority of two thirds. No such majority? Start again. Appointees are contracted for a minimum of 5 years, with, on either side, options for renewal. A de-facto Prime Minister (and we could do without that title too) is elected by the CEO’s as chair of the Executive, and serves for one year, with the post rotating anually among the CEO’s.
The CEO’s thus appointed are answerable to Parliament through Select Committees. Full accountability.
Until the new CEO’s are in post, the country can be run by the Civil Service, up to and including leaving international treaty or other negotiations to the Permanent Secretaries.
No need for political parties to be declared illegal – under a system such as I propose, they will wither and die anyway. They deserve to.
There’s more, but this is a blog, not a book. However, a book is on its way. “The Party’s Over” will be published soon, and a lot more by way of obvious and essential changes to our democratic system will be explained. It covers dissolving the House of Lords and establishing an elected Senate; election financing; the layout of new Houses of Parliament; proportional representation but not on party lists; a written constitution, and quite a lot else.