Sunday, May 17, 2009

 

Will Expenses Scandal Trigger Radical Constitutional Change?

Change in politics is a will o the wisp thing, sometimes arriving as the result of a long campaign, and sometimes with the election of a brand new government and sometimes almost by accident. I get the feeling it might just be the latter if the present crisis continues to evolve as it has done.

The disengagement between government and voters seemed to begin during the 1990s when turnout figures began to fall sharply in 1997 and then plummet in 2001. Polls reflected great falls in trust of politicians, maybe caused by New Labour's use of spin and cynical news management. Brown's period in office did not repair any of this damage and the economic crisis has merely intensified to a much greater degree dissatisfaction with the powers that be, both political and economic.

The combination of these two factors has prodicedd a febrile atmosphere in which radical change seems both essentail and maybe imminent. Perhaps we are on the cusp of a major period of change which would have appeared impossible a year ago or even in June 2007 when Brown promised so much constituional change and then promptly stopped talking about it. Few now believe mere tinkering with the expenses regime is sufficient to heal the body politic. The public seems to want a wider and deeper cleansing. The Observer poll today reveals: 82% think excessive MP claimants should not be allowed to stand at the next election; 63% will vote differently in the euroelections as a result of the scandal; and that UKIP and the BNP will bde the biggest beneficiaries of the resultant redistribition.

Writing in the News of the World, Gordon Brown seems to reflect something of this awareness. He says paying back cash misappropriated would 'not necessarily be sufficient sanction' suggesting penalties will be harsh and adding:

"As well as righting wrongs and cleaning up the system there is now a clear need to go much further, as we start the process of rebuilding trust in our political system."

Maybe Gordon is going to attempt to seize the political high ground with a suggestion that PR be introduced to reduce the immovability of safe seat MPs. This would have the advantages of appearing radical, winning Lib Dem support both before and possibly after an election and out bidding Cameron in efforts to assauge public anger. Alternatively a 'call back' device, of the kind used in the USA might be introduced to enable constituents to deselect MPs should they prove unsatisfactory. The summer months should be extremely interesting for politics watchers.

Comments:
You read the 'News of the World'? Er...anyway, yes, let's have a written constitution.
 
Good insight here Bill.

I have been posting on my blog about a link I have discovered between the safeness of an MPs seat and the likelihood of them being involved in this expenses scandal. There really does seem to be a correlation.

If this proves to be the case after closer analysis I think radical change of the nature you refer to might become inevitable.
 
Julie
Sure I read News of the World,and the Sun and anything else if it has material of interest, like a ne poll or an article by someone significant. Trevor Kavanagh, former Political editor of The Sun was one of the sharpest commentators in Fleet St.

Mark
Fascinating line of research- I look forward to reading the results of it; if proven it would certainly provide an additional argument for PR.
 
Such research feedback wouldn't surprise me. Maybe I am just taking from it what I want but...is there a case for fewer legislators? I mean we have a Head of State(and a fine one), a Head of Government(don't laugh, he is), a Cabinet, 600-odd MPs in London and the Lords full of rent-a-peers, Parliaments in Scotland and Ireland, a talking shop in Cardiff, elected Mayors, local councillors and quangos galore. Not to mention all the bureaucracy and corruption of Brussels and Strasbourg. All this when we all know that the European Court makes all our laws anyway. Are we perhaps a touch over-governed?!
 
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