Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Power to the People.

David Cameron delivered a very important speech today. What makes it important is that if the opinion polls are correct, he will become our next Prime Minister. It was a signal about what sort of Government we can expect under the Conservatives. And because I cannot believe that the current discredited Parliament can survive beyond October, this could all be starting to happen before the end of the year. I never take that much notice of promises made by politicians that are unlikely to ever be acted on. Today's speech was different.

Lets consider some of these proposals. The most eye catching is the idea of fixed term parliaments. Personally, I agree with this change. But it is such a huge diminution of a Prime Minister's power that I can see a lot of debate in front of us. A four year fixed term would remove much of the uncertainty from our politics, and reduce the temptation to opportunism by future Prime Ministers. A genuine and welcome reform in my book.

The second change, which is already becoming reality, is the online publication of various spending, including expenses, party spending, lobbying costs and everything else you can think of. I've long reckoned that this is the key to a prudent approach. If the public is going to know about it, there will long and careful thought before incurring expenditure that might be considered excessive. Another good and deliverable reform.

There was also a lot about returning power to local control. Instinctively, I favour this approach, but there's is a lot of work transferring the principle into reality. There will need to be some hard promises in our manifesto to satisfy voters that this is deliverable. No reason why not.

Another huge promise is the curbing of the power of the Whips, and the granting of more free votes - a policy area which I've previously visited on this blog. I don't think its workable for a casual approach to three line whips. But if we are serious about returning power back to 'Parliament' from 'Government' there must be far less three line whipping. Since I became involved in national politics, I've 'enjoyed' a reputation for independent thought - and often been described as a 'maverick'. Suddenly, this characterisation sounds complimentary rather than critical. I don't know how this approach can be incorporated in a manifesto, but without it, the disconnection between our politicians and the people they represent cannot be repaired.

Its an exciting time in British politics. Out of the shambles into which our politics has collapsed over the last two weeks, there is real promise of a new, more interesting politics rising up in its place.


Jeff Jones said...

Cameron's speech was very clever and again clear evidence that he is handling the crisis engulfing British Politics better than most. Whether in the long run he will actually put any of these ideas into practice is of course another issue. It is interesting how political anoraks pick up the bits of the speech they are interested in. In the Welsh context this seems to boil down to whether or not the Conservatives will support a referendum for more powers for the Assembly. In reality of course this ignores the real fundamental problem which as Prof ASnthony King points out in an interesting quote in today's FT is the 'disconnect between what is going on and what is proposed.' Joe Public is not that interested in future constitutional reform. What interests the voter is what will political leaders do with those politicians who in their eyes have abused the expenses system. Until this boil is lanced then anything else will be seen rightly or wrongly by many as an attempt to distract voters attention from the immediate issue of how do we respond to the fact that so many MPs have sadly seeemd to have bent the rules for personal gain.

Anonymous said...

I am generally sympathetic to Cameron's campaign, not from any deep love of being a Conservative, but because he is by far the best chance we have of getting rid of Brown and Labour. Better a punch in the stomach than a garrot around the neck. I don't agree with all his ideas in his speech, but glad to see he's adopted MY proposal for local referenda. Not quite sure how his local planning decisions are going to work - will be at a community council level? Also, why do the Tories go on and on about giving parents / patients etc more choice about where they children are educated or their illness treated? People don't want to be bothered to trawl through a list of league tables to pick the best school/hospital. They just want all of them to be run well, and to go to the nearest, with confidence. And finally, what is the terrible pledge by Cameron to safeguard funding in foreign aid whilst cuts in virtually all other areas will continue? Foreign aid would be top of my list for the spending axe!

alanindyfed said...

There is certainly light at the end of the tunnel but we will probably have to wait for another 12 months.
"Everything comes to him who can think, wait and fast." Hermann Hesse.

Sweet and Tender Hooligan said...


There a number of huge gaping holes in what Cameron is proposing and your analysis.

Fixed Term Parliaments – merely something Cameron will ‘seriously think about’, I will believe it when I actually see it.

Localism – so what you of Cameron’s steadfast refusal to support more powers in the Senedd, particularly as local government is already devolved? I mean, who is Cameron to ‘push down power’ to Welsh councils he has no mandate to Govern? There is such hypocrisy in that apparent ‘localism’ that I have yet to see the Welsh Tories argue it with any credibility.

Reform – while no one should believe that parliamentary reform will win back the trust of the voters, there appears to be a clear appetite for reform. Firstly, all crooked MPs should be deselected as an absolute priority, because until that happens, the wider debate seems to look like shifting the focus away from those shameful MPs across all parties.

Added to this, how Cameron can seriously suggest within his proposals (which are broadly sensible) that electoral reform is not a part of it is hard to understand. Cameron has argued that PR delivers ‘back room deals’ – funny that, I wonder what Cameron’s reaction would have been to the All Wales Accord discussions turning into a coalition government? Is that a back room deal? Cameron would have been down in Cardiff gurning had the tories got into power in coalition at the expense of Labour in Wales…

Penddu said...

Personally, I think that one thing that could be done to improve local democracy, is to make it a mandatory requirement that candidates must have a much stronger link with their constituency, either:
- being born there
- having lived there in the past (for at least 10years)
having lived or worked there recently - say at least 5 years

That should stop parachuting in candidates with no local link, or tenuous ones.

If candidite does not meet these requirments, he should submit to local primary - with no party nomination required.
No more Peter Hain - Leighton Andrew etc - return politics to the people

Wello with brown pants said...

"Power to the People" - well, Wello didn't feel too powerful today, not with guns and edgy paramilitary cops running up to Wello.

GPS said turn left - Wello could see the road was blocked off by a steel 'truck stop' - so Wello ignored the female GPS voice.

GPS recalculated the route and said take next left.

Wello did, and the road was blocked off too.

Wello tried to do a u-turn, and shouted sorry to the guys toting big guns - rifles and machine guns.

The guys with big guns ran up to Wello's car and with guns appointing Wello got yelled at and interrogated on the spot.

Good to see DC paramilitary on edge protecting the Capitol, doing their job. But such a pity that it has come to this.

Wello calls that an 'enhanced traffic stop'.

Hope Cardiff city centre doesn't come to heavily armed road closures around City Hall.

alanindyfed said...

People have been hoodwinked into thinking they live in a democracy,
but this system is far from democratic. It still has some way to go before the people have a real say in the running of the state. The government decides what is best for them (under Labour) and not the people, who only have electoral power every five years. It is only a hint of democracy and even the MPs who are elected were not voted in by many of their constituents.

Never met the guy said...

Didn't Ken Clark play an important role in looking at how democracy could work better if unelected Lords were replaced with elected Lords (re: Upper House/House of Lords)?

I remember he talked about Britain having a democracy.

Just took a peek on Google, the Independent put it thus: "What happened to democracy?"