Constitution & administration

Our legislature and executive are failing us yet again. The most important factor in improving the quality of our government is improving the quality of the people who represent us.

What won't work

We do not get a better quality of representation by voting for representatives of parties that have been letting us down for years, that are seriously compromised by the vested interests on which they depend for funding, and that continue to show their contempt for the voting public, even at this eleventh hour.

And we do not get a better quality of representation by fiddling with the voting system (as though Proportional Representation has produced such good government in Italy).

What will work

We get a better quality of representation primarily by electing representatives with extensive experience of real life and with the integrity and lack of political careerist ambition to speak the truth, regardless of whether focus groups and polls indicate it is popular.

Whilst we cannot change the quality of our representation by changing the way our representatives are selected, we can improve the odds of attracting good representatives, and improve the efficiency with which they operate, by modifying the incentives created by our constitutional and administrative arrangements.

A few examples

  • More advice does not equal better advice, but it does equal more cost. We could do with fewer, better MPs, better resourced to serve their constituencies.
  • 23 ministers and departments of state is not the best way to achieve efficient coordination across responsibilities. We should have many fewer departments of state.
  • QuANGOs are ways for governments to intervene in many areas of life without ministers being accountable for the interventions. Some are essential, but many should be scrapped or cut down to size.
  • The European Union should be a trading partnership and no more. The UK government should promise an "in or out" referendum, and take a list of European measures to scrap or exempt Britain from, as a condition for recommending an "in" vote.
  • 25 English Church of England bishops have seats in the House of Lords, no Welsh, Scottish or Irish bishops, nor representatives of other Christian denominations or other faiths (at least, not by virtue of their position within their religion). Religious leaders bring useful moral understanding to the corrective chamber, but the numbers should be reduced and the representation spread to reflect the diversity of modern Britain.
  • To avoid the corrective chamber being equally dominated by party politics, it should not be fully elected. But the unelected members should not be appointed by party leaders either, for the same reason. A proportion of the seats should be held by representatives of the "great estates", that is (besides religions, mentioned above), the military, the law, and academia (leaving aside the media as needing no representation to get their opinion heard, and business as being to heterogeneous and disparate to offer suitable representatives).
  • The balance of the membership of the corrective chamber (reduced to around 400 members like the House of Commons) should be elected by a Proportional Representation system, as a compromise that retained first-past-the-post in the Commons. This would preserve the possibility of strong government drawn from the Commons, whilst providing broader representation of political parties (but not of unaffiiliated individuals) within parliament.