Thursday, 5 November 2009

How to change politics for good

I was asked to respond to OpenLeft's Which way's left? conversation on whether the left should disperse power. It seems to me that the answer is a qualified yes as this piece argues. However, I decided to float a new idea for House of Lords reform that could enshrine a better separation of powers between the Government and Parliament.

It has the following elements:

- Members elected on an AV+ basis using the old European constituencies with a regional top up.
- Elections would be every five years and coincide with European elections.
- No member of the new House of Lords can be a member of the government. If they join the Government they would have to resign their seat.
- A minimum age of 40.
- Parties would commit to selecting candidates on the basis of expertise and to reflect the diversity of the UK.

Why make these changes?
"By having a different source of authority - and timing - this new House of Lords would strengthen Parliament and make it more pluralistic. Adding in electoral reform of the House of Commons – the alternative vote - and the opening out of political parties through the introduction of primaries then the centrifugal nature of our political system begins to be reversed. There would be more counterweight in the system.

Wouldn’t this make social and economic reform more difficult? At times, perhaps, but it would also improve the quality of legislation as Governments would have to operate by consensus. It would also embed institutions that had broad consent beyond the lifetime of a Parliament or a Government. Pluralism, long-termism, consensus, and diversity could be locked into our democratic system."
Which brings me nicely on to David Cameron's absolutely barmy intention to introduce a UK Sovereignty Bill (it didn't really bring me nicely on to this but whatever....) There are two possibilities for the Bill:

- It is meaningless. Therefore it achieves nothing but may simply make the UK look silly. Parliament is already sovereign- we can leave the EU at any time.
- It is meaningful. In which case, we are leaving the European Union. European law supercedes UK law. Any UK law passed which suggests otherwise is incompatible with EU treaties and, therefore, we would have to leave. Potty.

Fraser Nelson writes:
"Mr Cameron’s proposed Sovereignty Bill — declaring the primacy of English law over the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg — will also be meaningless unless it includes the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."
Er, that is not meaningless I'm afraid. That would mean that the UK is leaving the EU. Quite meaningful, I would say. I'd be interested to hear whether Fraser Nelson has got confirmation that is what the legislation would contain. If it does, then Cameron is committing to the UK going it alone.

Don't take my word for it. Here is Kenneth Clarke describing such legislation as: "fundamentally incompatible with EU membership."

All this lets the eurosceptic genie out of the bottle. He is placing himself in a position of fundamental and ongoing conflict with the EU. Where does that end up? It ends up in only one place: a referendum on leaving the EU as he won't get his own way. Playing with fire Mr Cameron.

Post script: The BBC adds a bit more colour to the story. Pierre Lallouche is simply saying what others are thinking.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you anticipated David Miliband a full two days in advance of his speech.

    Excellent closing remarks today, by the way. Glad to hear some really substantive and concrete proposals coming from the pannel at the end of the debate, as made me feel much less depressed about what the left has to offer in terms of concrete proposals.

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