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MANIFESTO OF A BENEVOLENT DICTATOR

THE BOUNDARIES COMMISSION

The Boundaries Commission has the remit to establish, in terms of population, roughly equals sized constituencies, bearing in mind natural and social boundaries.  The current recommendations have become political and are not happening.  So at some point in the future they will be out of date.  This is a great pity and means the issue that there are too many MPs especially now considering the devolved legislatures, is kicked into the long grass again.  In the US, the gerrymandering of boundaries is a fine art meaning that very few seats ever change party representation.  The same is true here with too few constituencies being marginable and thus to the unseating the sitting MP or party.

DEVOLUTION & CONSTITIONAL REFORM

The strength of Britain is its components and its traditions.  Tony Blair’s excursions into this area were never part of a fully thought through plan and, now added to the strains of Brexit, could prove to be the undoing of the UK.  I for one hope that reason prevails, but as a Dictator I would stop it.

Clearly the MPs expenses situation needs urgent attention; it has already done considerable damage in the eyes of the public.  What could be simpler than “Receipted and Reasonable”?  Even with a complex set of rules, judgments calls will still have to be made.  So let us have a powerful independent committee assessing all expenses and “second jobs”.  Lock the Party leaders into accepting the decisions taken on their “subordinates” calls on the public purse.  Far better than any recall system as it is hard to see how it be guaranteed not to be used inappropriately.  Better instead to have automatic disqualification for certain misdemeanours.

Fundamentally we do not pay our legislators too much but we do have far too many of them.  Since I would wish to include MEPs and Regional Governments in any formula on the total number of legislators covering an area.  For example, as powers devolve to the Regions those areas should require fewer seats in Westminster.  And revenue raising powers should follow and central subsidies reduced.  Then such legislatures will have to tax for their money and be answerable.  The same argument can be extended to the Metro Mayors.  The Calman Report deserves our support.

Fixed term Parliaments are also to be welcomed.  But the 5 year term was overturned the first time that it became inconvenient.  I would plump for SIX years.  I only wish to be a dictator for a while to straighten out the country that I love and then return it to normal democracy.

So the limited Devolution and Constitutional reform that there has been, has been carried out in in a half-baked way.  They are both incomplete.  The powers of the three devolved assemblies vary from one to the other making the arrangements open to the leap-frogging of each Parliament/Assembly wishing for the same powers as their sister nation.  Further devolution has taken place with the creation of Metro Mayors.  This will not doubt create more local civil servants.  However, not the reduction in the number of MPs at Westminster.  The roughly equal populations of constituencies’ requirement of the Boundary Commission should settle that.  Parliament should be free to recommend the desired average population size.  However, their aim should be to reduce the number of MPs to the mid-400s.

I indicate above that the Boundaries Commission recommendations should not be blocked by Parliament or its procedures.  We are over-represented by MPs, AMs & SMPs.  Their numbers should be reduced.  A declining number even as the size of electorate increases.  Although being anti-Brexit I am grateful to the SNP for a solid wedge of opposition to Brexit in Westminster.  We all may yet be very grateful for this.

 

Then there is the House of Lords.  The debate on an elected or appointed Upper House needs to be finalised.  The “heart” says elected, but the most thorough analysis that I have seen, from one of my students, who works in the Palace of Westminster for her Open University (OU) Systems Thinking project, indicates that appointed individuals would serve the nation best.  This was repeated on The Politics Show (BBC1 14 June 2009) by the then recently retired Black Rod.  Members should be appointed, but the method of appointment needs review.  One route could be eminence together with a willingness to put that eminence to use for the good of the country.  The other by appointment from published party lists (though the younger and most ambitions politicians, will opt for the Commons) in line with the proportion of votes cast in General Elections.  Why not have a mix of both.  Some may fear parties like the BNP getting a seat, but there can be a percentage threshold, but more exposure to their extreme views may encourage a few but will deter the many.

One thing that can be said about the House of Lords, is that it works.  Several times in recent years, it has constrained the Government of the day.  However, its constitution cannot be defended.  Rather than being the last bastion of patronage by all part leaders, the qualification or experience of appointees should be defined and rigorously applied.

ELECTORAL FRAUD

This is a new phenomenon in the UK.  Shades of a banana republic.  It is thought by many that one reason for the early Election in June 2017 is the potential prosecutions of 30 MPs for not following the rules on election expenses.

The pressure to remove barriers to voting by making it progressively easier to register to vote is opening the door to voter fraud.  The Electoral Commission must do a better job here.

As I state in the second sentence of this Manifesto, apathy is a major enemy of democracy.  Apathy’s allies are corruption and lack of respect for societies’ norms and by obvious anomalies and unfairness.  So compulsory voter registration and voting with an “opt out” is needed,