We need constitutional reform to tackle the malaise in British politics

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/05/2022 - 4:31pm in

There is a deep malaise in British politics (I use the term deliberately). We are all fatigued by Johnson’s antics and incompetence, but that is his plan so we need to be wary: his intention is to succeed with his fascist revolution by grinding us down until we accept it. Troubling though this is, the issue is actually deeper than that. The malaise reflects the loss of consensus.

I am not pretending consensus is always good. That around neoliberalism was clearly very harmful to the country, and the world at large. Anyway, I do not seek political agreement. Rather, I suggest there is an absence of agreement on the need for competent government, fair representation, the nature of the state, which countries it comprises, what their relationship should be, what government should do, and how, and in the ethics that might drive decision making around these and related issues.

The malaise is, perhaps, most marked in the Tories, where the coalition around Johnson is collapsing. It would do so more quickly if there was a viable alternative leader, but there aren’t any real candidates, let alone ones who might appeal to the country. As a result Johnson survives, as maybe the last supposed Tory, although he long since abandoned all that the modern Conservative supposedly represented.

Labour is also a failed coalition, unable to accommodate left and right wings of the party simultaneously, so different are their views.

The SNP is little better. The leadership and membership of that party are far apart when it comes to policy.

The LibDems have swung left and right, the latter disastrously.

The Greens come in many differing hues, which is one reason why they continue to fail to break through.

The space for alternatives to these parties is seemingly non-existent, and yet what is obvious to most is that they would, if they felt able to, vote for representation by none of the above, albeit that they find bits of some that might appeal. We naturally want coalition in which ideas can by synthesised into strategy by agreement, but what is apparent is that our political system comprises parties seemingly unable to get close to this goal within themselves, but who seek an outright win despite that (and get it, Labour holding Wales, the SNP Scotland and the Tories England for now, although I am not sure for how much longer). The political crisis that we face is that what we wish for, which is a representation for our views, is not an option available to us. And so we are alienated from politics, even though we hold very clear political views, and seek to uphold the integrity of government.

The solution has to be electoral reform. Proportional representation, state funding of political parties, reform of rules on donations, an elected second chamber, a right to freedom of speech (excluding the promotion of hate crimes), proper devolution, a right to referenda on leaving the Union, properly devolved local power on a consistent basis, firm codes of conduct, control of the media and its ownership backed by state funding but with a guarantee of editorial independence, and so much more is required, as is a constitutional commitment to addressing climate change.

And we need to be working in this now. I am not quite sure how. Best would, perversely, be through a citizen’s assembly structure jointly sponsored by those political parties committed to democracy. That would require courage. It would require trust in people. It would require the ability to work together that coalitions - including the cross party ones that actually exist in the Commons and elsewhere on a routine basis - always demand.

Is that possible? I do not know. But I am certain it is what we need.