Route to a Better Democracy 2 – Let Parliament Crumble

 Parliament

 

Part two of a series “Route to a Better Democracy” where the DWP examines the case for replacing the Palace of Westminster.

Speaker John Bercow has said parliament will have to be abandoned within twenty years  unless serious renovations are made. £3bn must be spent to make the building safe and inhabitable. Heating, water, draining and electrical systems in the 19th century building are described as “extremely antiquated.” It seems parliamentary procedures and practices are, for some reason, left off this list. Rather than spend £3bn on renovation, the money would be better spent by abandoning the old and embracing the new; in the name of democracy.

Parliament has the appearance and atmosphere of a colonial gentleman’s club. Prime Minister’s Questions resembles a playground slagging match; the only thing missing is cants of “fight, fight, fight!” Women are disproportionately filled with revulsion at parliament, and no wonder considering the arrival of “Blair’s Babes” was met with cries of MELLONS.

The hypocrisy of MPs referring to other members as Honourable or Right Honourable , while obviously despising each other only serves to make people think parliament has nothing to do with them. It creates distance between those who rule and those who govern.

The pomp and ceremony of the Black Rod and the state opening of parliament look ridiculous when compared to the lives of people in the poorest regions of the country. Which brings me to the fact that the rules and regulations of parliament have no bearing on the lives of the people of the UK. This serves to make MPs an insular bunch who have no concept of what life is like outside of the Westminster bubble.

A new Parliament

Let the palace of Westminster turn to rubble, and be left as monument to the folly of the past. With £3bn a new parliament could be built away from London, in a more central position. In one stroke the institution would be more relevant to those outside of Greater London.

The new parliament should be built in a horseshoe shape, a subtle nudge away from adversarial politics and towards compromise. This move could encourage more women to get into politics.

The weekly Prime Minister dodges the question time should be abolished, it’s simply embarrassing. MPs heckling and jeering should be hulled out of parliament and summarily executed suspended without pay.

Voting by physically walking into a room is abhorrent, open to gross abuses of power from the executive. Votes should be conducted electronically, as they are in the European Parliament.

A modern building should be built to foster a new way of doing government. We should not be looking to the past and an institution that only outlawed marital rape in 1991 for governance. We should look to the future and a new parliament that is fit to govern in the modern age.

 

Route to a Better Democracy – Compulsory Voting ?

Part one of a series “Route to a Better Democracy” where the DWP examines the case for Compulsory Voting.

 

Voting is compulsory, with various degrees of enforcement, in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cyprus, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Nauru, Peru, Singapore, and Uruguay. These countries consider voting a civic duty, akin to jury service.

In federal election 94% of registered Australians turned up to vote. The penalty for not voting is minimal, a fine of $10 or roughly £10. Just 65% of people voted in the 2010 UK general election.[1]

Why voter turnout is a problem

A more detailed breakdown of voter turnout reveals more worrisome trends. Just 44% of 18-24 year olds voted. 76% of over 65s voted.[2]

18-24 year olds, those with arguably the biggest stake in the future of the country, overwhelmingly intend to cast their votes on the left; traditionally with the Labour Party but more recently with the Green Party. Over 65s are polar opposites, voting in huge numbers for right wing parties; be they the Conservatives or UKIP. 10 Million People in this country are now over 65[3].

This disparity in voting leaves the coalition government pandering to over 65s at the cost of the young. The Tories court the grey vote on one hand; by promising to keep paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest pensioners (A move which could cost 100 million pounds), and paying market smashing interest rates on pensioner bonds.

With the other hand they plan to abolish jobseekers allowance for 18-21 year olds and stop housing benefits for those under 25.

These policies will bring deprivation and stagnation to our young population. Yet the fed up, lied to, and alienated Generation Y stubbornly refuses to vote in large numbers.  

A potential solution

“Don’t let the Liberals make our democracy the plaything of cashed up interest groups.” Julia Gillard on a Liberal plot to repeal compulsory voting.

Compulsory voting protects the rights of marginalised groups, the disenfranchised, and the poor.

In the UK home owners are 19% more likely to vote than those on Housing Benefit, is it any wonder that interest rates remain low while housing benefit is inadequate at best?

Young women are 11% less likely to vote than their male counterparts [4], is this why women only make up 22%[5] of MPS?

Compulsory voting protects the right of the vulnerable. It forces politicians to appeal to broader constituencies, while curtailing the power of small but politically potent groups.

Extremist parties will find it harder to gain a foothold under a compulsory vote system; their views will need to appeal to the majority, not the plurality.

Political power will be thrust into the hands of voters, “None of the above” will appear on ballots. Enabling voters to force a second vote if they aren’t satisfied with the candidates on offer.

Those who genuinely don’t wish to participate could choose none of the above or simply spoil their ballot. The right to show dissatisfaction with political system will still exist.

What I have proposed is an extreme solution, but the problems and injustices that face the marginalised are also extreme. Protecting the rights of those alienated by the system is paramount to a free and fair democracy, protecting the vulnerable is paramount to the future of any country.

 

[1] https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2613/How-Britain-Voted-in

[2] Ibid

[3] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/value-for-money-in-public-services/the-ageing-population/

[4] https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2613/How-Britain-Voted-in

[5] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/the-new-parliament/characteristics-of-the-new-house-of-commons/