UK Constitution change - a wishlist?

Over on the Brexit thread we recently went down a Constitution tangent:
As we're taking a break from Brexit until the Commons returns from their Easter holidays, maybe we can have a wee tangent and share our wish lists for constitutional reform. Though maybe a new thread could be better.

It is clear that Brexit has highlighted the weaknesses of our Constitutional and/or political arrangements. (As well as some of the strengths, to be honest). The last page or so of the Brexit thread has shown lots of thoughts about what the UK could do.

So, here we go: It is 2022 and Brexit is over with :wink: but as part of the vital enquiry, thoughts turn to UK Constitutional change. And behold, on a website of Christian Unrest is a certain thread of great wisdom providing a starting point for this national conversation.* :blush:

So, we'd better write it!!!

AFZ

*Well, it's more likely that the nation would turn to us than Brexit will be all over in less than 3 years.
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Comments

  • I wish people would stop saying we don’t have a written constitution - we have a series of pieces of interlinking pierces of legislation.

    My wish list would include:
    • federalising the uk and its dependent territories
    • English devolved government within that, largely so England would stop expecting the national government to be primarily managing its own affairs
    • a law making it a crime to deliberately tell lies about matters of determinable fact during election campaigns (as it is currently an offence to tell lies about other candidates)
    • a law specifying how referenda should be held, what counts as quorate and in what circumstances they are invalidated by misconduct
    • I think the fixed term parliaments act needs reviewing - I understand the logic but in a context where the executive have so much power whilst in office I think it’s problematic
    • I’d like the lords reformed to be 1 third appointed, 1 third community and specialty leaders, 1 third citizens jury on a two year rotation (for the jury only)

    That would do for starters, I’d like an Irish style president and reforms to the voting system too - but I am not holding my breath.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Seems to me that any constitution is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. People get interested in constitutional change only when the current arrangement gets in the way of something they really care about.
  • These are more disconnected ideas than a complete system.

    1. Upper Chamber (HoL as it is now) composed of non-hereditary members chosen on a PR basis after each election. Upper Chamber to have unlimited powers to pass or reject any bill put forward to it by the government in the HoC.
    2. Full devolution for Scotland and Wales and the English regions to reduce the dominance of England's SE on national affairs.
    3. An end to all forms of compulsory purchase of land and property.
    4. Extend listed building status to include all historic artefacts.
    5. End all forms of private education, including 'faith' schools.
    6. A bill to ensure that Colin Smith never gets to do all the things he wants to do.
  • The RogueThe Rogue Shipmate
    Disestablishment.
  • c52c52 Shipmate
    House of Lords to be created entirely the way that bishops are now appointed:
    any group in society with 1/4 million members can have a Lord or several
    religious groups
    accountants
    farmers
    assembly line workers
    engineers
    unemployed
    academics
    taxi-drivers
    carers
    doctors
    Women's Institute
    Scouts & Guides
    Football supporters
    Athletes
    Pigeon fanciers
    etc
    etc
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    Accountability and integrity would be good, election promises honoured, a focus on what's best for the whole of the UK with no more sweeteners or time for those only concerned with their own patch or party, true representation, and no one given enough power to steamroller in their own pet projects.

    The monarch as a figurehead without power seems to work better than electing a president, so keep it for as long as it still works. So too with the House of Lords.
  • Referenda
    Clear laws about how they should be held. There needs to be a clear distinction between binding and advisory referenda. Advisory can be "won" by 50% + 1, with no minimum quorate, but anything that requires a change in the law needs a binding referendum, where there must be a minimum quorate of voters and where the winning mark should be 60%. A binding referendum must have clear proposals to vote on. (ie, "Do you want to leave the EU?" could not be a binding referendum but could be an advisory one AS LONG AS there was a subsequent binding referendum which detailed the specific proposals)

    A binding referendum that fails cannot be brought back again for at least 5 years.

    Upper House
    50% to be allocated by proportional representation, based on the General Election vote.
    50% to be appointed for a fixed 5 year term, by an independent tribunal. Such appointees can only be reappointed once (ie can only sit for maximum of 10 years.)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Who would appoint the tribunal, and what would be the terms of those appointments. And what advantage is there in not electing the whole lot?
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    Separation of powers to be spelled out. Human rights to be specified in line with current best global practice. Each of these to be safeguarded by protection against change. Changes to require a supermajority of three quarter's of MP votes on a free vote.

    A specific modernising of the real role of the constitutional monarch. I'm not sure there is much continuing value, even ceremonial, of the monarch's speech opening parliament, appointing new prime ministers, the weekly PM meetings.

    Further reform of the HofL.

    Referenda. I don't like them in principle, but if we retain them, I agree with those recommending specific terms and conditions for their use.
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    c52 wrote: »
    House of Lords to be created entirely the way that bishops are now appointed:
    any group in society with 1/4 million members can have a Lord or several
    That's the way I see the Lords as being able to be easily different from the Commons.
    Except for the practicalities or scaling organizations and selecting representatives. It would be quite nice if things had a meritocratic tree, (it would definitely be pretty) and then tie in with the 'Lords' bit. But (a) then you'd need some counterweight to a house full of bosses, bishops and chancellors, and (b) except for those who found their business, there doesn't seem to be a lot of selection for merit or (sector) commitment.
  • TonyKTonyK Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I too would like to see the HoLelected - but I would suggest by proportional representation of some sort, with the elections held two years after the General Election.

    This would give a useful counter-balance should the government not abide by it's election promises!
  • agingjbagingjb Shipmate
    First, the House of Commons should be elected in 100 five member constituencies using STV (please, no party list form of PR).

    The Upper House? Let's just say that I would prefer something very much closer to the Irish Seanad than to the Senate of the USA.

    And, the democratic force of any referendum should be explicitly stated and limited, and expire completely after two general elections.


  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Living in a rural area, I’m not keen on multi-member constituencies. The weight of votes in such constituencies tends to be in in their urban centre(s) which is where the energies of the elected members are then focussed, and the voice for rural area gets lost altogether.

    Where I live, 6 MPs cover over 2,600 square miles. For most of them, the shape of their constituency means the must take into account rural and urban needs. If most of the area was a single constituency, it would be too easy for all the MPs to be in (say) one centre of population, and an hour and a half or two hours’ journey from many of their constituents.
  • agingjbagingjb Shipmate
    I also wonder if MPs should be legislators or social workers.
  • Fawkes CatFawkes Cat Shipmate
    To start from first principles, unless you are a complete anarchist (left) or libertarian (right) there's a need for some sort of executive government. So let's take the existence of some sort of executive as a given.

    The first question then is how is that executive controlled? This is where you start to have to consider options....
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    The legislators need to be representative of the people they represent, but they also need to be qualified in some regard to represent them.

    So there needs, somewhat obviously, some form of PR to elect the representatives (I would favour larger, multi-member constituencies, but single-member constituencies and STV also works).

    Then there is the qualifying part - barring people from standing is inimical to an open democracy (unless they have a criminal record for graft, fraud etc - spent convictions on other matters need not necessarily bar), but there are some who are currently MPs who are singularly unsuited to legislate. This is either a bug or a feature, but in the end, I come down on the side that it's still up to the electors to decide, not me.
  • The RogueThe Rogue Shipmate
    c52 wrote: »
    House of Lords to be created entirely the way that bishops are now appointed:
    any group in society with 1/4 million members can have a Lord or several

    So if enough people sign up to the Ship ...
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I entirely agree with @agingjb on multi-member STV constituencies. The Irish system is much better than ours. It's undoubtedly not perfect but it would cure many of the things that are really bad about both our electoral system and the sorts of parliaments it produces.

    I'd also give England a devolved administration and would restructure the relationship between the component parts of the UK, so that it was 'regular', each devolved part having the same powers, the same relationship to the centre and the same rules as to what was provincial and what was national. I'd use the present Scottish devolution as the model for the others, though again with multi-member STV constituencies and not the odd top up list the Holyrood parliament has.

    I think that would result in England's being better governed than it is at the moment. The English get a raw deal in that their MPs spend all their time poncing around with the world stage stuff. I also think that contributes to the strong sense in non-metropolitan England that 'nobody listens to us'.

    I don't have the objection to the House of Lords most people have. Over the years, I think it's done quite a good job. But a possible solution to the changed provincial structure would be to have the four devolved parliaments + a single union one, also elected by STV, to replace the House of Lords, which would deal with things like foreign policy, armed forces, and the 'union' aspects of taxation.

    The new settlement between the bits would also cover what was within the sole competence of the provincial and national parliaments and what had to pass both.


    I disagree with @Barnabas62. I think separation of powers is an appalling idea. Two of the biggest weaknesses of the US constitution stem directly from it. One is that it's only at the 4 yearly elections that the President is accountable to anyone. He doesn't have to defend his actions in the House of Commons. He and his Cabinet don't have to get their policies through or to win friends and influence anyone. There's no 'President's Question Time'.

    The other is that the two legislatures aren't responsible for implementing the laws they pass. Indeed, their members don't seem to be responsible for actually doing very much at all. Hence also the repeated budget fiascos.
  • Fawkes CatFawkes Cat Shipmate
    The problem with a federal system of England - Northern Ireland - Scotland - Wales is that out of a total population of ~66m, England has a population of ~55m (figures grabbed from Wikipedia). That means there's one part with a population of 5 times all the others put together, which is hardly a community of equals.

    For a federal system to work, there would need to be a number of English regions, each operating more or less on a par with the other three nations. As a Londoner who has lived in the north west of England for 22 years, I think this would be a great idea. But I'm in a minority: most of the English seem to rather fancy the idea of being an 800lb gorilla, even if that means doing what London wants.

    So despite my earlier argument about starting from first principles, maybe we need to start from where we are. And where can we get from there?
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    Part of the solution would be to simply move the seat of government from London to York. That way, infrastructure spend (which is horrendously weighted, however you measure it, in SE England) might start to tilt back to something resembling fair.

    But honestly, it's really only political wonks who want to change the constitution and how we're governed. Most people simply want to be left alone to live their lives - they want a safe place to live and have families, food on the table, education for their kids, a job that pays enough, and healthcare that won't bankrupt them. They don't much care about regional parliaments, STV vs AV, elected second chambers, because they can't see how this impacts them. And for the most part, it doesn't.

    What we're seeing now is the result of decades of mismanagement of both infrastructure and economy by successive governments. Austerity has knee-capped the ability of local government to do anything other than deliver statutory services, and even then some of them will fail to do that - whoever we vote for in a few weeks' time will have to enact exactly the same policies, no matter what.

    So, in many respects, it's not a failure of the constitution to deliver the governance we require, but a failure of government to deliver the constitutional arrangements we already have.
  • jay_emm wrote: »
    c52 wrote: »
    House of Lords to be created entirely the way that bishops are now appointed:
    any group in society with 1/4 million members can have a Lord or several
    That's the way I see the Lords as being able to be easily different from the Commons.
    Except for the practicalities or scaling organizations and selecting representatives. It would be quite nice if things had a meritocratic tree, (it would definitely be pretty) and then tie in with the 'Lords' bit. But (a) then you'd need some counterweight to a house full of bosses, bishops and chancellors, and (b) except for those who found their business, there doesn't seem to be a lot of selection for merit or (sector) commitment.

    An experiment of sorts on this-- perhaps still far too new to be evaluated-- has been the recent application process for the Canadian Senate. A relatively small upper chamber (104 or 106, I forget which), vacancies fall open when a member hits 75 or otherwise vacates their seat by resignation or Divine Providence. Anyone interested sends in an applkication stating why they should be appointed, with two support letters, and a non-political assessment committee in each province sends off a shortlist to the PM, who appoints. For those curious about it, the site is at: https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/independent-advisory-board-for-senate-appointments.html

    Most criticism has been from the opposition Conservatives, who feel that it is being filled with leftish types. Friends working on legislation tell me that the real problem is that the new senators are not so hot at getting legislation moving or necessarily understanding how some of the levers of public administration work, but there are other opinions out there. In any case, for the first time, non-party senators are the majority.

    As far as the UK goes, I really think that one needs to think of a proper federal system, with powers allocated to the centre at Westminster, and others (with taxing powers to pay for them) to component countries and provinces. The Spanish system of assymetrical federalism might be a useful model (with a constituent principality and a constituent kingdom, as well as two very autonomous entities, one with taxing power and another without, alongside 13 other provinces). GoT fans can work on the names of some of the English provinces, resurrecting Mercia and Wessex, along with Northumbria etc etc.

    Much attention is being paid to the monarchy. Why not figure out the functions of a head of state (and even if you need one), before deciding how the job is to be filled? As with an upper house, the name and selection system should follow the function. Besides, if you don't want Elizabeth, she has a shoal of other realms and can quite easily slide off to Barbados with her corgis, stopping in Nova Scotia for her bagpipe music fix on the way.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    Perhaps - given the English love of tradition - we should go back to where we've been and resurrect the Heptarchy of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex). The big disadvantage here is that it means Yorkshire gets subsumed into Northumbria, but we could get round that by adding the two historic sub-kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. The advantage is that you can have seven (or eight) regional assemblies sited around the country, each offering an opportunity to regenerate the town or city it's located in. Westminster could remain as the UK parliament building, but ideally (as discussed on the Brexit II thread) you'd want to move the UK parliament to a modern building somewhere less expensive than London.

    York, as suggested by The Economist, is not a good choice for two reasons: first, it would not be very high on a list of 'places cheaper than London' (housing and office space in the city centre is almost as expensive as it is in the South-East). Secondly, I live there and I don't want my city cluttered up with the likes of BoJo the Clown and Jeremy ***t. I suggest Yeavering in Northumberland, for the following reasons:

    - It was the site of one of King Edwin's royal palaces
    - The name means 'hill of goats', which seems singularly appropriate at the moment
    - The regional assembly will want Bamburgh as their own capital

    Of course none of the Powers that Be will even consider this idea for a moment... when most people talk about 'English history' they usually mean sometime after the Norman conquest, and nine times out of ten they're talking about the Second World War.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    It's fine. Yorkshire folk are almost honorary Northumbrians.

    Durham will most likely be the capital of that region, since they think they are already. Yeavering Bell is currently nowt but a field, although it could prevent some of the filibustering we've seen recently as the wind and the rain whips off the North Sea.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    That was the idea :smile:
  • Gee D wrote: »
    Who would appoint the tribunal, and what would be the terms of those appointments. And what advantage is there in not electing the whole lot?

    High court judges to make the appointments?

    The advantage of appointing 50% would be to ensure that all shades of opinion are represented and that key skills and experience can be tapped. Another purely political house wouldn't be an improvement.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    My thoughts about the upper house are
    1. some mechanism is needed to avoid the political avalanche effect (i.e. one electoral blow sweeping a single party into power in both houses.)
    2. something to bring in wisdom and experience
    3. Some means of avoiding/negotiating deadlock between the two houses
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    The problem with a federal system of England - Northern Ireland - Scotland - Wales is that out of a total population of ~66m, England has a population of ~55m (figures grabbed from Wikipedia). That means there's one part with a population of 5 times all the others put together, which is hardly a community of equals.

    For a federal system to work, there would need to be a number of English regions, each operating more or less on a par with the other three nations. As a Londoner who has lived in the north west of England for 22 years, I think this would be a great idea. But I'm in a minority: most of the English seem to rather fancy the idea of being an 800lb gorilla, even if that means doing what London wants.

    So despite my earlier argument about starting from first principles, maybe we need to start from where we are. And where can we get from there?
    I can see that, and I think it's a problem, but for a federal system to stick and have credibility, the various units have got to represent genuine identities. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do. Carved up bits of England chosen for administrative convenience wouldn't gel. Nobody would take them seriously, and the Scots and Welsh would, quite reasonably, regard it as an insult that their identity was treated as on a par with a randomly selected lump of the East Midlands.

    Nor do I think asymmetrical federalism would work. I think the whole point and validity of autonomy is that each bit has to have the same amount of autonomy. There mustn't be a bit with less, or no autonomy. Beside, Spain manifestly doesn't work at the moment.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Colin Smith: "4. Extend listed building status to include all historic artefacts."

    Sounds good if added to that is funding for proper preservation of all buildings and artifacts that owners are required care for.*

    *a comment from the American peanut gallery

  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    edited April 15
    Enoch wrote: »
    ...for a federal system to stick and have credibility, the various units have got to represent genuine identities. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do. Carved up bits of England chosen for administrative convenience wouldn't gel.

    The problem with carving up England is that due to the parochialism that is a large part of the English character, the places which represent 'genuine identities' are either too big (the whole of England) or too small (your own county/town/village/tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere) to make suitable regional units of comparable size with the other nations of the UK.

    I wasn't entirely serious in my suggestion of basing the regions on the Heptarchy. But I wasn't entirely joking, either. And whatever else happens, Rutland will want to be independent of Leicestershire.

  • Colin SmithColin Smith Shipmate
    edited April 15
    Jane R wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    ...for a federal system to stick and have credibility, the various units have got to represent genuine identities. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do. Carved up bits of England chosen for administrative convenience wouldn't gel.

    The problem with carving up England is that due to the parochialism that is a large part of the English character, the places which represent 'genuine identities' are either too big (the whole of England) or too small (your own county/town/village/tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere) to make suitable regional units of comparable size with the other nations of the UK.

    I wasn't entirely serious in my suggestion of basing the regions on the Heptarchy. But I wasn't entirely joking, either. And whatever else happens, Rutland will want to be independent of Leicestershire.

    I'm not so sure counties are too small a unit. Oxfordshire has a population of 682,444 which is more than Luxembourg! Also there are significant cultural divisions within Wales and Scotland.
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    Jane R wrote: »
    The problem with carving up England is that due to the parochialism that is a large part of the English character, the places which represent 'genuine identities' are either too big (the whole of England) or too small (your own county/town/village/tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere) to make suitable regional units of comparable size with the other nations of the UK.

    I wasn't entirely serious in my suggestion of basing the regions on the Heptarchy. But I wasn't entirely joking, either. And whatever else happens, Rutland will want to be independent of Leicestershire.

    It was amusing how the people of Rutland would have no truck with it at all when the 'powers that be' tried to foist this upon them. In fact, we could probably learn a lot from the way they do things there. As I understand it, they vote in independents who will represent them rather than a political party, and it works.

  • Just my thoughts... I can't really claim the credit for this thread, given that is was a spin-off from the Brexit thread that managed to die before Brexit itself, but I'm glad I started it as there's some interesting ideas and contributions here.

    Democracy
    I should start by saying that I am not that much of a fan of democracy. Ok, that's hyperbole but I think Churchill was correct in describing it as the worst form of government except for every other form of government.

    For me, there is a great flaw at the heart of democracy - whichever form it takes - it assumes that people know what they want. It assumes that the public will vote for good policies and thus drive good governance. This, to many, is an unspoken assumption that means that things like 'democratic values' and 'will of the people' become idols of our civic religion. The truth is that the public (all of us) are capable of making some very bad choices when it comes to elections. Anyone who has studied the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany knows that the German people were not somehow more vulnerable to propaganda than anyone else, somehow more evil than their neighbours. Yet, Hitler won elections. Democracy will always be vulnerable to those that can mislead effectively and to mob-rule. There are literally countless examples of this, big and small.

    The genius of democracy though - the reason why it works much better than the alternatives - is because, those that govern are accountable to the governed. This is the key. Democratic leaders have to face their public again and get relected. This is not perfect, not least because (as Bill Clinton notes in his reflections on effective politics), elections are about the future, not the past. Which is probably why Atlee trounced Churchill in 1945. Equally we all know that short-termism - making sure one gets reelected often leads politicians to do the expedient thing rather than the right thing.

    I evaluate any governing system on the basis of these thoughts - I think that constitutional arrangements that protect the people from short-term trends and whims are vital. Mechanisms that protect the integrity of elections - mostly from money but also from outside interference and data-mining in the modern age are vital. To me, such protections need to be at the constitutional level. For example, if a party managed to win control of the Commons by means of a fraudulent election. It would be possible for them to pass a law stopping the investigations into their election win and another removing the need for the hassle of further elections. We actually have very few protections against that. Our democracy is far more fragile than we think.

    I also think that constitutional arrangements that protect minorities from majorities are vital. I bet you that in the late 70s, early 80s, draconian methods by the state against Irish citizens (internment, holding without trial) were very popular. Similarly, I bet you could find significant popular support for oppressive measures towards Muslims since 2005.

    All of these things are vital to making a country free and prosperous.

    House of Lords
    There is no doubt that the HoL is a ridiculous historical anachronism but it does have many strengths as well. It's probably worth reflecting the journey that England (and later the UK) has taken here; from all the power resting with the King, to the power being shared with the aristocracy to power coming from to the Commons. Of course, for a modern democracy to have an unelected chamber which in many ways has equal power to the commons is troubling.

    On the other hand, the Lords also contains a lot of invaluable experience that often (if not always) makes better law than the Commons would manage on its own. It also contains political lackeys of various hues who do not serve the people or nation well. There were plenty of Lords who tried to Fillibuster the recent Cooper-Letwin Bill.

    In 1997, the HoL had an in-built Conservative majority (mostly due to hereditary peers) that has historically been a problem for Labour governments, which is why the Blair government tried very hard to get Lords reform - with very limited success.

    The other part that's noteworthy is how in this decade, Cameron packed the Lords with his peers - to ensure that they couldn't be a blocker to anything he wanted to do. Which is appalling actually as he was using the 'reducing the cost of government' argument to justify cutting the number of MPs and gerrymander the Westminster constituencies to the Tory Party's advantage. There are now 782 Lords who can sit in the chamber (c.f. 650 MPs).

    This is clearly problematic.

    Conversely, having experienced people from all sorts of areas of life help to write laws and policy is clearly desirable. I don't quite know what system I would advocate but some means of getting lawyers, doctors, nurses, long-serving members of the commons, builders, accountants, business people, teachers, police officers, retired members of the armed services to make up members of the Lords has a lot going for it. Maybe such people could be appointed for fixed terms or maybe for life. Perhaps combining that with an electoral system that was proportional so half the chamber was directly elected would give it democratic legitimacy. For the most part, the Lords as an unelected chamber has not tried to have power-struggles with the Commons is recent decades. A fully elected chamber would behave very differently in my view; which may not be a good thing.

    Bishops have been mentioned above; technically these are known as Lords Spiritual - I think multiple categories of qualified people would be a good idea. Maybe Lords Medical, Lords Counsellors, Lords Financial, Lords Marshal or whatever. If someone could come up with a mechanism whereby these categories were proposed on the basis of qualification and then could be subsequently elected I think that would be a very good system.

    Commons voting system
    As I've said before; I think our current FPTP system is deeply flawed but that I am not a fan of simple PR as it increases the power of the party machine and potentially gives disproportionate power to small parties. It is not as democratic as it seems at first glance.

    AV was roundly criticised from all sides when we had the referendum a few years back but it's not a bad system. I think STV is brilliant but AV does have the advantage of simplicity. It also maintains the MP-constituency link which is arguably the greatest strength of the current system. It gets a bad name for ending up with the candidate who no-one wanted but everyone can tolerate. Whilst there is some truth to that, it is not entirely accurate, nor is it something that doesn't happen already. It would be very good for smaller parties. There are clearly a lot of people in this country who would choose to vote Green but vote Labour because they quite like Labour but mostly want to stop the Tories. This means that it is impossible to know what the true level of support for the Green party is in this country. In the medium-long term that makes it very difficult to grow a small party - AV would very quickly unravel this - voting patterns would change and party strengths would change. And if we got public-funding for political parties - which we should - this could be tied to the first preference votes - meaning that again, the smaller parties would be able to grow their incomes and increase their campaigning opportunities. Actually campaigning to change people's minds about issues, is something that should happen more in a democracy than it does.

    I am not averse to multi-seat constituencies or some other sort of system like that but we should examine all the options carefully and weigh up the pros and cons.
    (continued)

  • The Fixed-term Parliament Act needs to go. It's terrible. However, I would like to see 4-year fixed terms for parliament in general - which is also important in working out how the second chamber elections might fit in. As long as the executive is derived from the Commons, having the election as strongly fixed as the American ones though is not an option - some sort of system to dissolve Parliament would need to be retained.

    Money
    Just a quick thing here which maybe isn't constitutional but could and maybe should be; governmental funding of political parties so that you remove big money donors is really important. I said above, I think it would need to be tied to electoral reform as well.

    Federalisation - the West Lothian Question
    The issues around devolution in the UK have been explored very well on this thread already - we clearly have a strange fudge at the moment where Scotland's parliament has many more powers than Wales but the MPs of both in principle can have influence over England's law. For the reasons discussed above, I think that various English Parliaments would be difficult to get traction for - the various referenda on city mayors shows how some cities want them and some don't. FWIW, the office of London Mayor seems to have been very effective at bringing power to London away from central government (although not all holders of that office have done a particularly good job). We as a United Kingdom clearly have identity issues. No doubt Northern Ireland feels quite different from the rest of the Kingdom (the clue's in the name there). Scottish identity seems to be very strong and hence the parliament in Holyrood is well established. Looking further down the chain, local government is a farce, in terms of democracy. Very few of us vote; those that do, usually vote on national issues and the majority of the money for local authorities comes from central government; hence to a large extent local government has neither power nor accountability. There is a lot of work to do here.

    Compulsary voting
    Finally this. We need to go this way with sensible 'None of the above' options and consequences of such votes.

    Well, that's far too much from me (as the Ship itself made clear...), so I'll stop there for now.

    AFZ
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    Who would appoint the tribunal, and what would be the terms of those appointments. And what advantage is there in not electing the whole lot?

    High court judges to make the appointments?

    The advantage of appointing 50% would be to ensure that all shades of opinion are represented and that key skills and experience can be tapped. Another purely political house wouldn't be an improvement.

    No - judges are and must remain separate from the legislature. You can argue for and against separation of legislature and executive, but the judicial arm should not be part of the party political process.
  • But, someone appointed for their expertise rather than elected doesn't need to be a party political position. I'm not aware of the Law Lords being affiliated with any particular party (they may, of course, personally support particular parties when they get to the polling station on election day - but that's not the same as holding a partisan position in their status either as judges or in the Lords). Is there any good reason why within the process of assessing proposed legislation that there shouldn't be a place for top legal opinion to avoid potential issues being included? Or, should there be a process whereby the final status of legislation happens after going through the political processes, becoming law and then facing a series of challenges through the courts? I can see that giving lots of work for lawyers.
  • FredegundFredegund Shipmate
    Bishops have been mentioned above; technically these are known as Lords Spiritual - I think multiple categories of qualified people would be a good idea. Maybe Lords Medical, Lords Counsellors, Lords Financial, Lords Marshal or whatever. If someone could come up with a mechanism whereby these categories were proposed on the basis of qualification and then could be subsequently elected I think that would be a very good system.
    /quote]

    Now that's bloody brilliant. And as long as peerages are never given as rewards for party service it might just work. I could be a Lord financial...
  • Fredegund wrote: »
    Bishops have been mentioned above; technically these are known as Lords Spiritual - I think multiple categories of qualified people would be a good idea. Maybe Lords Medical, Lords Counsellors, Lords Financial, Lords Marshal or whatever. If someone could come up with a mechanism whereby these categories were proposed on the basis of qualification and then could be subsequently elected I think that would be a very good system.

    Now that's bloody brilliant. And as long as peerages are never given as rewards for party service it might just work. I could be a Lord financial...

    Thank you. I do think it really has merit. There is a risk of insular group-think which needs to be balanced but let us have some expertise in our lawmaking.

    I wonder if some mix of 50% appointed Lords (on the basis of various qualifications) and 50% elected might be the solution? And as @Alan Cresswell pointed out above it could be really helpful if those appointed were not permitted to have party affiliation.

    A big part of my thinking here, is that we already have an elected chamber. I'm not sure having a second simply elected chamber without some sort of distinction in role actually achieves very much.

    AFZ
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    The problem with a federal system of England - Northern Ireland - Scotland - Wales is that out of a total population of ~66m, England has a population of ~55m (figures grabbed from Wikipedia). That means there's one part with a population of 5 times all the others put together, which is hardly a community of equals.

    Does that matter? Surely the point of a federation is that the powers of one state are firewalled from the powers of the other bits, so if (say) healthcare is a state-level power, then the English state cannot interfere with the rights of the Scottish state to set healthcare policies despite being many times larger.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    It also depends on how serious England is about the Union. If England just sees the Union as the tail which the dog can wag any time it likes, then the other parts of the Union are going to get rightly pissed off and demand independence.

    I'd like to see England forgo its numerical power and consider NI, Wales and Scotland as equals and partners in a shared endeavour.
  • sionisaissionisais Shipmate
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    It also depends on how serious England is about the Union. If England just sees the Union as the tail which the dog can wag any time it likes, then the other parts of the Union are going to get rightly pissed off and demand independence.

    I'd like to see England forgo its numerical power and consider NI, Wales and Scotland as equals and partners in a shared endeavour.

    That is pretty much the situation the UK (read: England) is in with the EU. England bosses the UK around and wants to do the same with the EU, hence the ERG, UKIP, the referendum and Brexit.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    But, someone appointed for their expertise rather than elected doesn't need to be a party political position. I'm not aware of the Law Lords being affiliated with any particular party (they may, of course, personally support particular parties when they get to the polling station on election day - but that's not the same as holding a partisan position in their status either as judges or in the Lords). Is there any good reason why within the process of assessing proposed legislation that there shouldn't be a place for top legal opinion to avoid potential issues being included? Or, should there be a process whereby the final status of legislation happens after going through the political processes, becoming law and then facing a series of challenges through the courts? I can see that giving lots of work for lawyers.

    "Top legal advice" is available through the Law Officers. But it should never be through judges who are required to determine individual cases on the basis of argument on behalf of parties.

    I'm finding it hard to understand the strength of support shown here for an upper house whose members are not elected by popular vote. The last such house here was, from memory, in South Australia and that went in the 1970s. It had by then become very much an anachronism.
  • I'd swap democracy for some kind of meritocratic system where anyone who wants to vote has to pass some kind of citizenship test. I'd pitch the test at around 'A' Level standard and the pass mark would be C. As an incentive, you also get the right to apply for a passport.
    Should get a better informed electorate and stop the yahoos embarrassing us in front of the foreigners.
  • SipechSipech Shipmate
    I think the cabinet should be democratically elected, rather than appointed by the prime minister. They would need to stand for election to a particular post, having already gained experience and/or a relevant qualification. For example, the health secretary must have a minimum of 5 years' experience working in the UK healthcare system as a doctor, consultant or nurse; the chancellor of the exchequer must be a qualified accountant or an experienced economist.

    I would ban filibustering.

    When an MP takes their seat, they should, rightly, be paid. Though they should come up to full pay during a probationary period. First, start with no pay, though they may apply for an emergency grant, which will involve lots of paperwork and sitting around waiting for appointments. Then they should progress up to job seekers allowance (or whatever the equivalent is), then onto minimum wage, then median wage, then onto full pay. The intention being that they learn to live in a manner that many of their constituents do.

    All outside financial interests to be banned. MPs can't have a second job or receive dividend or rental income.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    MPs from working class backgrounds would be barred from standing under your proposals. It's a no from me.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Fawkes Cat wrote: »
    The problem with a federal system of England - Northern Ireland - Scotland - Wales is that out of a total population of ~66m, England has a population of ~55m (figures grabbed from Wikipedia). That means there's one part with a population of 5 times all the others put together, which is hardly a community of equals.

    For a federal system to work, there would need to be a number of English regions, each operating more or less on a par with the other three nations. As a Londoner who has lived in the north west of England for 22 years, I think this would be a great idea. But I'm in a minority: most of the English seem to rather fancy the idea of being an 800lb gorilla, even if that means doing what London wants.

    So despite my earlier argument about starting from first principles, maybe we need to start from where we are. And where can we get from there?
    I can see that, and I think it's a problem, but for a federal system to stick and have credibility, the various units have got to represent genuine identities. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do. Carved up bits of England chosen for administrative convenience wouldn't gel. Nobody would take them seriously, and the Scots and Welsh would, quite reasonably, regard it as an insult that their identity was treated as on a par with a randomly selected lump of the East Midlands.

    Nor do I think asymmetrical federalism would work. I think the whole point and validity of autonomy is that each bit has to have the same amount of autonomy. There mustn't be a bit with less, or no autonomy. Beside, Spain manifestly doesn't work at the moment.

    If there's to be a federal state at all, then asymmetrical federalism is unavoidable. Northern Ireland already has a non-replicable status, owing to the various Ireland acts, let alone the Good Friday Agreement, where its essential status is part of an international treaty. Then there's Scotland, which has always maintained a separate legal system, and an assembly and government based on a strong national identity-- it's not a provincial identity, like Saskatchewan, or Queensland, or Mercia. Wales, as well, has its assembly and a good chunk of the principality uses a different language. None of these characteristics will apply to any English province, nor can they be suppressed or removed in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. It may be that England is best off as a single big province, focussing on its schools, health system, and the administration of justice-- it's an arguable position, although I personally like smaller units. The Westminster parliament, reduced in size, would focus on UK-relevant work, such as coordination of standards, the military etc., while an English assembly would deal with English issues.

    That Spain "manifestly doesn't work" is not a result of asymmetrical federalism but more of unresolved questions from the civil war (and from an astonishing pattern of political and social corruption, a source of shame to many Spaniards) and an attempt to impose a nation-state ideology on peoples who weren't interested--e.g., Franco's attempt to suppress local languages. Indeed, it could be argued that Spain's asymmetrical approach is a practical and measured response to remedying these realities, but the overall situation has not been helped by bad fiscal policies on the part of the central and Catalan governments.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Sipech I really, really don't agree with your suggestion that the individual members of the Cabinet (including presumably the Prime Minister) should be directly elected. Apart from being unworkable, it would give each of them a spurious claim to a personal mandate.

    And bearing in mind how every time there's a reshuffle, one finds oneself mentally asking of most of the new ones, 'who the h**l is he or she?' how would we all choose who to vote for?
  • SipechSipech Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    @Sipech I really, really don't agree with your suggestion that the individual members of the Cabinet (including presumably the Prime Minister) should be directly elected. Apart from being unworkable, it would give each of them a spurious claim to a personal mandate.

    And bearing in mind how every time there's a reshuffle, one finds oneself mentally asking of most of the new ones, 'who the h**l is he or she?' how would we all choose who to vote for?

    I wouldn't intend on having a qualification restriction for prime minister. But I would have the prime minister elected directly. i.e. you would have a ballot paper that let's you choose between Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Joe Bloggs, etc. Can you think of a better way to ensure that someone reasonably knowledgeable and experienced takes a given Cabinet role than merely being rewarded for personal loyalty as our current system has?

    I forgot to add that when voting for your local MP, each should be made to sit a test to examine their knowledge and understanding on a number of social, political and economic issues, as well as local knowledge of the area they would be representing. This wouldn't bar anyone from standing, but their test results would be on the ballot paper next to their name.
  • edited April 16
    The difficulty with electing a PM directly, as the Israelis discovered when they tried it, was that one will often get a PM without a legislative majority and, accordingly, no ability to get a budget passed (with the consequences we frequently see in US politics) or their legislative mandate approved. They apparently gave it up.

    In Oz (at least in the 80s-- someone knowledgeable can correct me), the Labour party caucus used to elect a panel from which the PM would choose their ministers. An unkind friend of mine thought that this approach would be a delight to premiers with passive-aggressive tendencies, as they would then allocate ministries to the most (insert appropriate emoji) deserving recipients.
  • I'd swap democracy for some kind of meritocratic system where anyone who wants to vote has to pass some kind of citizenship test. I'd pitch the test at around 'A' Level standard and the pass mark would be C. As an incentive, you also get the right to apply for a passport.
    Should get a better informed electorate and stop the yahoos embarrassing us in front of the foreigners.

    Not very bright people are also citizens, their concerns also matter, and a government should have reason to be concerned about their welfare.
  • FredegundFredegund Shipmate
    Quite. It would be like the old property qualification which disenfranchised most of the population. Though I can't help feeling frivolous and wishing we could have Lord Vetinari (apologies to the non-Pratchett fans, if any, out there)
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