Thursday, May 20, 2010

Big reform on the table in Britain

The aftermath of the British election continues to amaze. Look at the sweeping reform being proposed:
The plan would also create a fully elected House of Lords, scrapping heredity and political favor as a passport to power, and commit to a referendum on changing the voting system for the House of Commons. Under the proposed “alternative vote” system, candidates would have to gain 50 percent or more of the vote in their constituencies to secure election, effectively shaking up the politics of “safe” parliamentary seats that has given many M.P.’s what amounts to lifetime employment.

In addition, the plan would adopt an American-style power of recall, opening the way for restive voters to unseat errant lawmakers by gathering 10,000 signatures on a petition, and introduce new laws to regulate Britain’s $3.5-billion-a-year political lobbying industry. It would also set a five-year “fixed term” for parliaments, coupled with a new law requiring the votes of at least 55 percent of M.P.’s to topple the government, instead of a simple majority as at present. That measure is intended, the coalition has said, to discourage political parties from forcing elections for purely partisan reasons.
But supporters hailed Mr. Clegg’s speech for challenging what has been an article of faith in many quarters throughout modern history: that Britain, with its historical claim as the “mother of democracy,” has remained an example for much of the rest of the world to envy. For much of the last 200 years, a British prime minister backed by a loyal parliamentary majority, and freed from the constraints of a written constitution, has had powers that American presidents and other rulers could only envy.
It's early yet, with unknowns about the strength of that coalition, but it's going to be quite interesting to see how much of this is achieved. Lots of food for thought for other interested democracies and political parties, obviously. It's all set out at "The Coalition:our programme for government" or read an embedded hard copy here.

Not on the reform agenda, however, would be the use of such country estates where Nick Clegg, the Deputy PM, and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary will just have to make do with being roomies (not kidding):