Friday, 3 July 2015

What a 21st century democracy might look like

In the last few articles on this blog I talked about some of the political problems we are facing in Britain today and how these could be addressed through a citizens convention on the constitution, which would ultimately produce the first ever written constitution of Britain. The peoples constitution. There will of course be much opposition from the political elites and others to accepting this new constitution, most of whom are very comfortable with the way things are at the moment, thank you very much. They will not just hand over their privileged positions and power because the people have come up with a better idea. I don’t know how we get around this problem, but strongly believe someone will know how we can force the hands of the political elites to carry out the will of the people.

So assuming we have found a way and the peoples constitution has been enshrined in UK law, what might this new democratic society look like? Parliament could be moved to a more central location, in an existing building that is renovated for the purpose. Westminster palace could be sold off to be developed into much needed affordable social housing. Both the House of Lords and local councils might be abolished and it’s role passed to new constituency councils that would be set up in each of the 650 existing constituencies in UK. Members of constituency councils could be made up of democratically elected local constituents. The councils would hold the balance of power on behalf of their constituents. Annual spending budgets would be prepared by council departments and voted on by the constituents. Full details of public spending would be made publicly available online and in hard copy by the constituency councils, who will also provide regular updates on local spending at their monthly meetings. Any constituent may attend and vote at any meeting of the council, to raise an issue, or hold the council to account.

MP’s could be held accountable to their constituents through the local constituency council, who will be enabled to discipline their MP as they see fit, including sacking of the MP if deemed appropriate. In circumstances where the council deems there are grounds for dismissal of their MP, all local constituents will have a vote on this. MP’s will be required to attend council meetings at least bi monthly, where they will present a report on their work in parliament. Full details of MP’s expenses will be made publicly available on the constituency councils website. MP’s will be given a salary equal to the national average wage, with the opportunity to earn an annual bonus based on performance. Constituency councils will make a recommendation on the value of the bonus and constituents will vote on whether or not to award that bonus. By attending council meetings, MP’s will be able to obtain feedback on how their constituents would wish them to vote on a particular issue. As any constituent could attend any council meeting, this would help to close the divide between MP’s and their constituents.

Control and ownership of public assets would lay with the people of Britain. In the event of parliament proposing to sell off a publicly owned asset, it would have to first produce a report outlining the reasons for this proposal, including a full cost benefit analysis of the sale. This report would then be passed to all constituency councils, who would analyse it and make a recommendation based on it’s constituents best interests. Constituents would then vote on whether or not to sell the proposed asset. This would prevent the disastrous outcomes for the taxpayer we have been seeing over the past thirty years or more, where successive governments have sold off our publicly owned companies and other assets without consulting us and at vast losses to the public purse. Too many once great British companies that were making profits and annual contributions to society through taxes have been sold for less than their true market value. This is at least a contributory factor to our falling productivity output levels.

In a new democratic society Britain would no longer pander to the ever increasing demands of multi national corporations. We the people would dictate the terms and conditions of all corporations being allowed to trade in Britain. Most fundamental I suggest, would be an agreement to pay all taxes that and when they become due. Company directors would be made personally liable for the actions of their corporation. Anyone company or individual not paying their taxes would be dealt with using the full extent of the law. The same treatment would apply trading in a way that might cause damage to our environment. Any corporation wishing to trade in Britain will be made welcome and we will support them, but along with those benefits comes the expectation that they will respect our laws and our society. The ultimate sanction for a corporation breaking our laws would be the removal of their licence to trade in Britain. Participation in full country by country reporting and a public register of corporate ownership would also be conditions of trading in a new democratic society.

Each constituency council would have responsibility for properly enforcing the national minimum wage within it’s borders. The national minimum wage would be increased to a living wage. Any employer found to be paying someone less than the national minimum wage will in the first instance be issued with a formal forming. Constituency councils will have a range of sanctions available to them, with the ultimate sanction being the removal of the employers licence to trade. The national minimum wage would apply equally to anyone entitled to work in UK, help to tackle the growing problem of people living in poverty, give workers a sense of self worth, pride and value in the work they do, increase household incomes, increase tax revenues which could be spent on public spending and eventually eliminate the need for top up benefits such as tax credits and housing benefits for low income workers. There is an estimated £85billion per year of public money being spent on subsidising big corporations that pay low wages.

Power and control would be moved away from a centralised government and into the hands of constituency councils, with British citizens holding the ultimate balance of power and control. The role of parliament might be to draft, debate and vote on new legislation as it sees fit. Bills passed by parliament would then be handed over to constituency councils for review, amendments and voting on the bill. Councils may decide to pass the bill to it’s constituents for a vote and no bill may become law without approval of at least two thirds of the constituency councils. Bills relating to matters of national interest and votes on a proposal from government to take us to war would have to go to a national referendum. This would be a truly democratic Britain, run by the people, on behalf of the people.  

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