There are obviously lots of things that I would like to see changed about our political system and Westminster. Most importantly for me would be electoral reform of the House of Commons to a roughly proportional system (I favour STV with multi-member constituencies). However I bang on about that all the time on this blog and I am sure there will be plenty of people submitting that idea already so I thought I would try something a bit different. Here goes:
What's the big idea?
I would like to see the chamber of the House of Commons and the way it operates reformed in a number of ways:
1) The chamber is too small to fit all MPs in. On budget day they end up standing at the back and sitting on the stairs. It's ridiculous that a chamber designed for 427 people is still being used for 646. It should be updated to seat all members. If it can be done in situ, fine otherwise it may mean moving the location of the chamber. So be it.
2) MPs should have desks in front of them for papers etc. MSPs have them. Why cannot MPs? It is not very dignified for them to have to stand up holding sheafs of paper.
3) Jeering and heckling should be stopped in the chamber. It belongs in another age. It makes our politicians seem like schoolchildren and is one of the things that turns members of the public off. Any MP heckling or barracking in this way should be suspended from the chamber and persistent offenders should be disbarred. This sort of behaviour would not be tolerated in most other institutions where people make speeches and need to be heard. Why do we tolerate it in our primary legislative chamber?
4) At the very least MPs should be able to vote electronically from their seats in the Commons as MSPs can in the Scottish Parliament. However I also think there is a case for MPs to be able to vote remotely if necessary. I should clarify this though, in that I do not think this should be done as a matter of course. It is better if MPs have been at a debate in order to listen to the arguments but let's not kid ourselves that that is what always happens now anyway. What I want to get away from is the silly situation of forcing members to make long trips back to the chamber in order to vote (sometimes even from abroad). This is unneccessary and again belongs in a different age. I accept this proposal needs to be tightened up a bit but in principle there should be a way to make it happen.
5) MPs should be able to address each other by name.
Why is this change important to you?
The House of Commons is our primary legislature and the way it is currently constituted and run belongs to a different age. My proposals might seem marginal and perhaps even petty to some but the current operation reflects very badly on MPs and our whole political system. Things like those listed above are part of the reason why people feel disconnected from politics and why it seems so alien. I have many friends and family members who are not that interested in politics and they are baffled by these things.
Of course there are lots of other, more important reforms that should be implemented (many of which I have blogged about before) and hopefully they will be submitted in large number to the POWER2010 commission. However I do feel that the measures above will go a long way to bringing the chamber and operation of House of Commons into the 21st century and helping the process of re-engaging the electorate with those who are supposed to represent them.
I now tag the following 5 bloggers to put forward their ideas:
Will Straw, editor of Left Foot Forward
Sara Bedford from Always Win When You're Singing
Dazmando from Bracknell Blog
and The Fluffy one, Millennium Dome Elephant