Constitutional Reform

According to Bill Emmott writing in The Times, Monday 9th of May (Memo on Reform), a difficulty facing all advocates of constitutional reform is that without some crisis facing the country it is difficult to convince people that there is a constitutional problem that needs to be solved.
This then explains in a way the heavy defeat of the Yes campaign for the Alternative Vote (AV) in the referendum of last Thursday (Refer also to articles under Categories/Chairmans Blog/Alternative Vote in the right-hand index column). Here the difficulty in presenting a case for electoral reform was that the need for governments to be properly representative of the people as argued by the Liberal Democrats, seems to have already been met by the existing first-past-the-post voting system, which resulted in a Coalition government consisting of two parties supported by more than 50% of the voters in the 2010 national election. As indicated by the referendum results, an AV system that then just results in a coalition containing more Liberal Democrats than now seems not worth changing the voting system for the vast majority of people.
Having lost the AV referendum, therefore, Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrat party leader and Deputy Prime Minister, should tread carefully with his proposals for direct election by Proportional Representation (PR) to the House of Lords, possibly the biggest constitutional and cultural anachronism in the country but the latter by itself not sufficient argument for change. He would do better instead to make the case for a stronger check on the House of Commons, by a legitimate, elected and stronger Upper House.
Electing peers to the House of Lords could then change the balance of power in Parliament with PR in turn making the Lord essentially more representative of the people and, therefore, more legitimate than the Commons, the latter currently unchecked by any constitutional role for the Head of State (The Monarch) and little restrained by the current House of Lords (notwithstanding e.g. the 11th May rejection by Peers of the Government Bill for Elected Police Commissioners).
In a similar way, Alex Salmon with his Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) now a governing majority in the Scottish Parliament, should think carefully about what problem he is aiming to solve with his plans for a referendum on Scottish independence from the UK, given that most Scots seem currently against it, they can fly the Scottish flag when they want, have a strong sense of national identity, control e.g. their own health care, legal and education systems and could not have afforded the recent British taxpayer-funded bail-out of their major banks i.e. RBS and HBOS.

2 Responses to “Constitutional Reform”

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