We know the the reason you are being summoned is what’s often called Parliament’s “democratic deficit”: the large number of seats you do not hold, and the smaller number of policies you are ready to support. The well-funded opposition machine – funded with time spent labelling Tory policies as extreme and toiling to brand Labour as radical – should have by now overwhelmed you.
But I believe that the majority of the reform and renewal package discussed by your committee would meet that test and more. The tax and prosperity bill, that first and most pressing issue, will clearly increase revenue by close to £300bn per year. Even before that sums are added to the trillion-pound giveaways likely to take place in the interim budget.
Wherever possible, I believe you can limit further tax cuts for the rich, so in time we can have a tax system that is fairer. Wherever possible, I believe you can introduce more equitable funding for public services and give your employees the right to trade union protection.
On the left, we want pay, policies and even a guaranteed seat in our MPs’ lobby. On the right, we want more transparency and media control. Here are three things that I believe we can also work together on.
Working for a public commission in a parliamentary democracy is not a part-time job. There’s no compelling reason why we should decide on the structure and method of this body on a part-time basis. Disappointed that the review did not explore the establishment of an independent constitutional commission, we can propose for you the establishment of a Royal Commission on modern constitutional reform and modern democratic renewal. A commission that enjoys broad cross-party support in the Commons and Senate.
Political parties would be trusted by voters to commit to deeper democratic reform – not hurl insults at each other
For most of the past decade the cross-party, cross-party cross-party, cross-platform working group chaired by Vince Cable has produced sensible proposals that have failed to get off the ground because of the harsh climate created by the funding and media processes. The group could now share its experiences, and develop fresh ideas, within an independent commission. We would thus avoid duplications and unnecessary stress, give clarity on the scope of proposals, and build confidence across the political spectrum and with the public.
A Royal Commission with cross-party support would offer new ideas, anticipate future areas of cross-party consensus, and set the agenda for structural reform. It would avoid the risk of sudden outcome, but also build the same consensus across the UK. A commission which avoided criticism of political parties would have a far more durable effect on deepening democracy. The Royal Commission on Modern Constitutional Reform would be more credible and would make new ideas at the centre of the democratic agenda, which is increasingly where our concerns are.
What my research suggests to me is that this could be handled without a fully meaningful process of public consultation, opening the door to some nasty mudslinging about which decent MPs can readily disown their stake. Instead of the serious risk of knocking out one party with a minimal risk of being knocked out by the other, we can collectively shut down a small number of fringe extremist press and radio outlets, while also shutting down the thin veil of political neutrality.
For example, it would make more sense for the public to invest £400m in public TV channels while freeing up money in the corporation tax because we could all not have too many partisan broadcasters. It would even make sense for the Crown Copyright and Royal Mail, both of which are funded by digital copyright royalties, to make some of that money available to the Royal Commission.
An independent commission on modern constitutional reform and modern democratic renewal could construct a set of ideas in order to transform the debate about how we do politics in the UK. That is a process that works. It works by bringing together support across the political spectrum. Working for a public commission in a parliamentary democracy is not a part-time job. There’s no compelling reason why we should decide on the structure and method of this body on a part-time basis.