03 March 2006

Labour party members must lobby for Power Commission recommendations.

Report after report tells us the same thing. As Helena Kennedy head of the Power Commission put it, 'Our way of doing politics is killing politics'

This commission came up with 30 recommendations with some startling facts to back them up. There is a consensus that individuals and local communities need to be given more power and control over resources, but this entails politicians giving up power, and as Jonathan Freedling explains they obviously are reluctant to do that.

The main recommendations are;

Guidelines setting out the powers of the executive, parliament and local government. (I would go further and have these things in a written constitution).

Mandatory referenda if 2% of electorate (800,000) sign petition on an issue (debate in parliament if 1% sign up). (Issue cannot be change in taxation or contrary to Human Rights Act). So for example, we would have had referenda on the Euro, EU membership, Iraq, a smoking ban, and ID cards. There would be a limit of 1 referendum per 5 years on each issue.

Proportional Representation. The single transferable vote is suggested but an open list system similar to Scandanavian electoral systems would also be good. Finland has an open list system and has consistently been voted the most democratic country in the world.

Donations capped at 10k to stop rich people buying favours.

Individuals given option to allocate 3 pounds of state funding (but only if they choose to) to a political party by ticking relevant box on ballot paper. This gives extra incentive for parties to increase turnout. I really like this suggestion.

Murdoch, Rothermere and Desmond families to face firing squad. (Ok they didn't say exactly that), but strict limits to be placed on media ownership. This is essential for a properly functioning democracy.

So, this is all good stuff but why would politicians give away their power? The answer is we as Labour members are going to have to make our party and government listen and for a start honour their commitment to a referendum on electoral reform. The signs are that some, including Gordon Brown are starting to listen to the arguments. I look forward to GB's speech at the Power Commission conference in London on March 25th, register here to attend.


  1. I like the idea of increasing funding for local party activity as set out by the PoWEr INquiry.

    But shouldn't we start with the reallocation of our own Labour Party subscriptions? Swiftly followed by efforts to increase membership?

    Peter Kenyon
    Chair, Save the Labour Party

  2. Until we get proportional representation, unfortunately it makes sense that subscriptions are targeted towards marginal constituencies.

    The changes proposed in the Power Commission will mean all parties will HAVE to be become more democratic because they will face competition from minority parties both to their left and right that can now win seats.

    What is the STLP position on PR?

  3. big problem with PR is that candidates that have lost (even very badly) can get to be elected. Say the greens or NF run in every seat, even though every electorate may have been very clear that they don't want a green or NF representative, there may still end up being a green / NF elected.

  4. Anon: if the BNP get 5% of the votes, they should get 5% of the seats. That is democracy. I believe, that as the BNP get more exposure and are destroyed in debate, their vote will fall.

    Under STV or an open list system, only the most popular candidates will be elected. I am not proposing the closed list system that can allow losing constituency candidates to be elected on the list (although this is now being changed for Scottish/Welsh elections where it was a problem).

    It is FPTP that elects MPs on 10% of the electorate and losing parties in government on a minority of the vote. There is no comparison.