How to bring about constitutional reform: vote out all MPs!

There’s an interesting thread on the Our Kingdom site at the moment about the best tactics for bringing about radical constitutional reform in the UK. Anthony Barnett’s piece detailing seven possible strategies, which kicked off the thread, is especially worth checking out.

I have previously suggested in this blog that one possible tactic would be to form a new political party – for instance, called the ‘Change Party’ – that would stand on a single ticket of working for fundamental constitutional reform. One of Anthony’s suggestions (a loose network of independent candidates standing on such a reform platform) comes close to this; and the grass-roots movement they’re trying to get underway, ‘Real Change‘, further picks up the change theme.

Under my Britology Watch persona, I myself made a comment in one of the posts in the thread to the effect that probably only something like an English ‘Velvet Revolution’ would actually force the political establishment to accept a reform process driven by popular demand and based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people. I think this may well be correct; but then the circumstances would have to be pretty extreme – even more extreme than they already are, that is – to persuade the hundreds of thousands and even millions of English citizens that would be required to pour out on to the streets of London and reclaim parliament for the English nation. What might finally do it is something like a lethal autumn and winter swine-flu epidemic that the government’s supposedly well organised contingency plan proves powerless to deal with, bringing about serious damage to the economy as schools, businesses and infrastructure shut down, finally moving people to boiling point about our useless, deceitful government and spineless parliament. But such a crisis is not something we should lightly wish upon ourselves.

However, the sovereignty of the people can exercise itself in another way: through the ballot box. If the members of this present parliament, of whatever party, fail to come up with any serious constitutional-reform proposals in time for the next election, then we can simply vote them out in the hope that the new people coming in to parliament will recognise they’ve been sent there to overhaul the system and will do something about it. In other words, in each constituency, we should vote for the candidate who has the best chance of beating the present incumbent, whatever party – or none – that candidate represents. In this way, our vote may actually be able to achieve something (e.g. boot out MPs from hitherto ‘safe seats’), and the composition of the new parliament would be radically different, not just in party terms but with respect to its individual members.

There are limits to this approach, clearly; and each person will have their pales beyond which they will not go. Some MPs are actually quite decent and have made a genuine effort to represent their constituencies effectively, act independently and hold the government to account; even Labour MPs. Examples, though few and far between, could be Frank Field, Diane Abbott or David Davies. Such people could well be adjudged to be of a sufficient calibre to support the thoroughgoing constitutional-reform measures that are necessary. Similarly, I would be highly reluctant to vote for any Labour candidate even if, by some freak, that candidate was best-placed to beat the sitting MP. But this situation isn’t exactly likely to arise that often at the next general election, if at all!

In the constituency where I live, this tactic would involve voting Lib Dem in order to defeat the present Tory MP. Only the Lib Dems have any remote chance of winning against the Tories here, and then only if the Tories or the MP himself (who has kept his hands clean in the expenses furore) do something seriously inept to damage their chances.

Or unless there is a widespread popular movement to vote out all current MPs in order to press for constitutional reform. Even if this didn’t work in my constituency, it could work in many others; and if a movement such as this gathered sufficient momentum, it could just manage to make the mainstream parties scared enough to start talking, and hopefully doing something, about real reform.

It’s not revolution; but it would be a democratic, restrained, English way to bring about revolutionary results!

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