PR voting demanded as top reform by public


8:00 am - February 24th 2010

by Chris Barnyard    


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A demand for proportional representation was voted as the top Parliament reform by popular choice, the Power2010 campaign group said today.

The most popular proposals that will make up the ‘Power Pledge’ will now be: PR, the end of ID cards and government data hoarding, an elected House of Lords, English votes on English laws, and a commitment to drawing up a written constitution.

Over a 100,000 votes were cast on the Power2010 website, which also conducted deliberative discussion events across the country.

Power2010 Director Pam Giddy said:

This campaign sends the clearest possible message to the political classes that it is time to listen to the people’s demands. 100,000 votes were cast – and we expect many thousands of people across the country to pledge their support before the election.

We’ve taken the campaign to towns and cities across the country and everywhere heard the same thing: it’s time to fix our political system, not fiddle it.

The next phase of the campaign will see voters asked to commit their support to a majority of the proposals – at least three – and then challenge every candidate at the next general election to support them too.

A network of regional campaigners, supported by high profile partner organisations and a national marketing campaign will also be used to push the campaign forward.

Pam Giddy added:

We’re going to keep up the pressure until election day to make sure the people who want to represent us in parliament take these results seriously and back our campaign for change.

The campaign is backed by the Joseph Rowntree Trusts and is supported by a wide coalition of organisations and individuals.
www.power2010.org.uk

From a press release

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Chris is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is an aspiring journalist and reports stories for LC.
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Reader comments


Bit of a Daily Mail-esque misleading headline isn’t it? It was voted the top reform by 100,000 self-selecting people who voted on a website. Yes they are members of the public but it’s hardly thr public as a whole. Isn’t this what is known as voodoo polling?

2. Sunder Katwala

Power 2010 is a good way to try to generate awareness of reform issues. But there is an aggregation problem in then campaigning for all of the five winners, and saying that only candidates who back all five are champions of democracy. It would seem to me more sensible to have candidates saying they back 3 or 4 causes, and which they are, which would enable eg anti-PR Tories or anti-English votes LibDems to make common cause with the campaign on those issues where they agree.

Although 100,000 people voted, of course the number of people participating who voted for or support all of the five measures is much lower.

The breakdown of which issues led in the different phases is very interesting. The detail is on the Power 2010 website.

1 – the initial submissions
2. – the deliberative public ‘jury’ (where issues had to get majority support to stay in0
3. the final vote

– English Parliament led on the first round with about 400 nominations, because it was mobilised by campaigners who saw Power as a good target for that relatively small campaign. (Other causes – eg Euroscepticsm – have many more outlets and did not give this a similar priority).
– Electoral reform did relatively poorly in the deliberative stage, but just made the shortlist of 29 measures put to the final vote. Rather narrower reforms were preferred to broad constitutoonal changes.
– The final list may also reflect the balance of opinion among a range of diverse campaigning groups which saw the opportunity to mobilise support, ie PR, English campaign, civil liberties. That is good work for all of them … but whether or not the sum of their efforts amounts to a “democracy package” is a more difficult question.

They have just about avoided having five pledges which have been LibDem policy for 20 years, because English votes stayed in; but instead they do have five pledges which it may be difficult to find many people and especially any candidates who agree with all five.

Douglas Carswell may back both PR and English votes for English laws: I am not sure how many other people would. English votes strikes me as largely incoherent without a much broader reconstitution of the British polity.

There is a case for saying that the process of a citizens convention makes the winning issues legitimate (even for those who disagree with them, because they have had their say). But that depends on the range of participation. The Power2010 campaigners must now back these measures because they won through the process that was offered. It doesn’t in itself do much to change the balance of arguments for or against either PR or English votes for English laws.

I would have thought that the two most popular “democracy” demands in the country as a whole are
– get out of Europe (intense but minority support, probably a majority against … a referendum on membership this fell in the Power deliberative stage)
– proportional representation (broad support but relatively low salience, intense support among a narrower group)

But there is only a little overlap between advocates of these two causes.

3. Gaf the Horse

It’s not actually even 100,000 people to be honest. I’ve signed up to Power 2010 and we were allowed to vote multiple times, I think it’s more like 5,000 – 10,000 people.

I agree with you, the headline is a bit misleading. I don’t think Power 2010 is really meant to be a balanced representation the UK. It’s more of a pressure group really. The next step is to start bombarding our local MPs with requests to support the reforms we’ve voted on, (I’m looking forward to that, our Tory MP has stopped replying to me now, and I’ve let him get away with it recently, but I think I can probably manage an email a day until he does reply :-)).

I think it’s a great mix of reforms which, if implemented, would be truly transformative. Sunder is right that there will be few people in the country who can say they back all 5 but this opens up a space for those who disagree to have a debate and look for common ground whilst still being firm and demanding support for at least three.

Fascinating that the national question should have entered mainstream constitutional discussion like this. It’s true it has relatively low salience but when the public is polled there is a good deal of support (60%+ in the latest State of the Nations poll) for English Votes on English Laws. Many of the people voting for this measure were quite clearly of the view that it’s unworkable as a long-term solution but voted for it to highlight the injustice of the current situation. It’s a running sore that will need to be addressed sooner or later and this opens the way for it to be discussed in a constructive fashion. Are we happy with the status quo even as more powers are devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? Do we want the narrow technical “fix” of EVoEL? Or is there is a need to address this fully as part of a federal constitutional settlement? I look forward to the discussion – and very much hope the liberals on LibCon will join it too.

Guy, Power2010

Sunder makes an important observation:

They have just about avoided having five pledges which have been LibDem policy for 20 years, because English votes stayed in; but instead they do have five pledges which it may be difficult to find many people and especially any candidates who agree with all five.

Douglas Carswell may back both PR and English votes for English laws: I am not sure how many other people would. English votes strikes me as largely incoherent without a much broader reconstitution of the British polity.

It is presumably because English Votes on English Laws made the top five – and the Power2010 Pledge is no longer a progressive charter – that they have changed the rules.

We were led to believe that the top five reforms would form the Power2010 Pledge and we would lobby prospective MPs to sign up to that pledge. To quote Helena Kennedy:

Over the months before the general election we are going to build this public agenda for changing politics and stage a mass popular “vote” for the five reforms people most want to see the next Parliament carry through.

This is the Power2010 Pledge; a public commitment that every candidate standing at the next election will be asked to make.

Now, at the 11th hour, the rules have been changed to make the Power2010 Pledge a pick n mix pledge, whereby us voters choose “at least three” reforms to lobby our candidates to make a public commitment to.

It’s the sort of sleight of hand that, had it been performed by our politicians, the people behind Power2010 would have complained bitterly about it. The Power2010 campaign that people signed up to has been changed, and for no other reason that I can see other than one of the reforms in the top five is inconvenient for the Lib Dems and Rowntree.

I must say it’s news to me that Power2010 is going to now campaign on ‘at least three’ of these reforms. Where did that come from? Are you pushing the five as your pledge or not? If not, why not? This is what we have been told for months was the entire point of the exercise.

So Power2010 is really as undemocratic as everyone else.

Quelle surprise!

I’ve just seen the Power2010 site, with all the new stuff on it. I’m supportive of all five of these reforms on the pledge. But I do feel I’ve been misled.

It seems very strange to me that in order to sign the pledge you only have to agree with three of the five reforms. Presumably this is to give you wider reach rather (I hope) than to make it easier for you to distance yourselves from any of them. But it also makes a nonsense of asking for five, because what you effectively do is to say that a couple of these – take your pick depending on your stance – are basically dropping out. It allows people to go to their MPs with your apparently watertight ‘democratic’ pledge, and say to them, ‘look, ignore this one and this one, but I want you to support these three.’

This presents a number of problems that I can see:

1. It makes a nonsense of a pledge containing five demands.
2. It makes you look duplicitous: we have been led all along to believe you would campaign on five pledges; now it’s suddenly the ‘best of five.’
3. You allow any less popular pledges to be sidelined despite having made the top five according to your original rules.
4. You end up not knowing what you’re really campaigning for, because you are allowing individuals and MPs to opt out of a couple of pledges they don’t like.

Either you’re campaigning on five ways to sort out our democracy or you’re not. What’s it to be?

Power2010 have changed the rules at the 11th hour just to try and edge out EVoEL. This comes after the dodgy way they engineered out the most popular call for an English Parliament at the initial stage.

Power2010 are as corrupt as the British establishment I’ll have nothing more to do with it.

10. Sunder Katwala

Guy says: “Many of the people voting for this measure were quite clearly of the view that it’s unworkable as a long-term solution but voted for it to highlight the injustice of the current situation. It’s a running sore that will need to be addressed sooner or later and this opens the way for it to be discussed in a constructive fashion. Are we happy with the status quo even as more powers are devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? Do we want the narrow technical “fix” of EVoEL?”

***

My challenge to English Votes for English Laws is not that. It would be that, once one takes it seriously as something to try to implement, it seems to me pretty much unworkable as a short-term solution. … If it were workable in the short-term, there is a good chance (this being Britain) that some kind of fudge around it would stick for a long time. cf the Parliament Act, perhaps at the cost of avoiding rather than resolving the broader issues it raises.

It is not simply a question of whether it becomes a stepping stone to a UK federal model of “Home Rule all round” as Gladstonians may have wanted 130 years ago (casting some doubt on whether we automatically slip down that slope). It might also be quite possible to make it work if, for example, one were to separate the legislature from the Executive, but the case for and against that goes much broader than devolution within the UK of course.

I agree it is voiced as a grievance demand, which highlights a range of significant questions and issues on which there is at present little sign of consensus. (the various proposals – eg English assembly; regional assemblies – all seem to me to have more opponents than supporters, which raises the broader issue that there is a broad sense of English grievance without the English having done what the Scots did do after 1992 in the Scottish constitutional convention and seek to negotiate a possible response which has broad support across diverse constituencies.

For an organisation that promotes transparency there is a certain opaqueness about proceedings.

We don’t know what went on at the deliberative stage. What was said by the constitutional experts that caused the participants to reject the most popular suggested reform? An English Parliament was the most popular idea submitted by the public to Power2010, polling 46.5% higher than the next most popular idea for reform, and amongst the deliberative group it was the 27th most popular idea before deliberation, but plummeted to 45th most popular and below the 50% approval rating required to move forward to the public vote after the experts had finished with them. Helenna Kennedy later told the House of Lords that “The people were dissuaded from an English Parliament.

I gave Power2010 the benefit of the doubt over that, but now we have this “at least three” rule introduced. Where did that come from, when was it decided, and whose decision was it?

Sunder- you say: ‘there is a broad sense of English grievance without the English having done what the Scots did do after 1992 in the Scottish constitutional convention and seek to negotiate a possible response which has broad support across diverse constituencies.’

I agree – though we should also note than in opinion polls, an English Parliament consistently brings in over half the population in support:

http://www.englishparliament.net/english-parliament-opinion-polls

But yes, the situation we are in is that English political grievances are growing due to the patent injustice of the system and the way it is being stitched up by the parties and the executive.The next stage, if this grievance is to find an outlet, is to try and create a wider movement of people responding to it and coming together, as you suggest, on some broad common ground.

It is early days – we’re nowhere near Scotland in ’92. But a first stage would be that the ‘constitutional reforming’ classes recognise it as a key issue, whatever their preferred solution. I’m not convinced this is happening here – it looks like the opposite to me.

(I should have said that addressing the English question, rather than an EP specifically, consistently has very high support, though an EP generally trumps regional solutions by some way)

14. Stephen Gash

Power 2010 has exposed itself as not even an extension of the corrupt political system bedevilling England (and I mean England). It is at the heart of the process.

Modern politicis is to devise projects that are presented to the public as ways for them to become “engaged”, “involved”, “empowered” etc. The project then does just the opposite to what was alleged it would do.

Thereby, the public become even more disenchanted, demoralised and disengaged.

That was the real purpose of Power 2010. Disenchantment, demoralisation and disengagement of the general public from politics.

What truly amazes me is the assertion that only a REFERENDUM on an English Parliament, then English Votes on English Laws (after the English Parliament REFERENDUM had been scotched) are the only ones lobbied for by campaign groups.

Some of the ones that made it into the top 29, I doubt the British public even understood let alone voted for.

Let’s just re-examine the procedure. I think this is more or less right, although I am becoming disenchanted, demoralised and disengaged from this exercise in deceit.

1. A REFERENDUM on an English Parliament was top of the proposals on public votes.

2. Deliberative voting (fixing) made the most popular choice plummet to #45

3. 29 proposals went on to the next voting with English Votes on English Laws being #27, the top five being used to lobby candidates.

4. English Votes on English Laws ends up in 4th place, so should be one of the five used to lobby candidates.

5. A new rule comes out of the blue about another vote where people have to vote for at least three.

Power 2010 has thorougly discredited itself and was/is run by a bunch of charlatans worthy of the House of Commons, in my view.

15. Stephen Gash

@ Sunder Katwala

You’ve entirely missed the point.

Power 2010 was lauded as this “new” way of engaging the public and “empowering” them.

It does not matter what proposals come top providing those proposals represent what the public demanded.

By engineering out the most popular choice and the follow-up choice, Power 2010 itself missed the point it itself claimed for its own existence. We now know that this whole thing was just a set-up and exactly the opposite of what it claimed itself to be.

Ask yourself this. If Power 2010 had in fact been Power 1997, would Scotland have its own parliament now, or would Power 1997 have scotched it as efficiently as Power 2010 scotched an English Parliament (referendum for)?

We were misled into believing that public opinion would result in the five most popular choices being used to lobby parliamentary candidates. It was supposed to be at that stage matters were to be thrashed out.

All those supporting the Power 2010 farce have come up with are reasons why the general public should not be engaged, such as, “referenda lead to knee-jerk reactions” or something similar. As if politicians do not already indulge in repetitive knee-jerks as to make us all wonder if they are employed in the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Is someone from Power2020 going to come back here and explain themselves? In particular, to explain:

1. Where the ‘best of three’ rule came from, when and why?
2. Why it wasn’t mentioned before today?
3. Whether it has anything to do with the top five not looking the way it was supposed to look?

We’re all waiting.

Paul, You’ll be waiting a long time for someone from Power2020 to come along 🙂

You’d better set comment notify to tick!

18. Stephen Gash

Toque said “but now we have this “at least three” rule introduced. Where did that come from, when was it decided, and whose decision was it?”

If anybody has the screenshot of the Power 2010’s site just before voting closed, I think I’m right in saying that it said the result would be published “tomorrow”. To me that meant after midnight, in other words the next day.

In fact the result came out the day after that, with “tomorrow” remaining on the Power 2010 website.

This gave the organisers a whole day to come up with the “at least three” rule.

I could be wrong, but that’s how it looks to me.

Oh, I don’t know … when this attempt fails, I’m sure it will be rebranded. It’s happened before!

20. J Alfred Prufrock

POWER2010 will not be campaigning on just 3 issues: it will be campaigning on all 5 issues, including English votes. It will campaign just as vigorously for EVoEL as it will for PR. But to sign it and ensure broad support, it was decided you only need to back a majority of the five whilst recognising that all 5 are urgent and need to be considered by the next Parliament.

Our partners and supporters have never pre-committed themselves to campaigning on everything we come up with and we never said they would. Of course they reserve the right to not campaign on the Pledge if they don’t want to, they are autonomous organisations and individuals. I hear that a version of English Votes on English Laws is going to be on in the Labour manifesto anyway (non-English MPs will be “asked” not to vote on English laws) – EVoEL is not the only, or even, the most divisive, reform.

Power wants a Pledge that will appeal cross party. No Tories and few Labour supporters could sign up to PR, but we want to have a space to have the discussion and they will be lobbied on it.

Also, there was no attempt to “fix” the vote. There was healthy competition with other organisations pushing their reforms – nothing wrong with that. English campaigners got it on the Pledge. Great. Why not react positively to this?

Ask yourselves, how many campaigns do you actually know where the goals are decided by an open process of voting and deliberation engaging people from both left and right? Rowntree didn’t have to spend its money this way. But it chose to as it wanted to highlight issues with genuine popular support. Why not positively embrace this and see how it can be linked to other issues and concerns within the Pledge, such as a written constitution, and taken forward? Constant sniping, demanding that Rowntrees explain itself to you and accusing it of conspiracy, won’t help the cause of English democracy.

“But to sign it and ensure broad support, it was decided you only need to back a majority of the five whilst recognising that all 5 are urgent and need to be considered by the next Parliament.”

Decided by whom, and when? And why weren’t we aware of it?

Thanks for the explanation, Guy. I am not sniping or being paranoid: but I am, as I say, disappointed. As it happens, I support all five of these pledges. Actually, EVoEL is not my favourite amongst them. But I’m sure you can understand why people are bothered. Can’t you?

Power2010 is an organisation campaigning for transparency: but it seems to display none. I wonder, for example, why you didn’t film your deliberative panel, so that everyone could see it was fair and balanced. Then people might understand how very popular measures slipped off the chart.

And I wonder how and when this ‘best of three’ thing came about? Sorry to keep coming back to it, but it’s surely crucial. It really makes a mockery of the five pledges. ‘It was decided’, you say, that it would make sense. When? And why? Can you understand why this looks dodgy? Why wasn’t it stated right from the start that this would be the mechanism? If I, for one, had known this I might not have bothered getting involved.

I’m not alleging a fix or a conspiracy: but I am saying this looks opaque and shifty – and at the very least, badly organised and badly thought-through.

24. Sunder Katwala

Stephen Gash

Thanks. While I am sympathetic to Power 2010’s attempts to mobilise support for constitutional reform, I don’t speak for it. And I am rather sceptical about and somewhat critical of the core narrative which was at the heart of the power inquiry itself (while being very sympathetic to several of its recommendations) because it seemed to me to broadly articulate an “anti-politics” argument which i think a problematic basis for the constructive programme of political renewal which it was advocating. I discuss that in my contribution to this IPPR collection on political renewal, where I argue that the Jury Team from the apolitical independents, the Power Inquiry from the liberal-left and the Hannan-Carswell direct democracy advocates on the right often articulate a similar and problematic account of the purpose of politics which seems to me to often have anti-political features.

At the heart of this tension seemed to me an idea of “we the people” as unproblematically supporting Power’s own important but contested political agenda,so that the problem being that this was blocked by “the system” and would be unblocked by mobilisation of the people against the system. So for me, the Power inquiry itself could never quite decide whether the problem was that the political system was not doing “what the people want”, or whether it was that professional politics had become too focus group driven (trying to ape too closely what the people want) and not ideological and value-based enough. It seemed to argue both (somewhat opposing) views.

http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=713

The potential problems of aggregation with a “public vote” to pick five campaigning themes partly captures that tension. However, the argument that Power should respond to the result as it said it would is obviously a legitimate challenge which can of course be voiced in terms of legitimacy, transparency and trust (though I was suggesting Power 2010 may have had more influence by planning to allow an element of pick and mix in campaigning for the five different goals: the question of whether these are strongly or loosely related may be part of this).

As a supporter of an English Parliament, do you back all five of the winning issues?

It is obviously good for campaigners for English representation to persuade campaigners for other constitutional reforms to make common cause. But I can’t see how that could be fully achieved by winning an internet-based democracy poll – you would have to persuade (as the Scottish convention did with crucial sceptical groups, such as trade unions and the Labour Party) those broader civic reformist forces of the justice and relevance of the cause. Similarly, if Power now mount a strong campaign for all five principles, they will not by doing so necessarily convert all of the supporters of an English Parliament who were PR-sceptics to that cause too.

***
On the broader reform narrative, my colleague Tim Horton earlier wrote this in a fabian pamphlet Facing Out

“A fashionable story dominates much public discussion of the problem with politics today. The electorate has become cynical and disaffected with formal politics because increasing educational attainment has allowed them to recognise how out-of-touch and bankrupt politicians and parties are. Though apparently champing at the bit to get more involved, these ‘new citizens’ are withdrawing from participation in formal politics and instead immersing themselves in community activism and campaigning groups. Yet the old parties and politicians – relics of a bygone age of class politics – maintain their selfish stranglehold on the system, preventing a new era of democracy from being born.

.. If this is the problem, the solution is obvious: change the institutions, change the parties, get the politicians in their place and put ‘the people’ in charge without having to work through the formal political structures … et voila! We will all come rushing back to engage in a new golden age of citizen democracy. If only it were that simple”.

I discuss the challenges to that zeitgeist view (which I think is now dominant in much public discussion of reform, and may therefore well capture the instincts of several contributors here on LC, especially as this tends to be a ‘beyond party’ reformist space) in this post about the Jury Team which, while different, in some ways shares some foundations of the analysis of what “the problem with politics is” …
http://www.nextleft.org/2009/03/what-anti-party-party-can-teach-us.html

The Power2010 website clearly states:

“The five most popular ideas following the vote became the POWER2010 Pledge; the focus for our nation-wide campaign at the next election. ”

http://www.power2010.org.uk/about/about-power-2010

Obviously they’ve not got round to putting the new part of their process “the three most popular” on their website yet. It wasn’t part of the original plan.

I think I could pare my previous questions down to one. I’d be grateful if you could answer it Guy:

‘When was the ‘best of three’ decision taken?’

27. Sunder Katwala

Guy@21

Thanks for your response.

“It will campaign just as vigorously for EVoEL as it will for PR. But to sign it and ensure broad support, it was decided you only need to back a majority of the five whilst recognising that all 5 are urgent and need to be considered by the next Parliament“.

I don’t have any problem with the idea that Parliament should CONSIDER (ie debate) any and all of these issues, I don’t know if I recognise that “all 5 are urgent”. I think at least one of them dangerously flawed and regressive. Does this mean that I should not sign up to supporting the pledge given that I actively oppose one of its recommendations?

To others: do campaigners for English votes on English laws advocate that London MPs should lose the right to vote on, for example, transport issues, which have been devolved to the GLA? If not, why not? Shouldn’t the pledge accomodate that? I am not sure that excluding MPs at every level by regional juridstiction would work, but not doing this undermines the principle of English votes for English laws …

28. Stephen Gash

@ Guy Aitchison

Quote: “Power wants a Pledge that will appeal cross party. No Tories and few Labour supporters could sign up to PR, but we want to have a space to have the discussion and they will be lobbied on it.”

…..

“Constant sniping, demanding that Rowntrees explain itself to you and accusing it of conspiracy, won’t help the cause of English democracy.”

I will continue to snipe because what you’ve said merely confirms to me that the “elite” running Power 2010 engineered matters to get what they wanted in the top five. The “Pledge” is one that will be least vexatious to parliamentary candidates, with PR as a token item for debate.

All of the parties are commited to a British Constitution, so that’s not going to be hard to sell. Plus the fact it is a diversion from the real problems of devolution and the British parliament.

An English Parliament would have been the most contentious and therefore the most interesting proposal during the election campaign and would have put all MPs on the spot. It would have got the media to actually discuss the English Question instead of smothering it in a smokescreen of semantics.

Power 2010 bulled itself up to be a new force in politics and ended up being a farce, not a force.

The trouble with those concerned with British politics, politicians, academia and the media, is that they are floating around in their own bubble thinking that they know best and condemning anything Joe Public wants as contemptible populism. Power 2010 hasn’t burst this bubble, it is the soapy film comprising it.

Sunder, The London assembly has no legislative power, it’s local government in a fancy building. We’re talking about legislation (as in “English Laws”).

I don’t actually know any campaigners for English Votes on English Laws. Does anybody think it is a good idea? Even the Tories have shelved that policy, and as far as I’m aware they were the only ones who ever thought it was a good idea.

It was decided collectively by the Power2010 team in discussion with partner organisations over the course of the Vote. Some partners were concerned things like PR would preclude them from supporting the Pledge. The ideas were totally out of our control. It could have thrown up inconsistent ones like a sectoral House of Lords and an elected Lords – in such a position it wouldn’t have been possible to support the entire Pledge. This isn’t an anti-EVoEL move – it’s a decision that makes practical and political sense. I completely recognise the point about transparency – all I’d say is that this is a fast-moving campaign being driven by a public agenda, so inevitably it will need to adapt to that.

It seems to me that if you publicly state that a certain measure is ‘urgent and needs to be considered by the next parliament’, that would be taken pretty universally as a statement of support, no? I’m not sure that this distinction even makes sense.

To Sunder: It’s a good question, which highlights the problems with the EVoEL laws solution. It’s very partial. On the other hand, comparing London to Edinburgh is obviously flawed. If Westminster passes a national (ie English) education or health measure it will apply in London as it does in Newcastle – but not in Glasgow or Swansea.

It seems to me that the ‘English votes’ question is usually asked the wrong way round. The question should be: by what right do MPs from other nations make English laws when their own nations have devolved governments with no English involvement? Most people would come up with the same obvious answer, whatever their preferred solution.

Are we – the voters – permitted to know which “partner organisations” wanted this change in the rules?

I forget, did insider lobbying and political horse-trading make the pledge?

Sunder, a lot of the votes for English Votes on English Laws were from people who wanted an English Parliament (as part of a federal settlement or a move to independence). They voted for this reform as a way of highlighting the English Question. In this context I think it makes sense to see this reform as a way of highlighting the democratic deficit at the heart of the UK, an important issue whether or not you regard it as urgent. You agree that it should be addressed by the next Parliament (as indeed Labour intend to do, albeit in a half-hearted way) so I’d encourage you to sign the Pledge.

Sunder and Paul,

I should have been clearer – I meant the issue it raises is urgent (not the measure itself). So, for example, I (personally) believe the English Question, and the wider devolution settlement, needs to urgently be addressed. But I don’t think the measure of English Votes on English Laws should urgently be implemented. Hope that makes sense.

35. Ian Campbell

As Paul Kingsnorth says, most people would and do clearly agree that MPs from Scotland, Wales & N Ireland should have no right at all to vote on English domestic matters. There can’t be any argument about it.
It is particularly galling that Mr Brown is about to launch an election with the slogan ‘fairness for all’. Well, not for the English whose tuition fees etc can be decided by MPs from outside England who are unaffected by any increase. Not only that but Brown, Cameron and Clegg also all avoid saying ‘England’ in their election pledges, referring to the NHS and schools ‘in this country’. England appears to be the elephant in the room.
In Scotland, the Labour party is saying ‘don’t vote for the SNP because they will not be part of the UK govt’ – but of course Labour MPs from Scotland will reliably vote for Labour polilcy in England.
This really is a democratic outrage and it is the first constitutional reform that needs to be made. All the rest can follow if desired. The unsatisfactory, undemocratic, blatantly unfair partisan treatment of England has dragged on since 1998. No other democratic country would tolerate such a ludicrous position.

36. James Matthews

Just one point for those who say that English Votes on English Laws is unworkable. No it isn’t. It may, however, require an English Parliament to make it workable, but then implementing any of the pledges will require consequential changes.

The Hansard Society’s Audits of Political Engagement, the Power Inquiry, Philips’ Party Funding Review, all suggest that a minority of people think getting involved makes a difference.

This, surely, is an explanation for disengagement from mainstream politics.

The huge decline in Labour party membership since 1997 seems apposite. Party members complain they have no say in policy-making, the leadership does not listen, hands out diktats from the centre – that top-down, hands-over-their-ears approach the rest of us are familiar with since Labour has been in Government.

(Wanting PR or similar seems an aspect of this desire for influence – “the electoral system is widely perceived as leading to unequal and wasted votes”, as the Power Inquiry put it. )

Why would the existence of focus groups or citizen’s juries etc make any difference to the feeling of influence, except to those who are invited to participate? They are merely a means of pretending that some power is being relinquished to ordinary people.

As for English votes on English laws, or the West Lothian question, or as Paul Kingsnorth puts it, “by what right do MPs from other nations make English laws when their own nations have devolved governments with no English involvement?”, and conflations with regional assemblies and so on, it’s really quite simple: people don’t necessarily want more government (which is why regional, more politicians, they want more say, more influence, and equal influence to their peers.

bah, html fail, sorry.

39. Stephen Gash

Sunder

I am a supporter not only of an English Parliament, but also English independence.

My backing one proposal or another is immaterial, really. My criticism is of the Power 2010 process, just as it was/is of the process of devolution.

I do not back a written constitution for a host of reasons. A couple of reasons are, the present incumbents of the British Parliament encumbering England have forfeited the right to any decision-making, especially on constitutional reform. I don’t want their ilk to permanently affect English lives. Also, the British establishment is anti-English.

In this respect I’m pleased you mentioned the IPPR, because it conducted a survey of all British MPs about the English Question. Of the 600+ only 114 could be bothered to reply. This fact alone shows exactly why England needs its own parliament filled with elected members solely looking after England’s needs.

Regarding your question about the London Assembly voting on England’s transport, the problem is that the London Assembly was putting the cart before the horse. The first thing that should have happened is an English Parliament. At the very least a referendum should have been held.

Any decisions on local government in England would then have been a matter for the English. At the moment the North West Region is removing services away from Cumbria with no elected representative making the decisions. Cumbria is still the poorest county in the whole of the UK after 10 years of regional devolution.

I have not had a vote on this at any level except the UK national level.

Now we are being told by the British establishment, supported by Power 2010 that we cannot have a referendum on an English Parliament.

I fail to see what the United Kingdom has to offer me and my fellow English compatriots.

Power 2010 should be renamed Sop 2010. The Rowntree Trust should be renamed the Roundthehouses Trust.

ukliberty,

You mention the Hansard Audit of Political Engagement. That very report found that Scottish MPs’ voting rights was the constitutional issue that most annoyed the public.

Though I should qualify that by mentioning that that particular Hansard Report came before the expenses scandal.

“But yes, the situation we are in is that English political grievances are growing due to the patent injustice of the system and the way it is being stitched up by the parties and the executive”

The trendlines from the polling that you cited seem to suggest the opposite:

YouGov 2004:

Regional Assemblies (RA) 11%
English Parliament (EP) 24%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 47%
Status Quo (SQ) 12%
Don’t know (DK) 7%

IPSOS Mori 2006:

Status Quo (SQ) 32%
Regional Assemblies (RA) 14%
English Parliament (EP) 41%
None 4%
Don’t know (DK) 9%

ICM 2006:

In Favour of an English Parliament 58%
Against an English Parliament 31%
Don’t Know 11%

ICM 2007:

Should be an English parliament 51%
Should Not be an English parliament (SN) 41%
Don’t Know (DN) 7%

ICM December 2007:

Status Quo (SQ) 32%
English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) 24%
English Parliament [within the Union] (EP) 21%
England should become Independent (Ind) 16%
Don’t know (DK) 6%

Populus 2009:

Support an English Parliament 41%
Oppose an English Parliament 15%
Don’t Know 44%

*

I make that support for status quo has increased between 2004-7 from 12% to 32%, support for EVoEL is down over the same time period, and support for an English Parliament is down between 2006-9 from 58% to 41%.

I think it’s worth saying to the English parliament/EVoEL people as well, Power 2010 are your friends, and the changes to asking people to sign up if they support 3 out of 5 help you immensely. They can help get your campaign from being one which is very effective at dominating internet polls to one which can influence decision-makers and actually achieve things in the real world.

It is also worth reflecting on why it is that when people actually discuss the idea of an English Parliament, support for it collapses. n.b. the explanation is not “because of an undemocratic elite rigging things secretly”.

Indeed Toque. From Audit 5 in 2008:

The constitutional issue that the greatest number of people are dissatisfied with by far is Scottish MPs being able to vote on English issues in the House of Commons (46%). …

It is also worth reflecting on why it is that when people actually discuss the idea of an English Parliament, support for it collapses. n.b. the explanation is not “because of an undemocratic elite rigging things secretly”.

Support for an English Parliament is low (even in England) but there is high support for sorting out the situation whereby Scottish MPs can vote on English-only things. Again referring to Hansard Society’s Audit 5,

Twenty-two per cent of the public now believe that urgent change is needed in relation to Scottish MPs being allowed to vote on English issues in the House of Commons, with 46% dissatisfied with the status quo.

It was fifth on the list of top priorities for urgent change:

The most popular priority for constitutional change is how the Human Rights Act works in practice (26%); closely followed by how political parties are funded (24%); Britain’s involvement in the European Union (23%); the powers the government can exercise without the approval of Parliament (23%); and Scottish MPs being allowed to vote on English issues in the House of Commons (22%).

“It is also worth reflecting on why it is that when people actually discuss the idea of an English Parliament, support for it collapses”

Generally it’s because people are told:

a) It means more politicians and an extra layer of government
b) It will break up the Union.

The same arguments were deployed by the Tories against the idea of a Scottish parliament.

An English parliament need not mean extra politicians, and it need not break up the Union. Unfortunately, in order for it not to do those two things requires radical reform: political and fiscal federalism, a written constitution that describes what powers are held by the centre and by the national parliaments, and an English parliament elected under PR. This is too radical, unfortuantely, and we will probably have to wait for the threat of Scottish secession or a constitutional crisis (like a Labour Government with a Tory majority of seats in England) until anyone seriously considers anything radical.

@DonPaskini

The polls aren’t directly comparable measure for measure, because they don’t ask the same questions. I wouldn’t argue for a minute that an EP, or indeed EVoEL, was some massively popular measure with wide support. But as I said, support for sorting out the problem is high.

In the most recent poll you quote, for example – support for the status quo may be 32%, but support for some kind of answer to the English question is almost double that.

Meanwhile, you write:

‘It is also worth reflecting on why it is that when people actually discuss the idea of an English Parliament, support for it collapses. n.b. the explanation is not “because of an undemocratic elite rigging things secretly”.’

And I never said it was. But apart from the Power2010 debate, which no-one who wasn’t there has seen, I’m not aware of any other occasions on which ‘people actually discuss’ the idea of an EP and either reject or agree with it. Perhaps you could provide us with a list? It sounds like you have many such examples to draw on.

Hi Paul,

I don’t have any other examples of people discussing the English parliament, though again this doesn’t exactly suggest that it is a topic of burning concern.

It’s an issue which seems to have shallow but widespread support (with a small number of passionate supporters), but that’s why it is such a good opportunity for it to be part of the Power 2010 pledge. The 3 out of 5 approach means that you get the de facto support of all the anti-ID cards and pro-PR people, even those who don’t care or don’t agree with EVoEL. And yet the response seems to have been all waaambulance and accusations of stitch ups.

I have a better idea. How about you can sign the pledge if you agree with ANY of the original ideas, whether they made the final 5, the last 29, didn’t get through Vegas or failed the audition round. That would enable everyone who took part in the vote to sign the pledge, strengthen the voices of reform and be a force for progressive change.

48. Stephen Gash

@ donpaskini
I agree with Paul. The polls are not comparable.

Generally speaking English people are fed up with the devolution sttlement. I have done quite a bit of canvassing on this issue over the years and people are either affected themselves, or know somebody who is affected, by the discrimination against them brought about by devolution.

They don’t know the best answer, but they know they need a government attending to England’s needs more than any of the mainstream parties are even contemplating. In fact the main parties don’t even consider what the English want.

I was hoping Power 2010 was going to do something different, but it was sorely lacking.

Politics is cleaved from the people in England more than in any EU-country. I personally believe this is a deliberate plan by the political elite, but that is another debate.

One thing for sure is, Power 2010 has not instilled any confidence that it will bring about the necessary changes.

People campaigning for an English Parliament have said time and again, if the support for an English Parliament is so low, then put it to a referendum.

However, as Power 2010 supporters have written, that referenda would lead to “populist” policies. So, it is far better for an unelected self-appointed group with a platitude like “Power” in its title to decide, to prevent “populist” ideas progressing.

We already have that kind of group formulating policies for England, it is called the European Commission.

49. Stephen Gash

@ donpaskini

Quote: “It’s an issue which seems to have shallow but widespread support (with a small number of passionate supporters), but that’s why it is such a good opportunity for it to be part of the Power 2010 pledge.”

But of course it isn’t. An English Parliament was turfed out because it was such a good idea.

Guy Lodge and a colleague in the Constitution Unit once wrote in The Scotsman, that support for an English Parliament was low. They also wrote that English Votes on English Laws was a de facto English Parliament. Well, at the time of writing combined support for EVoEL and an EP was 72%, which totally undermined their notion there was no support.

Guy Lodge has moved on from the Constitution Unit which still bangs on about regionalisation. I believe Guy Lodge now supports an EP, although I don’t have a reference to hand.

Anyway, the fact is, support for regions has never exceeded 16% in England, but we have regions imposed upon us. 41% support for an EP demands it be taken seriously as that figure is about twice that who voted Labour in 2005, in England, when the looking at the total electorate.

Support for the Welsh Assembly was pitiful, but they still got it, and the Welsh are being told by the three main parties that it will get more powers.

I don’t see a big clamour for that, so what’s so special about the Taffs? In fact in Monmouthshire most of the people I spoke to want to get rid of it.

@Don

I’m very glad English votes (though not an EP) is one of the top five. I think I even helped get it there. The complaints have been about the last minute change to the way the pledge worked: the ‘best of three’ issue was not even mentioned until the votes were in. This, combined with the curious wording of the Power2010 press release, which seemed to distance itself from EVoEL, and the disappearance of the English Parliament option despite its popularity, has made some people suspicious that the Power2010 bods are really rather unhappy with this issue being discussed.

I was glad to have Guy’s assurances that this was not the case. I’m glad too that a watered-down version of the English question is at least on the table in mainstream reforming circles. I just hope it is not now sidelined, and it helps get a proper debate underway, rather than seeing people hunker down in their usual bunkers and start lobbing stones. When people in the country at large are actually informed about the problem of English governance they are very clear that something should be done about it.

“I just hope it is not now sidelined, and it helps get a proper debate underway.”

Paul, I very much hope you can help us get this debate going.

52. Stephen Gash

@ Paul Kingsnorth

You imply that you are are pleased an EP never made it to the top 5, unless I’m mistaken.

What was actually turfed out was a referendum on an English Parliament. This is what I find so particularly galling. This Power 2010 charade was supposed to be about empowering the electorate. What is more empowering than a referendum? Of course in Mandelson’s post-democratic era, referenda are only there to be overturned when the wishes of the people conflict with the will of the ruling elite, as was the case with the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

Power 2010 obviously dislikes referenda. My own view is, in this period of total distrust of politicians, some referenda would restore some confidence, provided “deliberative polling” was kept well out of it.

Referenda are not empowering. They are the epitome of atomised, individualistic politics, giving the illusion of choice but always within a narrow framework of options.

It’s always heartening to see people standing in the way of reform, and up for poorly representative politics and potentially corrupt practices.

55. Roberto Blanco

@Stephen Gash, why not call for a referendum on EU membership? Or immigration? Or Muzlims? All things that no proud Englishman should stand for, so let’s just get rid of it!

FFS, when will you narrow-minded bigots just come clean and outright call for bans, withdrawals and so on, and instead cloak your xenophobia in the guise of referenda, so you can pretend it’s not about your hatred of foreigners but about democracy?

@Stephen Gash:

You are mistaken, yes. I support an EP.

@Roberto Blanco –

I have no idea whether Stepehn Gash is a ‘narrow-minded bigot’ or not – but are you suggesting that supporting a referendum on how England should be governed makes someone narrow minded or bigoted?

What a weird suggestion. Does that makes the people of Scotland, Wales and NI, all of whom have been given a public say in how they are governed, dreadful fascists of some kind? Or is it only the English who don;t get a say in their political destiny? Why is that?

@Tim F –

What would your preferred solution be for England, given that the other three nations have been given referendums? (apart from a proletarian uprising guided by a vanguard party.)

“What would your preferred solution be for England, given that the other three nations have been given referendums? (apart from a proletarian uprising guided by a vanguard party.)”

I’d have thought it would be better to look at the “English question” as part of a wider review of the constitutional framework, with more deliberative work, building links between the English Parliament campaigners and other constitutional reformers etc etc

A referendum on establishing an English Parliament would lose heavily at the moment, because it would very rapidly become clear during the course of a campaign that the implications hadn’t been thought through, and because the infrastructure isn’t in place to win over a majority.

e.g. opponents will raise the objection that it means more politicians, and then Toque or someone will explain that actually voting for an English Parliament also means “political and fiscal federalism, a written constitution that describes what powers are held by the centre and by the national parliaments, and an English parliament elected under PR”, while meanwhile the wingnut supporters go on about how the English are discriminated against compared to the “taffs”.

Furthermore, a lot of the supporters at the moment are Tories who are angry that there is a Labour government, and they will lose interest as soon as there is a majority Tory government.

@Don:

‘I’d have thought it would be better to look at the “English question” as part of a wider review of the constitutional framework, with more deliberative work, building links between the English Parliament campaigners and other constitutional reformers etc etc.’

Completely agree. It can’t be considered in isolation. The reason we have a problem is that devolution was such a fudge in the first place; which is related to the fact that the wider constitution is a fudge. It needs a more systematic thinking-through. My choice would be a federal UK, but getting from here to there may be impossible. I’m not calling for a referendum on anything tomorrow; the discussion has barely started yet. I’m calling for it to be had openly, as widely as possible, so that we can thrash this stuff out.

Some EP supporters are Tories, of course; but by no means all (I’m not, for starters, and there are a growing number like me). We’ll see what happens under Lord Cameron’s rule: but that may of course give us another problem in Scotland. Personally I am looking forward to their secession; it will really help clear the air.

It’s been a classic political stitch up from the start – just like the pronouncements on the barn door in Animal Farm. At the beginning of the process it’s all about how radical it’s going to be, how those fat lazy politicians are about to meet the bacon slicer because the people aren’t happy….. Then as time goes on, the focus sort of gets a bit fuzzy. The manipulation starts, the pushing and shoving as to where ‘they’ want the process to go gets more devious. Rules are invented, results are manipulated, meetings in smoke-filled rooms ensure that the ‘correct results’ are the ones they want….. and when they don’t get them, a word from the right person ensures that a fantastic new rule can just be shoehorned into place… at will.

And then, suddenly, what was once an objective become an obstacle. The Establishment starts to tell the people what they can and cannot have, where they have gone wrong and what can be done to sort it out. And just like the words on the barn door, the original aims and sentiments have been so corroded, so adulterated and so dawbed over as to be 180 degrees away from the original noble objectives of change…

“And I looked from Establishment politicians to Power2010 representatives and then back again…. And could see no difference between them, at all”..

e.g. opponents will raise the objection that it means more politicians, and then Toque or someone will explain that actually voting for an English Parliament also means “political and fiscal federalism, a written constitution that describes what powers are held by the centre and by the national parliaments, and an English parliament elected under PR”,

An English parliament doesn’t mean that we have to have those additional constitutional reforms. If the English decide they want an English parliament then they should have one irrespective of all other considerations. But, if you want the Union to continue, and a majority of people in all four constituent parts of the UK do, then I think political and fiscal federalism, a written constitution and true PR for the English parliament will help maintain it.

Why PR would be required is not immediately obvious, so I will explain. One of the ‘issues’ raised in objection to an EP is that the English parliament would be in conflict with the UK Parliament, and because England is 85% of the population the theory goes that this would cause political instability, especially if England’s government was of a different party colour to the UK Government (for example, England is Tory and UK is Labour). By creating an English parliament elected under PR it help create a more consensual politics, that better reflects the way people vote, and helps remove the opportunity for English parliamentarians to play party political games with the UK Parliament and Executive, in much the same way that the Scottish system is designed to prevent one party easily obtaining a majority of MSPs.

Other than lack of will, why can’t / shouldn’t we have English votes on English laws right now? We already have a number of uncodified conventions.

“why can’t / shouldn’t we have English votes on English laws right now?”

Because non-English MPs have a right to vote on English Laws because English Laws determine what is spent in England, which in turn determines the budgets for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through a formula called the Barnett Formula.

In addition we can’t have it right now because we have a Scottish Prime Minister who doesn’t want it, even though in 1980 he wrote:

“a revised Scotland Act could embody some form of the ‘in-and-out’ principle. Under such a principle the remaining Scottish MPs at Westminster would not be allowed to take part in the proceedings of the House when it was debating England or Welsh domestic matters. The ‘in-and-out’ principle ought to be attractive to Conservatives since it would ensure them a semi-permanent majority on most social issues at Westminster – no small prize. Labour remains formally committed to devolution and may be expected to consider a plan along these lines in the future.”

Gordon Brown has realised that, if introduced, English Votes on English Laws would prevent him from voting on 70% of what is in the UK Labour Party manifesto, which is the manifesto that his constituents in Scotland elect him on, even though they are not directly affected by the majority of measures in it.

Gordon Brown acknowledged that there was a case for EVoEL in 1980 when he was campaigning for a Scottish parliament, but he is now opposed to EVoEL or allowing the English the same right to their own parliament that he campaigned for the Scottish people to have.

In addition Jack Straw recently blocked a FOI request that would have allowed us to see what consideration – if any – the Cabinet gave to how England would be affected by devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Thanks Toque.

66. Home Rule for England

donpaskini #41

41% of people support an English Parliament and 44% don’t know. 15% oppose it.

Everything is fine there then. No need for a public debate on the matter?

You say that “It is also worth reflecting on why it is that when people actually discuss the idea of an English Parliament, support for it collapses”!!

When has an English Parliament debate ever been held? The best we get from politicans is a dismissive ‘there is no appetite for an English Parliament’:

http://thinkpolitics.co.uk/andrewgwynne/?p=54

Lets have a referendum in England. I would have thought the margin of error on 41% was sufficient to put the matter to a vote, particularly as 44% are undecided and a thorough open debate would help them to come to a view.

Bent as a nine bob note

Proportional voting doesn’t do anything for the distance between voters and politicians.
The only electoral system that brings Mps closer to the people and give broadly proportionate results is Non-contiguous first past the post. See here
http://ncfptp.wordpress.com/about/

69. Stephen Gash

@ tim f

Presumably, you consider party political democracy offering a broad swathe of choices within party manifestos, empowering?

70. Stephen Gash

@ Roberto Blanco

A bigot is an intolerant and obsessive adherent to a particular doctrine or creed.

Sounds like a perfect description of a Muslim to me.

I agree with all of your suggestions for referenda as it happens. However, the present ruling elite consider that only the rights of people outside England are worthy, and trump those of the people already here.

I don’t actually agree with mass migration, and I have allies in the Presidents of the Philippines and South Africa who censured Gordon Brown for robbing those countries of skilled workers.

I don’t agree with freedom of religion. If you agree with me that women should not be stoned to death for being raped, homosexuals should not be hanged for being homosexual, that children should not be murdered, carved up and thrown into the Thames, all done in the name of dodgy deities, then you don’t believe in freedomn of religion either. That makes you every much as big a bigot as I am, on your narrow-minded terms.

As it happens I love foreigners and am far from being a xenophobe. My “bigotry” has won me friends from all over the world because they are as bigotted as I am. They love their countries as much as I love England. I enjoy visiting their countries because they are not like England. They enjoy visiting England because it is not like their homelands. We are true nationalists. We don’t have designs on each others countries. We have no intention of invading each other’s countries. We enjoy each other’s company.

I don’t mind people of different races being here and I am on record as saying I consider them as English if born and bred here or if they truly adopt England as their homeland. I repeat that sentiment here.

The three main parties agree with the BNP because they say that non-white people cannot be English. Where they differ from the BNP is that the BNP says non-white cannot be British either. The three main parties, the LibLabCON, say non-white people MUST be British.

However, because I refuse to tolerate the intolerable, I am branded a xenophobe, bigot, fascist, nazi etc.

I find Islam, nazism, communism and socialism utterly intolerable. I also consider unbridled capitalism intolerable.

I’m what’s called a sensible bloke, unless it is the intolerable making an observation about me. Like John Denham and you, for example.

Many of the problems with our electoral system come from trying to choose both an MP and a Government with one vote. We need one ballot paper with one vote to elect an independently minded MP in a single member constituency, and one vote to choose a PR Government. Multimember constituencies are not necessary or desirable. Direct Party and Representation Voting is the way forward. That way everyone has a vote with real choice and power.

#71

So you either want to halve the service constituents get from their MPs, or you want to double the number of MPs.


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