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Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Old Feb 11th 2020, 4:35 pm
  #91  
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by Oakvillian View Post
Acts of Parliament. An Electoral reform Act, passed by the Commons and Lords and granted Royal Assent, is as simple (and as complicated) as it gets. Every time the Boundary Commission makes recommendations for constituency changes etc, those recommendations are passed into law, or not, through the usual process. It would be the same for a more fundamental review of the electoral system, I believe.

The process would be started by drawing up an Electoral Commission (there was one, set up by Tony Blair and headed by Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, in 1997-8 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenkins_Commission_(UK)), who would study the options and make recommendations. Jenkins made several such recommendations, mostly in favour of AV rather than STV which was dismissed as too complicated; these were all rejected by the Parliament of the day so no action was actually taken as a result. Therein lies the biggest challenge: there has to be the will in Parliament to change the system from within, which by definition will work against the interests of the sitting MPs of the two main parties, who benefit from the current FPTP system. The self-interest of MPs is legendary, and no better manifestation of that self interest is evident than an unwillingness to change the system that feeds their egos.
Originally Posted by BuckinghamshireBoy View Post
My comment on the Swiss system was slightly tongue in cheek, as a foreigner I could only participate at a Communal level. Switzerland also adopts a party list system, but a hybrid one, and being a Federation adds another layer of complexity which is completely irrelevant to the UK, or Eire, presumably Portugal as well.

I agree that STV wouldn't have necessarily the same outcome for the UK, and it may be seen as flawed in part, but heck, it's got to be way better than the tribal rot gnawing away currently in the UK.

I'm up for a fairer and more representative system as well - not that I'll ever get a chance for my voice to be heard in the UK - but as LiW asks, how to get there?

Edit: post crossed with Oakvillian's, directly above this one.

So since the Cons and Labour probably will never initiate any act to create a new electoral system, what now? A groundswell of public support for a new party that backs the idea for a future general election? That seems like a very tall order. Or maybe start incrementally, with citizens' assemblies on some issues that do not overrule Parliament of course but become an accepted part of Parliamentary procedure? And who starts those?
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 5:17 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Wait until The Treaty of Union of 1707 is repealed and then you can do what you want in England !
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 5:24 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by scot47 View Post
Wait until The Treaty of Union of 1707 is repealed and then you can do what you want in England !


I'm kind of hoping you lot take us over, tbh, but first you'll have to fix that FPTP system of yours. I know you have regional votes as well though.
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 6:41 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by Lion in Winter View Post


I'm kind of hoping you lot take us over, tbh, but first you'll have to fix that FPTP system of yours. I know you have regional votes as well though.
AIUI, the only elections in Scotland that use FPTP are the Westminster parliamentary elections. Scottish parliament is elected using Additional Member voting, local councils use STV (yay!). And of course the European elections use(d) a Party List system since Scotland functioned as a single constituency electing several MEPs after the European Parliamentary Elections Act of 1999.

I hadn't realized until looking it up just now that there was so much opposition in the Lords to that Act that it was only passed (after being rejected half a dozen times by the upper house) by invoking the Parliament Acts of 1919 and 1949 and overruling the Lords.

I suspect, even if a consensus could be gained in the Commons for a change to the FPTP system, the Honourable Members may have difficulty persuading Their Lordships to cooperate...
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 6:53 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by Oakvillian View Post
AIUI, the only elections in Scotland that use FPTP are the Westminster parliamentary elections. Scottish parliament is elected using Additional Member voting, local councils use STV (yay!). And of course the European elections use(d) a Party List system since Scotland functioned as a single constituency electing several MEPs after the European Parliamentary Elections Act of 1999.

I hadn't realized until looking it up just now that there was so much opposition in the Lords to that Act that it was only passed (after being rejected half a dozen times by the upper house) by invoking the Parliament Acts of 1919 and 1949 and overruling the Lords.

I suspect, even if a consensus could be gained in the Commons for a change to the FPTP system, the Honourable Members may have difficulty persuading Their Lordships to cooperate...
Good to know re Scotland. Something to maybe model on for a gradualist approach to change.

As for their Lordships, the Commons isn't the only house that needs an overhaul. It's a very entrenched and self-perpetuating system though, isn't it.

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Old Feb 11th 2020, 8:12 pm
  #96  
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by Oakvillian View Post
...and, right on cue, the tone is lowered.

The Electoral Reform Society has been around since 1884, and has been pushing for changes in the way the electoral system in the UK works for pretty much its entire existence, through governments of all political colours. To reduce this discussion to the level of "it's only ever the losers who complain about the rules" is facile, unhelpful, and frankly just plain wrong.
lowering the tone by telling the truth? Hardly. I think there should be some sort of reform, but being realistic if the majority (the government, the people the current system saw into power) don't want it, (which they never will) then it won't happen.

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Old Feb 11th 2020, 8:14 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by macliam View Post
Not sure if it has been said, but it's only people who've been tortured who complain about human rights.......
And what torturer is ever going to promote a system that would have made him the tortured ?
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 8:38 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by stevenglish1 View Post
lowering the tone by telling the truth? Hardly. I think there should be some sort of reform, but being realistic if the majority (the government, the people the current system saw into power) don't want it, (which they never will) then it won't happen.
The question posed at the beginning of this thread was along the lines of "what changes would people like to see, and how might that come about?"

I think everyone understands that pushing any change through the current system will be next to impossible in the current climate. Even when, 20 years ago, there was a properly constituted commission to make recommendations, chaired by as respected a figure as Roy Jenkins, Parliament decided that none of its suggestions would be taken forward.

But that's not really the point. And "never" is a strong word... You say you think there should be some sort of reform. What floats your boat? What do you think would improve the current system, even if it's unlikely that it will come to pass in the foreseeable future? Do you have any views on the systems used in other countries (or even for other elections within various parts of the UK)?
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 10:40 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by Oakvillian View Post
The question posed at the beginning of this thread was along the lines of "what changes would people like to see, and how might that come about?"

I think everyone understands that pushing any change through the current system will be next to impossible in the current climate. Even when, 20 years ago, there was a properly constituted commission to make recommendations, chaired by as respected a figure as Roy Jenkins, Parliament decided that none of its suggestions would be taken forward.

But that's not really the point. And "never" is a strong word... You say you think there should be some sort of reform. What floats your boat? What do you think would improve the current system, even if it's unlikely that it will come to pass in the foreseeable future? Do you have any views on the systems used in other countries (or even for other elections within various parts of the UK)?
Yes, never is a strong word but what government would be stupid enough to sanction the introduction of a system that would've had them coming in second? Never going to happen.
Since you ask though, bin the house of Lords, bin the royals and go full republic. None of the above are of any use to the UK, nobody who counts themselves as above the law is. There needs to be a cross section of society in Parliament so that everyone gets representation, and more importantly that representation isn't consigned to sleepy go bye bye time in Parliament. I say this as someone who quite frankly has done ok under almost exclusively right wing governments, I should really vote for them but I fully realise that if I tripped they'd let me fall. That safety net is everything, whatever system ensures it's longevity is ok by me. Unfortunately we'd be looking at a full on revolution to affect any meaningful change.
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Old Feb 12th 2020, 10:04 am
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

As long as the system results in who I want winning, I have no issues with it.
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Old Feb 12th 2020, 2:36 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by stevenglish1 View Post
Yes, never is a strong word but what government would be stupid enough to sanction the introduction of a system that would've had them coming in second? Never going to happen.
Since you ask though, bin the house of Lords, bin the royals and go full republic. None of the above are of any use to the UK, nobody who counts themselves as above the law is. There needs to be a cross section of society in Parliament so that everyone gets representation, and more importantly that representation isn't consigned to sleepy go bye bye time in Parliament. I say this as someone who quite frankly has done ok under almost exclusively right wing governments, I should really vote for them but I fully realise that if I tripped they'd let me fall. That safety net is everything, whatever system ensures it's longevity is ok by me. Unfortunately we'd be looking at a full on revolution to affect any meaningful change.
Thanks - that's a much more constructive comment for a "sensible thread!"

Since LiW did include constitutional as well as electoral reform to the thread title, it's worth thinking about going "full republic." Once again (along with the STV vote system in multi-member constituencies) I'm somewhat drawn to the Irish model, with a president who is above politics, acts as a figurehead head of state, and maintains the (sometimes rather fictional) separation between head of state and head of government. I would hate to see the UK go down the route of either the French or the American model, where the president is an overtly political figure and acts as the head of government (OK, in France it's more nuanced than that, what with the president appointing the prime minister but that prime minister being responsible to parliament) as well as head of state. But I don't think that's a necessary step: I don't see that there's much wrong with the constitutional monarchy we have now, as it saves the bother of having to go through the tedium of presidential elections, but I'd be quite happy for the monarchy to take on a much lower profile, akin to that in Belgium, the Netherlands or Denmark, say. The pomp and ceremony is all a bit unnecessary.

The Lords is indeed in dire need of root-and-branch reform. I wouldn't simply abolish it - I think there's a place for an upper chamber to provide its "sober second thought" process and keep the Commons in check. IMO this should contain a mix of elected, appointed and ex-officio members. Elections should not be partisan (although of course there'd likely be behind-the-scenes party affiliations, that's pretty much unavoidable), appointments should be from all walks of life, with expertise in a relevant field a distinct advantage (so teachers and school administrators, union leaders, industrial bigwigs, doctors/nurses/first responders, lawyers I suppose, the occasional artist, musician, actor...). Ex-officio appointments would likely include some Government appointees (heads of commissions for public transit, healthcare, education, etc), some law officers (lawyers, judges, police commissioners) and so on.
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Old Feb 12th 2020, 4:16 pm
  #102  
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by Oakvillian View Post
Thanks - that's a much more constructive comment for a "sensible thread!"

Since LiW did include constitutional as well as electoral reform to the thread title, it's worth thinking about going "full republic." Once again (along with the STV vote system in multi-member constituencies) I'm somewhat drawn to the Irish model, with a president who is above politics, acts as a figurehead head of state, and maintains the (sometimes rather fictional) separation between head of state and head of government. I would hate to see the UK go down the route of either the French or the American model, where the president is an overtly political figure and acts as the head of government (OK, in France it's more nuanced than that, what with the president appointing the prime minister but that prime minister being responsible to parliament) as well as head of state. But I don't think that's a necessary step: I don't see that there's much wrong with the constitutional monarchy we have now, as it saves the bother of having to go through the tedium of presidential elections, but I'd be quite happy for the monarchy to take on a much lower profile, akin to that in Belgium, the Netherlands or Denmark, say. The pomp and ceremony is all a bit unnecessary.

The Lords is indeed in dire need of root-and-branch reform. I wouldn't simply abolish it - I think there's a place for an upper chamber to provide its "sober second thought" process and keep the Commons in check. IMO this should contain a mix of elected, appointed and ex-officio members. Elections should not be partisan (although of course there'd likely be behind-the-scenes party affiliations, that's pretty much unavoidable), appointments should be from all walks of life, with expertise in a relevant field a distinct advantage (so teachers and school administrators, union leaders, industrial bigwigs, doctors/nurses/first responders, lawyers I suppose, the occasional artist, musician, actor...). Ex-officio appointments would likely include some Government appointees (heads of commissions for public transit, healthcare, education, etc), some law officers (lawyers, judges, police commissioners) and so on.
What you are describing is very close to the Irish model - which, as I've said previously, built upon the strengths of the "British" system but tried to overcome some perceived weaknesses. I am absolutely against the American-style presidency - no "edicts" for me, thanks - and no ridiculous "electoral college" mutations of democracy either. I am also against inherited power (at any level and whether overt or covert). I think the last few Irish presidents have been exeptional (imagine this from any other Head of State).

I am in favour of a bi-cameral system, but conflicted on its makeup - the Irish Seanad is based on the House of Lords and is not directly elected, but seems to work. Of course, unlike the HoL, the Senead is tied to the govenmental cycle, so it's not a job for life, but it's makeup doesn't seem very democratic (given the criticisms levelled at the EU commission)..... and is a bit "of the past", given the bodies selected for nomination (for clarity, 11 senators are appointed by the Taoiseach (so reflecting Government), 6 more are elected by graduates of two universites and the majority, 43 senators, are nominated by various "vocational panels" reflecting Administration, Agriculture, Culture, Industry/Commerce and Labour) The issue here is to ensure "worthy" and experienced candidates, not just rich Party boys, and to give access to those outside politics, but there is a problem of "who will guard the guards". However, there seems little appetite to change the selection process (although in 2013, Enda Kenny's Fine Gael/Labour coalition sought to abolish the Senead on cost grounds, but was defeated in the ensuing referendum) It might also surprise people to learn that there have been Ulster protestants in the Seanad - and in 2018 a Unionist was elected, nominated by the Taoiseach and supported by Sinn Féin! (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-43920260) - so maybe it's a bit too "grown up" a concept for British politics
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Old Feb 12th 2020, 4:38 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by macliam View Post
What you are describing is very close to the Irish model [...] the Irish Seanad is based on the House of Lords and is not directly elected, but seems to work.
I hadn't realised the Seanad was made up of those three groups. It seems to me that the Irish have got a lot right with the formation of their political institutions. My MiL was from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, so my kids can take up an Irish passport in future if they choose to. Quite apart from gaining access to the European opportunities that the Brits have given up, the more I learn about Ireland's constitution the more I am envious of their opportunity for citizenship!
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Old Feb 12th 2020, 5:18 pm
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

Originally Posted by Oakvillian View Post
I hadn't realised the Seanad was made up of those three groups. It seems to me that the Irish have got a lot right with the formation of their political institutions. My MiL was from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, so my kids can take up an Irish passport in future if they choose to. Quite apart from gaining access to the European opportunities that the Brits have given up, the more I learn about Ireland's constitution the more I am envious of their opportunity for citizenship!
Tell your kids to apply for citizenship - if nothing else, it will lay down options for their own. However, if you'd met me 40 years ago, I wouldn't have seemed so supportive (which is why I smile at some posters attempts to box me), but now I look at the evolution of my country of birth with wonder! As the old saying goes "At 16, your father knows nothing - at 20, you're amazed how much he's learned in the past 4 years!!"

The 2nd constitution (which I knew nothing about whilst living there) seems to have been a miracle, in that it laid down such firm roots for a society that nobody could have anticipated at the time. The dominance of the church and of vested interests and the internecine squabbles from the Civil War, as well as a lack of commerce and finance, held the Republic back for so long that I felt forced out, even having returned post-Uni. That's my personal history and every emigrant has their own. I remember when my factory (close enough to your MiL's neck of the woods) was opened in 1975, I had the Ceann Comhairle ("Speaker") and a couple of local TDs at the opening. I despaired at these jokers being representatives - yet the government at that time was laying the foundations for the Celtic Tiger..... so something worked. The advances in education and an opening to the wider world were things that happened after my time - but they've made all the difference. The direction that any change to the constitution requires a referendum was a masterstroke - and the creation of the Constitutional Convention ... and later the Citizen's Assembly to drive them has made it even more relevant. So, yes, it's not any misplaced nationalism that leads me to recommend the Irish system as a good starting point.

For the UK, it might be that a written constitution would be the driver for any further change - because the whole thing is a package.
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Old Feb 13th 2020, 3:03 pm
  #105  
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Default Re: Sensible thread on change of UK constitutional and electoral system

So if the government can call for a review of the role of the judiciary (supreme court, presumably) in government and the constitution (which it has), we are at least admitting the theoretical possibility of constitutional reform. I'm sure that Johnson is wanting to "reform" it in such a way as to return more power to the Executive (him), but it would be nice if some bright spark of a lawyer were able to use this to stick a foot in the door and at least start a national conversation again about doing away with FPTP. Yes, I know that's vague.
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