Revive Voter Trust

The crisis in the handling of Brexit by the United Kingdom’s parliament and government reveals serious shortcomings in that political establishment.

The key issue is a refusal to acknowledge that there are constitutional constraints which take precedence over the inclinations of any given parliament.

The most urgent need of our democracy is to restore respect for our constitutional arrangements, and to call out the notion that Parliament can act as it pleases.

In fact the people are sovereign, not parliament: it is the people who appoint the pre-eminent chamber of parliament, the House of Commons.

And when the appointed parliament passes a Referendum Act referring a constitutional issue to the decision of the people, then that decision is a sovereign decision which must bind the parliament.

That the parliament must be bound was confirmed (a) by the written commitment of the government in the letter to every household in the United Kingdom;  (b) by the prevalent understanding among the people and politicians before the 2016 Referendum; and (c) by the fact that the term “advice” in the constitutional context means “instruction” – Her Majesty’s Ministers “advise” her !

The current crisis in our political system arises because  parliamentarians refuse to recognise (a) constitutional constraint and (b) that ultimate sovereignty is with the people as expressed in a ballot; it must be – the people appoint the pre-eminent chamber, the House of Commons.

The most urgent need is for parliamentarians to realise the constitutional constraints they should be under and to act accordingly.

Their refusal has led to the current crisis.

The Remain dominated parliament refuses all constitutional restraint by pursuing an agenda contrary to the 2016 Referendum result and contrary to the party manifesto commitments on which the two main parties were elected.

The following specific reforms will facilitate and reinforce the sovereignty of the people and contribute significantly to restoring public confidence in the parliamentary system.

Parliament should accept –

  1. obligatory by-elections for elected representatives who contradict their manifesto commitments

  2. Referendum results binding for ten years

  3. House of Lords appointed by Proportional Representation

  4. 3 year terms of office for all elected representatives

Elaboration

The particular provisions outlined above and elaborated below will address the problems identified in a way which will pre-empt political manipulation by partisan politicians.

1. The electorate must be able easily and readily to dismiss and replace any elected representative such as a Member of Parliament who speaks or votes against the manifesto commitments on which they were elected

A by election must be held within 6 weeks of the written request by one per cent of registered voters within an electoral constituency demanding a ballot to (re-)elect their representative; for moral and practical reasons,  only one such by-election should be held between scheduled elections

2. Uncertainty about national Referendums must be removed.

  • United Kingdom wide Referendums shall be held to express the sovereign will of the people of the United Kingdom, and therefore shall have precedence over all Parliamentary votes, government policy and decisions

  • shall be held on matters of strategic importance, such as questions of the constitution, national security or foreign agreements

  • shall be held at the request of one million registered voters, or vote by Members of Parliament

  • the result shall bind parliament and government, regardless of international treaties or alliances

  • the result shall be implemented within 12 months of the ballot

  • require a 65% turnout of the registered electorate to be valid

  • require more than 50% of all valid votes cast to succeed

  • shall always take place on the UK’s customary ballot day, the first Thursday in the month of May

  • strictly follow the procedure for ballots in General Elections eg local counts, declared locally; one question posing two alternatives presented as two ‘candidate type’ single sentence options

  • the implemented decision of a previous referendum must have operated for 10 years before a further ballot may be held on the same matter

3. The Lords to be appointed by the electorate, not the Executive, in accordance with a simple proportional representation system

  • appointments to be made from national party lists according to the % of votes cast in the General Election for the House of Commons  across the entire United Kingdom [therefore a party gains one of the 200 seats available at every General Election for every 0.5% of the national vote gained at that General Election]

  • the list for Independent candidates will be drawn up from all un-elected candidates for the House of Commons; their position on the national list to be determined by random selection

  • a chamber of 600 seats with members serving terms of nine years

  • one third of the chamber to be elected at each of the 3 yearly General Elections

    This provision for staggered appointment is essential for a revising chamber in order to prevent parliament being entirely subject to a particular transitory interest [nb the current French experience of the Benalla Scandal where the Senate alone has brought the matter to account; this system of staggered elections also operates successfully in the United States Senate]

  • an individual’s service restricted to 18 years maximum [ie 2 x 9 year terms]

4. Elections for all representatives such as MPs and local councillors to be held every 3 years. This will ensure that representatives expedite their manifesto commitments and answer more promptly for their term in office.

A one or two year term is too short for effective government while a 4 or 5 year term is too long for sufficiently prompt accountability

  • all scheduled elections and referendums to take place the first Thursday in May

  • a 3 year cycle such as local town/parish first year; county/borough/metropolitan the second year; United Kingdom and national/regional elections the third year

These proposals are straightforward, readily implemented and should have the desired effect of renewing the desperately needed confidence in our democracy.

Ray Catlin

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