Our politics is broken
The general election has been called and the Salisbury Compass group felt that it was appropriate for us to put forward some reforms which it feels are important.
There is considerable dissatisfaction with the state of politics in the country. The debate we will witness in Salisbury and nationally during the campaign period is likely to disappoint many. Real issues will not be debated and the quality of such debate as there is, will leave a lot to be desired. Politicians will make promises few of which will be kept. There is unhappiness over many things which include: the effects of austerity on the poorest in our society; the continuing threats to our public services; ever rising levels of inequality; unfair taxation and increasing levels of job insecurity. Nearly half the country is unhappy with Brexit.
Five urgently needed reforms
This is why we feel some ideas should be put forward during this election which we feel would improve the workings of the political process. The top five we think are:
- The need for a fairer election process
- A fairer taxation system
- An end to the ‘revolving door’
- A substantial increase in transparency
- A proper system of party funding
A fairer election process
The current system means large numbers of people are permanently disfranchised with no effective say in the politics which affects their lives. The first past the post system is claimed to give clear leadership to enable politicians to carry out their manifesto. The problem is that for those who do not agree with them, or who are the victims of their policies, there is nowhere to go. This sense of helplessness and hopelessness is breeding a population – the young in particular – who are becoming less and less engaged in the political process. For them they feel, there is no point. In Salisbury, a conservative candidate will win and is likely to win for the foreseeable future.
We need a progressive alliance dedicated to introducing a fairer system to help engage and enfranchise a greater proportion of the electorate.
A fairer taxation system
The current tax system is based too much on income and too little on wealth. Major corporations play fast and loose with the system routing income to offshore tax havens. Billions disappear out of the country by the super wealthy. The current system bears down heavily on the poorest while the elites contribute little. The entire system needs a major overhaul with a view to making it fairer and progressive.
The revolving door
Hundreds of ex-ministers, senior politicians, senior civil servants and military personnel retire and take up positions in corporations they were dealing with while they were in post. This is profoundly corrupting and means there is a real risk that decisions are taken prior to their retirements which are based on the likelihood of future, lucrative employment. As we saw with George Osborne and Blackrock, this access to inside knowledge is worth substantial six figure sums for only a few days work a year. This represents a gross distortion of the political process and must be rigorously controlled. Currently, it is not.
The lobbying industry in parliament and Whitehall is vast. Millions are spent on a veritable army of lobbyists. Corporations, media barons and others are given considerable access to the civil service and to Ministers and their teams. This is unmonitored, often done in secret, and significantly changes, or waters down, policies and laws to suit these powerful interests. We read during the Leveson enquiry of Rupert Murdoch slipping 29 times into the back door of Downing Street. To agree what? What was discussed? Elections are largely a sham if most influence is carried on in secret behind closed doors. A significant increase in transparency and monitoring is needed.
The current system of party funding simply invites undue influence by the organisations funding the political parties. The corporations and the City of London who poor millions into the Conservative party; the Unions who likewise pay into the Labour party, distort the political process and it has the effect of hampering much needed reforms. The City’s role in organising the tax avoidance industry is untouched and will only ever be tinkered with. The unions’ hold over the Labour party likewise hampers them.
There are certainly other reforms to consider but these five probably are the most significant. Over the coming weeks, the public will imagine they have some kind of say about the future of the country. We are told we need ‘strong and stable’ leadership to enable the Brexit negotiations to be carried out.
But the very fact that we are seeking to leave the European Union is due in large part to the activities of a small group of media owners who have invested acres of newsprint to publish negative and tendentious stories about it. They have considerable and private access to the political elite – Theresa May dashing across New York to meet Rupert Murdoch for example, and Tony Blair flying half way across the world to meet him as well.
All the time this City, corporate and media influence is exercised in secret; while the parties are in hock to corporate and union influences; while some of the political, civil service and military elite slip off to lucrative directorships and consultancies; and while the same elites can maintain their wealth by manipulating the tax system in their favour – our politics will be dysfunctional. And the general election merely a sham …
Salisbury Compass calls for a major overhaul of the political system