Five changes we think will improve the political process

There is considerable dissatisfaction with the state of politics in the country. 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 from austerity policies; ever rising levels of inequality; housing issues; unfair taxation and increasing levels of job insecurity.  Nearly half the country is unhappy with Brexit.  If we are to improve the state of our politics then we have to argue for some significant changes to the political process itself.

Five urgently needed reforms

This is why we feel some ideas should be put forward which would improve the workings of the political process.  Currently, we suggest the top five are:

• The need for a fairer election process
• A fairer taxation system
• An end to the ‘revolving door’
• A substantial increase in transparency and accuracy
• A proper system of party funding

Salisbury Compass is dedicated to countering misleading and inaccurate information, building a progressive alliance, energising local democracy and helping to improve public discourse with monthly meetings of Salisbury Democracy Café.

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 an argument familiar to readers of Thomas Piketty.  A major asset – land – is untaxed.  Big 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.  No banker was punished for the crashed economy.  Corporate welfare makes matters worse.  The entire system needs a major overhaul with a view to making it fairer and progressive. HMRC is not answerable to a select committee in parliament. The Remembrancer – the only unelected man to sit in the House of Commons – is there to help prevent reform of the City of London’s powers and should be abolished.

An end to the revolving door
Hundreds of ex-ministers, senior politicians, senior civil servants and military personnel retire and take up positions or consultancies 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 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.

Increased transparency and accuracy
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 results in significant changes, or watering down, of 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.  Recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica add to the concern.

A linked issue is the question of accuracy of the information we are given by ministers and others.  This was particularly noticeable during the Brexit campaign where there were many examples of faulty, misleading and sometimes dishonest information.  Recent revelations about Facebook show an organisation with enormous influence yet under no control either here or in USA.

Party funding
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.

There are certainly other reforms to consider but these five probably are the most significant. During elections, the public imagines they have some kind of say about the future of the country. We are told we need the first past the post voting system to give us ‘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 overseas based 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 general elections are merely a sham.

Compass supports a progressive alliance as a means to overcome some of these problems. This campaign exists because people around the country haven’t given up. We’re more hopeful than ever for a better, fairer, more equal future. So we’re encouraging people across the UK to collaborate for a better politics.

Salisbury Compass calls for a major overhaul of the political system

Why not come along to a Democracy Café held in Salisbury Playhouse.  Dates are posted here on our Facebook page.