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Reforming Parliament – another way?

November 29, 2016

The most popular proposal for the reform of parliament is to reform the voting system, but there is now a competing proposal – The Campaign for a Free Parliament (CFP) , http://freeparliament.org.uk/ ‘Free Parliament: a Campaign to Elect Indpendent MPs to Parliament’. It is funded by a reclusive Scottish multi-millionaire and endorsed by Lord Digby Jones.

On the 6 March 2016 the Independent reported, ‘A reclusive Scottish multi-millionaire industrialist, regarded as being on the right of UK politics, is the main money man behind the ambitious scheme to give £10,000  to 600 independents to fund an effective challenge to mainstream candidates in every constituency.’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lord-digby-jones-millionaire-recluse-to-fund-disaffected-mps-in-the-next-general-election-a6915911.html . On 22 November a letter was sent to all MPs outlining CFP’s plans.

CFP aims to select an independent candidate for each constituency. There will be a national list of approved candidates who may then apply to a constituency for selection by open primary. Although they aim to replace general elections every five years with rolling elections, this can only happen when enough independent MPs are elected to get this enacted. Further, since (if they are successful)  the bulk of such MPs will have been elected at a general election, complicated arrangements for retiring some early would be required. They do not say what the term of office of an MP would be once general elections are abolished.

If all MPs were independent then ministers (including the PM) would be elected by Parliament.

In the Tooting by election in June 2016 the seat was won by Labour with 55% of the vote – although the result may have been influenced by the murder of Jo Cox – whereas Zia Samadani, endorsed by CFP, attracted just 0.1% of the vote. CFP have work to do in convincing people to vote for an independent. The BBC did not even mention his name.

Their proposals do address some problems such as the fact that mainstream parties making very similar and undeliverable promises. They should lead to more competent and honest government. Issues would be debated in parliament on their merits. Lobbying would of course continue, but it would be much more open as lobbyists would have to reach all MPs. However the promoters of the scheme do not seem to recognise the case for genuinely socialist policies, nor that some pretty radical policies are needed if the human race is to survive the threats developing in the 21st century. There is no indication that they need to question the current model of capitalism.

CFP say, “Although it is open for the candidates to express their preferences on a range of policies, their focus should be on setting out their qualifications, personal skills and any notable achievements to date. We strongly believe that policies should be decided in the debating chamber rather than touted for votes. In any event, an independent MP will only ever be able to get a policy implemented if a majority of his colleagues support and prioritise it. That said it will be open for any MP to propose a policy.” The danger is that all successful candidates will tend to follow the current orthodoxy, whereas at times it needs challenging.

They are opposed to proportional representation, which of course makes no sense if most MPs are independant. However they make no mention of ranked choice voting which would make sense in their primaries. Nor have they thought about the possibility that a natural community might be divided on a vital issue, and that more than one view should be represented in Parliament. Elections could be by Single Transfereable Vote in multi member constituencies.

All in all CFP have not thought everything through, but their ideas are worthy of study.

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