JR Max Wheel
30 June 2016
Today brings news of fresh turmoil in UK politics in both the Government and opposition ranks. Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the UK case for leaving the EU it is blindingly clear that the country’s governance has been found wanting. Under more normal circumstances there would and should have been a vote of no confidence in the Government and a likely general election.
It is however symptomatic of deeper constitutional issues which have been festering since the Scottish referendum and the devolution settlements: it seems to me that this now requires wholesale changes to our voting system which is increasingly exposed as unrepresentative. It may be as well that the UK does not do “Government by plebiscite” normally, but this referendum has exposed deep fault lines, as well as abuse.
It should have escaped no one ‘s attentionthat since the campaign was carried out on a cross party basis, that any subsequent action should require a similar cross party arrangement and agreement to implement, not a prolongation of the status quo ante.
The UK’s first past the post system has generally served us well enough, this time it is in danger of embedding a very divisive decision through Parliamentary majority and in the near absence of a Prime Minister, a full-blown leadership campaign and with no effective opposition. Worse the leaders of both campaigns have been exposed as acting in self-interest and not necessarily in good faith. This is unworthy of any democracy, let alone the UK.
We now need comprehensive overhaul of the following and with some urgency.
- A move to proportional representation for the House of Commons.
- Reform and radical downsizing of the Upper House to function as a reforming chamber – a Senate. Removal of all peers, whether Lords Spiritual or Temporal
- Direct representation for the devolved administrations in the Senate
- Abolition of the much abused honours system
- A charter of British Rights applicable to all citizens, and extensive to all legally, if temporarily residing in the UK.
We may still decide to exercise a sovereign right to execute a withdrawal from the EU, but it should not be rammed through on the current basis. The leadership of the campaign has by its behaviour and the turmoil evident in the opposition, forfeited the right to proceed “as is” after the unseemly brawl of a leadership campaign being embedded in the process and in so doing distorting the result together with flagrant abuse of Government department resources. Two choices remain – neither of which should have ever been necessary, a rerun of the referendum or a general election when the opposition have a new leader and team in place.
No side emerges with any credit from this exercise which is worthy of a banana republic and not Britain. It’s time for serious change.