Fair votes and reform campaigners will be rallying in London’s Trafalgar Square and across the country again this Saturday, aiming to Take Back Parliament (http://www.takebackparliament.com/hope) for the people.
The protest for a proportional voting system and real change in political culture and institutions comes as reformers find themselves forming different impressions of the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government’s agreement.
There has been a broad welcome for fixed term parliaments; a right to recall corrupt MPs; a statutory register of lobbyists; deepening devolution in Scotland and Wales; a review into how parliament should resolve the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’ and related issues; party funding reform; the commitment against ID cards and more.
But there are equal concerns about how the social justice agenda will play out as deep cuts to nullify the deficit are implemented, the extent to which this is a government serious about City and financial reform, the lurch to a more exclusionary policy on immigration, the likelihood of Trident replacement, no change on Afghanistan, and the thinness of the green agenda.
There has also been controversy over the proposed new 55 per cent for a ‘confidence vote’ threshold to dismiss a government in the House of Commons, which constitutional experts say erodes democracy by moving away from the 50 per cent-plus-one tradition, and is aimed at ensuring “stability” with what Professor Peter Henessey called “ruthless efficiency” on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning (14 May).
The singer, long-term campaigner and Labour supporter, Billy Bragg, said on BBC television last night that there were grounds for real hope, as well as scepticism, about Britain’s new government.
On civil liberties and democracy, he saw progress, and suggested that an overall realignment in a positive direction might be possible.
But there was also discussion on the ‘This Week’ BBC2 programme about the male-dominated ‘Westminster club’.
Peter Facey of Unlock Democracy, successor to Charter 88 and the New Politics Network, and one of the partners in the Take Back Parliament colaition, which includes Ekklesia, has adopted an upbeat stance to the coalition.
“We have even got concessions on electoral reform: proportional representation in a newly elected House of Lords and a referendum on whether to adopt the Alternative Vote for the House of Commons,” he wrote to supporters yesterday.
He added: “What we haven’t got, yet, is proportional representation for the House of Commons. We will not rest until we do. Popular pressure over the past week has clearly had an effect and helped to keep electoral reform on the agenda. We must not let the politicians get away with thinking that it is for them to decide how we should elect our representatives. They must let the public decide.”
Organisers claim that the Take Back Parliament demonstration in Parliament Square on Saturday 15 May 2010 is set to be highly significant and all the party leaders have been invited to come and make their case.