Friday, 14 May 2010

Constitution Reform (and communicating this)

Well, now that people are out on the streets demonstrating for constitutional reform and fair votes, it will take all our intelligence and resources to put the case for a system of proportional representation. It hasn't got off to a good start.

There is so much serious mis-understanding about what's been proposed relating to the dissolution of Parliament, it's hard to know where to begin. But here's a few facts and some ventured opinion:

  • We do not have a Constitution, written or otherwise, in the UK
  • A Vote of No Confidence is not the same as a call for the dissolution of Parliament
  • A vote of No Confidence would be won if a majority of MPs  ie 50% + one MP voted that way
  • Currently, only the Prime Minister may call on our Monarch to dissolve Parliament and at a time of his/her choosing
  • The agreement between the Tories and LibDems to go for a fixed, 5-year Parliament necessitates the need for a change in how Parliament may be dissolved
  • The proposed rule change puts more power, not less, in the hands of the executive (MPs)
  • Opposition parties may form their own coalition following a Vote of No Confidence in the existing administration and if so, it would run for the remainder of the term. If they were unable to reach a coalition, there would be, de facto, a general election.
  • The AV system of voting is not proportional (but is a move in the right direction (IMHO)
  • The depth and scale of our economic plight will not be properly dealt with if we do not commit to give it a decent and long-term go
  • We need a written Constitution with a built-in system of PR for voters
But how to get this across to the electorate? Rallies? Use of Digital media? Education of journalists and  perhaps particularly The Guardian's Vikram Dodd. (Do make sure you read the comments his readers have posted, and especially those of John Morrison). 

Most importantly, we need to put the facts and argue our case logically in front of the electorate.  Sadly, we don't seem to be doing so well at this, despite a campaign which has been running for the last 126 years. We know that print media will largely continue to misrepresent and distort. Traditional broadcast media isn't much better. We have to appeal to a new generation and use our digital skills and expertise. Oh yes, and we still need to get out onto the streets!