In among all the debates which tend to rehash a few familiar points, few people may have read the manifestos. For me, there’s a lot of good stuff in the Labour manifesto about reforming the UK constitutional arrangements to make government work better. I particularly like the idea of an open-ended constitutional convention, similar to the one held in Scotland which influenced the design of the devolved government in Scotland. Here are some relevant extracts. Find the whole manifesto for download at http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/BritainCanBeBetter-TheLabourPartyManifesto2015.pdf.
A summary of key points:
- set up a people-led Constitutional Convention to determine the future of UK’s governance
- replace the House of Lords with a Senate of the Nations and Regions
- pass an English Devolution Act, handing £30 billion of resources and powers to our great English city and county regions give new powers for communities to shape their high streets, including power over payday lenders and the number of fixed-odds betting terminals
- meet our promises to devolve further powers to Scotland and Wales
- give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote
- create a statutory register of lobbyists
- ban MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies
- require large companies to publish their gender pay gap
- implement the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry.
Some of the text:
We will reform government to give more power to people People who live in this country know that too much power is concentrated in too few hands. Those who make decisions on behalf of others, whether they are in Westminster, the European Union, in business, the media, or the public sector, are too often unaccountable. Our over-centralised system of government has prevented our nations, cities, county regions and towns from being able to take control and change things for themselves. We will end a century of centralisation. Labour believes meaningful and lasting change for the better is only possible when people are given the power to change things for themselves. Our governing mission is to break out of the traditional top-down, ‘Westminster knows best approach’, and devolve power and decision-making to people and their local communities.
From the City of London to Silicon Valley the world’s best industries tend to be clustered geographically. And too often economic challenges can be too, from our coalfields to some of our isolated seaside towns. So a Labour government will unleash the potential of our city and county regions to drive economic growth and prosperity. We will reform institutions and devolve power to deal with the causes of our economic problems, and we will encourage local authorities to innovate to better serve their communities. Instead of imposing change on communities, we will give them more control over schools, health care, policing, skills, housing and transport, making use of their insights into what works and what does not. We will promote and encourage a model of citizenship based on participation and shared responsibility.
These measures are the start of big changes in how we govern ourselves as a union of nations. They will begin to transform the relationship between the citizen and the state. We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration, and sharing of data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use. To create a more connected society we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable. We will continue to back the principle of ‘open data by default’, releasing public sector performance data wherever possible.
A better politics:
- We will give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote by May 2016, and improve the curriculum for citizenship education, so young people have the knowledge they need to play a full part in British society.
- We will encourage young people’s volunteering and social action by supporting the #iwill campaign of ‘Step up to Serve’, and the National Citizens Service.
- Drawing on the work of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, we will take steps to ensure that the move to individual electoral registration does not leave millions unregistered, nor lead to constituencies that fail to take into account the people who live in them. This will include block registration by universities and care homes, extending Northern Ireland’s successful Schools Initiative, and exploring the scope for an automatic system of registration.Labour remains committed to reforming political party funding and taking the big money out of politics by capping individual donations to parties and we will reform the legislative process to strengthen the public’s voice and to better hold the government to account.