The Regionalisation of England
Britain needs fundamental constitutional reform:
For nearly five decades politicians have sought to concentrate more and more power at the centre. This desire to hoard power at the centre has put serious strain on Britain's ability to govern itself properly. The centre just cannot cope. It cannot deal with the detail and the complexity of modern Britain or use the power it has effectively. The consequence is that we have incompetent systems and incompetent government.
Rejoin and Reform believes that the best remedy is that England should be split into regions, each with its own Regional Assembly. The complete regionalisation of the Union will then allow power to be properly and effectively devolved from central government to the regions. This will create more efficient government, allow regions to grow and develop, have more control over their own destiny, and foster greater participation in the democratic process.
Abolition of the House of Lords
The House of Lords should be abolished and replaced by the House of Representatives. The representatives would be delegates selected by the Regional Assemblies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and should include the First Minister from each region.
The House of Representatives
Representatives would not be independent members, but instructed Regional Assembly representatives. The number of representatives per region would be allocated based on the population of the region, using degressive proportionality so that a populous region will not dominate the House. Each region would cast its bloc vote without splitting. Plenary sessions of the House of Representatives to occur at least twice a month.
A legislative body, the House of Representatives should be subordinate to the House of Commons. Consent of the House of Representatives would have to be obtained before any legislation is passed. Where there is disagreement, the matter would go before a Conciliation Committee composed of five members from each house.
Elections to the Regional Assemblies should be conducted every four years. Regional Assemblies to conduct their elections independently and should not run concurrently with any other region.
Regional Assemblies would be required to encourage participation and inclusion in the region's political process by using 'people's assemblies' / sortition before important local legislation.
Regions would take on current County Council responsibilities, but in addition would be responsible for:
health within the region, housing, policing, regional development, training, community welfare and provision, local taxation, drug rehabilitation.
A new Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is no longer fit for purpose: The building, its outdated facilities and the arcane practices that go on within it, have become an impediment to the political process, and to good government. In order to meet the demands of modern-day politics, to help create a new, positive political atmosphere, both chambers would be redesigned. If this was not possible, a new legislative assembly would be built.
The number of elected representatives in the House of Commons should be reduced from 650 to 500.
The Union – and Scotland
Rejoin and Reform believes in a united Britain. The establishment of the House of Representatives would give all parts of the Union a voice at the centre of government. Scotland would in effect be offered a 'double union' to replace any need for independence. Not only will Scotland's interests be properly represented in Westminster, their wish to remain a part of the European Union will also be met.
Changes to the voting system
The first past the post system (FPTP), the cause of so many of our ills, must be abandoned in favour of a single transferable vote (STV) system of proportional representation. This would be used in both parliamentary and regional assembly elections. Election day should be moved from Thursday to Sunday to allow as many people as possible to vote.
Britain does not have a written constitution. Rejoin and Reform believes, particularly in the light of recent events, that a written constitution is long overdue. Recent abuses by the government make it imperative that we have one as soon as possible. With no written constitution, Parliament can limit our rights. We need a written constitution and a Constitutional Court which can strike down legislation that is unconstitutional. It would also bring government and the governed closer together by making the rules by which our political democracy operates more accessible and intelligible to all.
A Footnote - the Institutions of Democracy
Parliamentary democracy was set up in the 17th century when roads were terrible and communications were virtually non-existent. It worked while one or both of those conditions persisted.
Neither of those conditions exists today. People have access to information as never before and they have the ability to make their voice heard. They can form opinions based on a multitude of sources. However, our institutions of state, which were created in the past, with the technology of the past, to solve the problems of the past, according to the values of the past, no longer function as fast as people expect them to, nor do they meet the needs and demands of a modern state. In an age of accelerating change the speed of response of our institutions, and particularly the House of Commons is, at best, glacial. A loss of confidence in our institutions and incompetent government is the result.
We need to reassess how our parliamentary democracy functions. This could mean that the House of Commons may cease to exist sometime in the future. A system that involves a form of direct democracy is likely to evolve. Sortition, or People's Assemblies, are now being widely discussed. The process has already started. Rejoin and Reform is proposing setting up Rejoin Assemblies throughout the country.
Rejoin and Reform is conscious of the disconnect between people and politics, much of it brought about by the arcane and out-of-date practices of our parliamentary democracy, and its inability to reform to meet the demands of the digital age or to embrace its benefits. Rejoin and Reform will work to bring about the much-needed reform of our democratic institutions.