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People's Parliament

Today Boris Johnson resigned. He is a man who has attempted to undermine the constitution and our democracy.[1] He has even laid siege to the Union.[2] The fact he represented Britain on the world stage is a disgrace. I believe this opinion piece is more important than ever, because if we do not immediately and permanently change our system, disillusionment with democracy will only deepen. The Union is already disgraced and this may very well be our last chance to save not only Westminster but Britain itself. If we do not deliver a better Britain, we risk a dissatisfied electorate abandoning it all together.

In order to save this new Britain, the Labour Party must engage in, and implement, the greatest political reform in almost a century, or face a despairing populous which loses faith in our society. Every restructuring of our nation and society has been a catalyst of a “Reform Act” (Representation of the People Act).[3] Six reform acts have occurred in history, Earl Grey gave all male landowners and middle-class renters the vote[4], Disraeli gave the male working class a vote in towns, Gladstone extended that to the countryside, Lloyd George increased the electorate to all men & some women, Baldwin passed near-universal suffrage, and Harold Wilson finally gave 18-21 year olds the vote. I am proposing a Seventh “Reform Act”, which would be the single most politically important act in nearly a century. This long over-due Reform Act should have been implemented by the Blair administration, due to its prime position to re-envision the political process of the nation, and yet it failed on this most core tenant. Blair and some other decrepit centrist progressives may prance around as saviours attempting to fix the problems that have arisen in the past twelve years, but it is their lack of action that has caused it.[5] If he and similar former public figures do not realise that Britain has changed from when they were in charge, they will distract from the main issue. This is because there is a root to everything, a root to austerity, to food banks, and Boris' Brexit. The fact is all policy is built by the politicians whom decide it, and therefore political reform needs to be prioritised. By creating a new parliamentary system it will cause a knock on effect that will push that progressive change into every corner of Britain. Westminster has stalled and what was once progressive is now actively regressive, and that includes old unpopular public figures’ pushing their former main policy positions. Their narrow-mindedness has proven that it is time for a new generation to solve climate change and social injustice; but we cannot do that without this reform to create a new parliament, a people's parliament.

Here is what is really needed - A people’s parliament must represent the people; and this is simply not the case in Westminster today. This is the fundamental basis of the Seventh Reform Act. As in Welsh and Scottish local elections, 16-17 year olds and EU citizens should be granted the vote. Even small changes like that can improve democratic participation by incredible amounts[6], and there’s plenty more to do. The absolutely undemocratic House of Lords must be unequivocally abolished, and its regulatory powers to keep the Commons in check could go to many different bodies:  Already existing Commons committees can be given powers which are similar to that of a local Council, or the Lords could be replaced by an elected Senate, or the Commons could even regulate an elected President. Perhaps a mix of all three can be achieved, but the important thing is that we are all freed from this tyranny of Bishops, Hereditary peers and former politicians. The oath of allegiance and parliamentary process are also in dire need of an overhaul. The current oath of allegiance has neither reference to democracy nor the constituents of those MPs; they only have allegiance to the Queen. MPs should be able to choose whether to swear to God or not, and whether to swear allegiance to Britain, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, or Ireland. Parliamentary language is designed to keep the working class and young out, and such customs are unacceptable in a modern democracy. To be removed from the House for correctly calling someone a liar[7], or being required to know when to call someone a “Right Honourable Lady” instead of “Honourable Lady”, is insane. Despite removing peerages, Prime Ministers would, and are, still able to cling onto power by giving powerful roles in Cabinet to incompetent yet loyal Members of Parliament, this is the "payroll vote". The Executive has to be near entirely separated from the legislature, being an MP and Minister is the same as doing two of the most demanding full-time jobs in the country simultaneously. How can anyone be expected to perform with any degree of efficiency or even competence under such conditions? Let our ministries be run by experts appointed by the Prime Minister (or President), rather than the representative of South West Norfolk. Finally, the incomprehensively unjust Royal Assent has to be utterly destroyed, and if we have a president, they cannot be allowed an absolute veto over the decisions of Parliament. That is not a democratic head of state, that is elected dictatorship.

Simply imagine the success that could be achieved in this country without these archaic, illiberal, and unjustifiable parliamentary precedents holding us back. I imagine a system similar to that of France, with a President and Cabinet which is subject to the powers of Parliament.[8] But what is really needed is simply a functioning and modern parliament for a progressive Britain, with a government that does not hold the nation is utter contempt. The past days have shown that our constitution based upon honour and precedence is weak to the threat of populism. Our democratic processes that were already unstable thanks to the Johnson administration, have been cracked and exposed as the facade they are. Johnson is the product of Eton, his place in Parliament is a product of our electoral system, but his premiership is the product of our insane constitution and parliamentary process. Only a broken system would put him in a position such as the premiership, because in a working democracy there would be more than two options. Imagine if we had a functioning system, we could create a society that represented the future, not our dark past. So to create this progressive Britain we must go further than just Westminster; the Seventh Reform Act must create an entirely new democracy for all.

07/07/2022

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