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Making UK parliament more democratic

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posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 05:38 AM
Josh Plotkin of Liberal Consiracy wrote:

"The idea that British politics needed a radical shake-up; and that this time – unlike any time before – the politicians themselves knew it, gained enormous currency in these heady months. Things were going to change: Brown said so, as did Cameron, as did Clegg, as did almost every other MP with a public profile. Maybe, just maybe, they meant it.

The closest we got was Gordon Brown’s speech, and that was deeply unimpressive on reform. Labour are such pussies that even in the almost certain knowledge that they wouldn’t actually have to live up to anything they proposed, the best they could come up with was a referendum. At some unspecified point in the future. On alternative vote. It’s a stunning lack of ambition, especially since Labour promised a similar referendum in 1997 and never delivered.

This is not good enough. So time for some wishful thinking: perhaps the most obvious and, at the same time, the most seismic of parliamentary reforms would be the end of the three-line whip.

Here’s what the phrase ‘three-line whip’ means: a given MP has a strongly held belief that X is the case. On the order papers telling him what will be debated in Parliament that week, he sees that X is scheduled to be debated. His party’s whips office has underlined the details of this debate not once, not twice, but three times. An additional note from that office tells him that the party’s view is that X is not the case.

The ‘three-line whip’ means that not only must he attend the vote, but he must vote with the party and against his beliefs. If he doesn’t, he will be effectively thrown out of the party. This means that no-one ever disobeys a three-line whip, because to do so would be to sabotage your career beyond repair. Come next election, you’d be out.

I find it absolutely astounding that an MP can be effectively coerced into voting a certain way. Surely this completely undermines the democratic process: we elect MPs because we trust they will work consientiously and believe their judgement is sound; but, as it turns out, their good judgement is irrelevant on the controversial issues.

Abolishing the three-line whip is an easy way to restore some confidence in a shattered system; but instead we are offered tweaks to the voting system which will make no real difference, and which we will have to wait years for.

The whip is the best tool the parties have for keeping their MPs in line, and they can never afford to lose it. After all, as far as the party leadership is concerned, a rebel MP is a wasted MP."


What can be done to abolish the whips?

The present system of "whips undermines democracy in Britain. MPs should have a greater say about legislation passed through Parliament. If they present a vote to Parliament, that reflects the constituents views in their own electoral borough, then this surely should be a more democratic sytem. Yes, there are Party Manifestos but this shouldn't cut across lobbyist views.

[edit on 28-1-2010 by Circle]

[edit on 28-1-2010 by Circle]

[edit on 28-1-2010 by Circle]

posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 06:13 AM
Three line whips exist as a mechanism to maintain discipline and to ensure vital government legislation gets through. I can understand your way of thinking, but if candidates stand for election to Parliament on their party's manifesto, it's not unreasonable once elected to be compelled to vote for those things the electorate put you there for.

If, on soul and conscience, you choose to vote against your own government they'll simply give you a verbal toasting or withdraw the whip and end your party membership. You'll remain an MP, obviously, but will be without a party framework with which to stand for re-election.

I can think of more important issues for the United Kingdom Parliament than the whip system.

posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 06:16 AM
reply to post by Circle

I have frequently posted here on ATS that Party Politics has failed us.

Politicians currently put party allegiance before their own personal conviction or the best interests of their constituents.
This has resulted in Parliament being overran with carear politicians whose only interests are one's of personal advancement with a complete disregard for the 'ordinary man' and his concerns.

Frank Field and Vince Cable are two of the very few notable exceptions.
This is totally and utterly unacceptable.

All potential MP's should stand as Independants and should be voted in by constituents on their own manifesto.
They would be judged by their constituents at each election.

Increased use of referendum's could result in greater democracy, obviously why most politicians are most reluctant to use them.

No matter what, we need urgent electorial and Parliamentary reform aimed at delivering a form of government that is truly representative of the electorate's wishes whilst providing clear, open but strong leadership and government.

[edit on 28/1/10 by Freeborn]

posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 07:13 AM
I think in the UK we should start with the falacy that we have a 'Democratic' process, this is simply not true and ever since blair wiped out clause 4 of the Labour constitution it has become even more so.

Elections come down to the same old rattle tattle and policy nitpicking whilst the main objectives continue on route regardless of the voting publics whims to pay less tax, have better health care or education system.

My suggestion for reform would be to look at the Swiss form of government and I really believe that we should in the UK begin banging the drum for 2 pieces of democratic change that frieghten the beezezers out of your average sun reader.

1. Hung parliments are good. We should have a power sharing approach to parliment, think Vince Cable as Chancellor.............errrm cant think of any other MP worth a cabinet post but I hope you get the picture we shopuld not segregate the cabinet on the basis of party politics, it should be based on talent for the job.

2. Referendums, in a power sharing government / cabinet we could increase the use of referendums to rengage the public in politics. For example should we have signed the Lisbon treaty - We all know that would never have passed through the public but its now law. The Iraq war, we know that would never have passed but again we went to war.

Party politics does not need to be elimated, party lead governments however should be.

[edit on 1/28/2010 by queuepolitely]

posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 07:23 AM
why would we want to make it more democratic, democracy is not a good thing, we still end up with a dictator, we are just led to believe that we had a choice

posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 08:25 AM
seems to me the English party system is one where the MP represents the party to the people and not the people to the party, some voters vote X because their father did!!!

posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 01:01 PM
The problem is that once elected, a Government in power, does pretty much what it likes. It doesn't matter to them what the public think except at a time of a run-up to another election. Think Countryside Alliance or the protests against the Iraq war. That was some years ago in the middle of their electoral year (five year Parliament). The problem with Whips is that they make it to easy for a Government to ride rough-shod over the will of the people.

[edit on 28-1-2010 by Circle]

posted on Jan, 28 2010 @ 01:11 PM
reply to post by Freeborn

You mentioned two brave politicians that went against toe-ing the partyline. What type of debates / issues were these independent souls involved in? What sanctions were brought against them by the Party thugs?


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