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Fair, Local and Responsive Politics

March 14, 2010 10:45 AM
By David Goodall in Liberal Democrat Spring Conference 2010

Good morning conference this is a very wide ranging motion that will when implemented completely change the face of politics in Britain. And I say 'when implemented' deliberately. This motion must implemented not just because we as Liberal Democrats we think it will be a jolly good idea but because this country needs a step change in the way we do politics, the current political system is broken.

Now the big story that has really got the public interested some democratic renewal was of course the MP expenses, and like many I was shocked, appalled and horrified by the range and scale of things that MPs were claiming for. And once this was exposed I was even more amazed that some MPs actually had the nerve to defend their claims as reasonable.

And today I believe there are still some MPs who really don't get the depth of the public's anger. Well I have got some news for them, start now looking for a job now, the job market is very tough out there at the moment and on the 7th of May you won't have a job.

Now naturally we need to reduce range of things MPs can claim for and make the system completely transparent but reform of parliament cannot just be limited to expenses.

The people simply don't trust politicians to deliver improvements to their lives and they won't start to trust them until the people see politicians in parliament who reflect their views and a parliamentary body of MPs that reflect the society they live in.

This is why it is vital that the voting system is changed, not so we as a political party get level playing field in some great political game, but so the British people get the chance of have a parliament that works for - all the people - all of the time.

This is also why it is vital that the voters get the right of recall, so they can sack an MP who has behaved corruptly. In any other walk of life such corrupt behaviour would result in job loss and criminal sanction.

And it's why it is vital that the second chamber is elected and by a fair voting system too. We must finish what Asquith's Liberal government in 1911 started because one thing is for sure the other two definitely won't - after 99 years it think we can be sure of that.

So it's vital to change to a fair voting system, have the power of recall, and change the second chamber. It is crucial too that the other reforms in the motion are implemented like increasing parliament's power over the executive and reducing the number of MPs by 150.

Yet after voting reform it's not the reform of Houses of Parliament that will bring real change to Britain but the decentralisation of political power. The British people are naturally inventive and have an intuitive instinct for solving local problems. Yet this is hampered by too much meddling from central government.

Local services are better run by local people and if they are not well run local people are more accountable. Responsibility for local public services should rest with elected politicians who are directly accountable to the public that use those services.

Obvious you may think. Obvious anywhere that is apart from Brown's Britain. For example in Southampton fluoride is to be added to the areas water supplied. The people and councils in the area were affected area were consulted, 4 out of the 5 councils rejected the plan and 72% of the public rejected the plan. So what did the Newbury based government health quango do, well they voted 11-0 in favour of adding fluoride.

That is not democratic, it is not right and it is not fair. Conference back this motion and give this country back to its people.