Soon after the Scottish Government has negotiated additional powers with the UK Government, a People’s Constitutional Convention should be commissioned, before the General Election, to map out a new settlement for the rest of the United Kingdom as soon as practicable.
In the wake of the Scottish referendum, which saw the highest turnout at a UK election (85%) since 1951, the Green Party is backing calls for a People’s Constitutional Convention to be established to consider radical changes to the entire governance of the UK. We need to put power back in the hands of the people.
The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW or Greens), invites experts to draft policies: then asks Conference to amend them: then votes to adopt them. The policies are binding on Members and are visible to all at http://www.policy.greenparty.org.uk This is a lengthy but deeply intelligent and democratic process.
We are rewarded for our effort by leading, for the last 4 years, the “vote for policies” with a current electorate of over 400,000 – http://www.voteforpolicies.org.uk
We are not rewarded with media coverage and we are penalised by having to find a deposit of £500 to exercise our democratic right to stand, intelligently, in Westminster elections – a double penalty for a party mainly funded by its members.
It is worth reviewing the relevant history:
1. Long ago, a Scot created the Bank of England that is actually the Bank of UK.
2. Years ago, Greens adopted a series of policies about public administration, including the need for a radical written constitution. The constitution, according to Greens and recently Labour, must be created by a Peoples Constitutional Convention.
3. A few weeks ago, East Midlands Greens put forward a Motion to speed up the drafting of a constitution.
4. A few days ago, on an 85% turnout, 1.6 million Scots voted Yes to Independence. 2 million voted No, because of an (exaggerated) fear of the unknown: and because of a vague, last minute, cobbled together “Vow”, that there would be unspecified delegation to Scots.
5. A day later it became clear that the Vow was at best wishful thinking:-
• Tories’ PR consultant, currently our PM, found he couldn’t carry out the Vow, in face of pressure from his far right and UKIP. So he linked devolution to the Scots, with the removal of Scots MPs’ votes in the UK parliament. That wasn’t in the Vow.
• Libdems seemed to completely lose sight of their earlier commitment to the EU rules on subsidiarity – yet another abandonment of principle.
• Labour is horribly confused as usual between Scots and English MPs
Two days later, on 20th September, Greens published a position paper on constitutional issues called “Democracy for everyone” – see policy briefing
The paper might seem a bit sudden to the electorate at large, but in fact every word is based on our well drafted policies for public administration (PA 001 to PA 918).
Readers can as ever read the policies and position paper for themselves.
The guiding principle should be that power flows upwards from the people rather than downwards from an over-centralised state. The Green Party will press for the Convention for a new settlement that includes:
Greater powers for local and regional government
Local government exists in a permanent state of crisis, with neither the resources nor the powers to effect the comprehensive change local people want. Councils should have enhanced powers and spending to tackle the housing crisis, generate renewable energy, deliver strong public services and promote local businesses. Where there is public demand for regional government we will support referendums to establish it.
Proportional representation should be introduced at all levels of Government – from Local Councils to the lower and upper houses of the UK Parliament. In most of the UK the composition of governing bodies does not reflect the will of the people.
‘Total’ recall for all elected politicians
The UK Government’s current Bill to allow constituents to ‘recall’ their MP part-way through their term of office does not go far enough. In the current bill only MPs who are convicted of a criminal offence and jailed: or MPs who have been suspended by their peers, will be subject to a recall process. In contrast the Green Party backs ‘total’ recall where the power rests solely with constituents. The Green’s MP, Caroline Lucas, has worked with MPs from all political parties to produce a ‘total’ recall Bill under which a by-election would be triggered if 20% of constituents sign a recall petition.
Local referendums and citizen’s initiatives
If the public don’t like a Government decision they should be able to force them to reverse it. And if the Government is dragging its feet on implementing a popular measure the public should be able to give it a push. The Green Party backs the right of citizens to introduce their own referendums or initiatives if they secure a sufficient number of petition signatures.
Replacing the House of Lords with a fully-elected Upper House
Britain’s Upper House is perhaps the most glaring example of the neo-feudal state in practice. No other country that calls itself a democracy retains an unelected branch of parliament stacked full of retired MPs, party donors and a smattering of hereditary peers. The Green Party believes it should be abolished and replaced by a directly-elected second chamber.
The extension of the right to vote to all 16 year olds
16 year olds were entrusted to help decide the future of their nation in the Scottish Referendum. They repaid that trust. The Green Party has long-argued that the age of majority should be reduced to 16 for the rest of the UK with accompanying full citizenship rights and responsibilities.
A written constitution
All of these changes need to be included in a new written constitution setting out our rights and Government’s responsibilities.
All of these are existing Green Party policies. The new settlement should be subject to a referendum.
So where from here?
Greens will seek the resources to speed up the drafting of a new Constitution. We will ask other parties to consider our ideas in a Peoples Constitutional Convention. We will meanwhile support the Yes movement in Scotland, in its insistence that the vow be consummated.
We need an early vigorous debate. We might have to act before our next Conference, if we are to maximise our impact on the 2015 elections.
John Youatt, Jean Macdonald, Mike Shipley for Derbyshire Green Party
See also an article on the East Midlands Green Party website see http://www.eastmidlands.greenparty.org.uk