The North East Hertfordshire

Branch of the UK Independence Party

Covering Baldock, Letchworth and Royston

UKIP and Constitutional Reform

by John Poynton FCA

The decision by the High Court that Brexit does require an Act of Parliament before Article 50 can be triggered highlights the out-of-date nature of our unwritten constitution. It derives from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when sovereignty transferred from Crown to Parliament. That was certainly an advance for democracy at the time, but since then the franchise has become universal and by implication the people as a whole have become sovereign, not Parliament. Yet our constitution has never been updated to reflect this. It brings the people into conflict with parliament, which is not safe or healthy.

I strongly suspect therefore the judges are right, and that an appeal will only cause further delays. We must of course respect the law, and so I say to MPs “Let’s get on with it because Brexit is urgent. England expects you to do your duty and pass this Act, and you should bear in mind that if you don’t UKIP may well win the 2020 election! You can have all the debate you want on any aspect you like, but just keep the Act itself to a simple one-liner invoking Article 50".. Even so it still leaves us with a constitutional problem.

People often ask what UKIP’s role and prime objective should be after Brexit. Well, apart from a lot of hard work and policies to make the most of the opportunities Brexit will bring, here is their answer – constitutional reform. There are at least three principal components:

(1). A written constitution managed by an elected constitutional council. Any change to it would require a referendum. The Constitutional Council would also take over all matters in which Parliament itself has too much of a vested interest, such as MPs’ pay and expenses and the honours system. I have written about this in more detail here.

(2) Reform of the voting system to use proportional representation. and, perhaps also, proportional funding whereby each candidate, successful or not, receives public funding at a rate per vote received. UKIP stands for the People vs. vested interests, and it is too easy for vested interests to corrupt politics through funding. I am not suggesting large donors should be banned, and transparency is required anyway, but we are too dependent on them. The quid-pro-quo could be that all MPs are paid the same amount by the state, and that any uplift for front-benchers should be funded by their party.

(3) The inclusion of local democracy in the constitution to replace devolution. I believe we should endorse a one-nation constitution in which local democracy is available on an opt-out basis rather than on the devolved powers basis currently in use. All the laws of Parliament should apply automatically to the whole of the UK. If Scotland or any other community, whether a nation or a parish council, within the UK wants something different then they can use the opt-out procedure. This would allow opt-outs only if citizens elsewhere in the land were not adversely affected by it. I have touched on this here. And for some thoughts on the Dis-economies of Devolution, see here.

There was of course a referendum on proportional representation in 2011 in which the ‘Alternative Vote’ form of PR was rejected in favour of the existing ‘First Past the Post’ system. However we don’t have just to repeat the last referendum, the case for which might be difficult to argue. There are in my opinion better forms of PR than AV.

In particular there is a system known a Total Representation. TR is simplicity itself. The number of constituencies is reduced to say 500, or even 450, and those now slightly larger constituencies are elected using the existing FPTP system. The ballot paper does not change and the voter will not notice any difference. However the remaining 100 or 150 seats are then allocated from a list system on a proportional basis using all the votes from across the country which were not for successful constituency candidates.

Having now attended a number of hustings in recent years I have observed that invariably the local candidate is selected. Branch members clearly value having an MP who is loyal to their locality, and of course they have every right to select whoever they feel will represent their interests best. However the local candidate is not necessarily the most talented, which leaves party leaders with a real headache trying to get their best people elected. Other parties often just parachute such people into seats, causing a lot of local resentment, while the result of a lot a local backbenchers in parliament gives the impression it is stuffed full of over-promoted parish counsellors who haven’t a clue what they are doing! In UKIP we have already seen the benefit of the list system in London where we now have two excellent members of the GLA in Peter Whittle and David Kurten.

TR therefore has the following benefits:
• It maintains the simplicity of the current system
• It maintains the direct accountability of MPs to their constituents
• It introduces greater proportional representation
• It enables party leaders to get their best people elected.

For those wanting to read more there is a book by Ken Ritchie, a former Director of the Electoral Reform Society, called Our Broken Democracy which explains TR is full detail.

Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more…. UKIP has much work to do!

Printed (hosted) by UKIP North East Hertfordshire Branch, 233 Monks Walk, Buntingford, SG9 9DY