Monday, June 01, 2009

The most important political reform

A few pointers off: I don't know if you heard Niall Ferguson on the Today progamme earlier - (at the moment, they haven't posted the audio file here - 8.30am slot, but it may be there by the time you read this, but he hinted at his message in this report from the Hay Festival last week,) talking about the global political impact of the current economic crisis.

"I don't know who is going to win but we know that while the struggle goes on ordinary people will get trampled. There will be more economic volatility and ordinary people will pay."

The big development will be a period of political instability. "As the Daily Telegraph drip feeds you the peccadilloes of MPs, you are seeing just the beginning of a crisis of political legitimacy that will be played out over the next 18 months," he said.

"It won't be like the 1930s – it won't end up with fascism – but it might be like the 1870s, or 1970s, so don't throw out that old kipper tie yet."

There would be a rise of populist politics, he said, which would involve "a rejection of the culture of Westminster, was anti-finance, anti-immigration, anti-globalisation and pro-inflation.

"There will be more riots in major cities this year. If you don't trust legislation you take to the streets."

Ferguson was particularly scathing (on Today) about proportional voting systems, arguing that they offer a lifeline to opportunistic populist politicians. I think that the 'weak government' argument is a stronger one against PR, though from what I can see, some variaton on STV can assuage even that argument (though it doesn't lead to a hugely proportional outcome).

Here, Freemania urges us to keep our eye on the really important ball that's in play - the quality of representative democracy (and - again - the threat of populism).

For some time, I've been arguing that PR isn't the most important game in town, and that the liberal left has been looking in completely the wrong direction with it's obsession with 'modern liberty' - making the case that this approach is one that plays into the hands of right-wing populists. 

Either way, we have a window of opportunity between now and the next election to demand something that could make a decisive change. For years, the political class has watched it's legitimacy slip. The most important political change now must, surely, be to ensure the the candidates that face the electorate at the next election aren't simply gifted to us by a rotten legacy. 

It's time for every long-standing MP, and every candidate that has been elected by a slighly moribund political party - to face a challenge to their right to stand at the next election.

Here's how:

1 comment:

ivan007 said...

I heard him and spent the time trying to remember if he was a rightist or not - I think he is? Just listening for the agenda - of course, neither Labour nor Tory want PR for their own reasons, whether it is any good or not of course.