July 02, 2006

Do you really want a local MP?

Nick Cohen wrote in the Observer today:

The 'pavement politics' revolution the Liberals began in the Sixties now means we have MPs who know nothing about foreign or domestic politics, but their ignorance doesn't matter. What matters is that they're 'local'.

He makes a good point.

But a problem also presents an opportunity. With reform of the House of Lords likely to create a partially–elected second chamber, why not split the responsibility of the two houses more explicitly?

The House of Commons can 'run the country' and make important decisions about foreign and most domestic affairs while the new House of Lords serves mainly to represent the views of the common people. It makes the names of the chambers slightly confusing, but I think it could work, especially if the New Lords is given enough power to hold the New Commons to account.

Perhaps spending projects over £1bn can be made in the New Commons while smaller spending can be fought over in the New Lords where the Members are more acutely concerned with their constituents interests.

It would make for an interesting democratic experiment and could well result in higher levels of democratic representation. It could also hint at a new consensus–based politics, as it would be more than likely to have Labour leading one house and the Conservatives leading the other, and might, just might, create a need for a specific President and Prime Minister when he have such figures already, albeit under different name–plates. And such a system would also make proportional representation an imperative in one house at least, if not both.

It sounds to me like the Lib Dems might – through their negative campaign in Bromley and Chislehurst – inadvertantly have found a solution to Britain's democratic deficit. The Lords should be built on new foundations – locally concerned ones.


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