David Howarth on Parliamentary Reform

In case you missed it, David Howarth MP gave a speech last week, as part of the Hansard Society’s Parliamentary Reform Lecture Series.

The speech includes a discussion of the various systems that need reform: the government, the judiciary, political parties and the media.

David Howarth also covers Lords reform, electoral reform and the loss of trust in our political institutions. He emphasises the need to restore power to local government. He cautions that the General Election will not be enough to end this crisis, which has partly been brought about by MPs’ misuse of expenses.

He ends by saying:

These reforms would not in themselves transform public trust in the political system. Perhaps there is nothing that can be done fully to reverse the corrosive effects of the political and media culture that British society has developed.

But we can pull back from the brink of a full-scale crisis of legitimacy if we at least commit ourselves to elect a politically representative parliament that controls its own agenda and has some say in how the country is governed. That doesn’t seem too much to ask.

You can listen to the speech, and read a transcript over at the Hansard Society website.

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This entry was posted in Parliament.


  • Bill le Breton 23rd Mar '10 - 9:27am

    David’s is an important lecture. There are some notes of it and a direct link to it here: http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/blogs/upcoming_events/archive/2010/02/11/parliamentary-reform-lecture-series-9-15-amp-18-march.aspx

    Parliament today is about as effective a dominator of the people as it was in the reign of George III (and of course Charles I). Where at that time Parliament was subordinate to the power of the monarch and therefore a tool of that monarch, it is today subordinate to the power of the office of the Prime Minister and therefore a tool of that office.

    The election will determine (no matter the result) in whose interest Parliament will work. What is certain is that it won’t, as presently constituted, serve the interests of the public unless these *by chance* these interests coincide with the interests of the Government.

    We cannot be free – we cannot be citizens in the full sense of the word – while this is so.

    We are as much in thrall to the Prime Minister, as his pre-revolutionary subjects were to Charles I were to him, as much as the pre-revolutionary American ‘colonists’ were to George III.

    As an ‘insider’ David’s understanding of how the mechanics of Parliament work to assist the Government in its domination of the people is invaluable to those trying to see how Liberty can be gained.

  • Take a look at Labour List & the article headlined – LABOURS HISTORIC MISSION IS TO PROTECT PEOPLE FROM OVERWEENING POWER. It gave me a good laugh anyway. The comments are good too- New Labour, New Irony as one put it.

  • Cllr Patrick Smith 23rd Mar '10 - 10:39pm

    Bill le Breton states some profound lucid pointers from history that should augur for all Liberal campaigners in 2010.

    I found in the David Howarth Hansard Lecture the following caveat,

    `…it is clear that a political system that is despised when seen as motivated by personal greed and selfishness and whose relevance to daily life is doubted, for how long, will retain much of a claim on the loyalty of the population?’

    I say that we who are standing for Office should have a duty to represent our citizens without fear,favour or prejudice and without recourse to self-interest,greed or financial reward,save for the good of our people,especially the vulnerable and the `silent majority’.

  • Characteristically spot-on by David.

    The expenses scandal actually highlights key liberal themes we and our forebears have been banging on about since at least the seventeenth century – particularly the need for power to be openly scrutinised and passed down to the lowest level possible, and how power may be necessary to make the state work, but when it’s left unscrutinised and unchecked, corruption is sadly inevitable.

    A decentralised liberal state would allow far more accessible and meaningful participation – with local areas having meaningful powers that would make council elections actually worth turning up for – and so would help keep politicians from becoming so disengaged with people. The continuing scandal means that now is a better time than ever to demonstrate just how relevant a liberal approach is.

  • Deb Daniels 31st Jul '10 - 8:03pm

    You seem to advocate power being delegated to the lowest level (local authority for what that is worth knowing as you must that

    a) most effective power has been yielded to the EU and most votors think the UK is little more than a local authority of Europe
    b) the electorate is supine so far as local authority elections are concerned so they give local authority little credence and no wonder bearing in mind their history
    c) anything of real national importance cannot be delegated to local authorities because it would lead to inconsistency

    The liberal democtrat agenda is very clear – lose all effective power ( EU is the future) give what remains to local authorities where Lib Dems have generally fared better than in National Politics

    What you should be fighting for is to stop the amount of delegated legislation by means of ministerial regulation and statutory instrument – that is the area where democracy has been most severely compromised

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