The Independent View: Where do the candidates stand on democratic reform?

After three years of ifs, buts and maybes since the “election that never was” debacle in 2007, we’re going to be put out of our misery this week.

The phoney war that has been fought out by the political class, to the bemusement of the electorate, is one of the least appealing aspects of our elitist political culture.

With this in mind, I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by responses from candidates to the general election policy comparison web initiative DEMREF 2010, which, for my sins, I have hurriedly got together in recent months.

To date, the majority of candidates who have posted their views on DEMREF 2010 favour fixed-term parliaments (71 per cent support fixed terms, eight per cent oppose, 21 per cent undecided).

Unsurprisingly most Liberal Democrat candidates support this reform, but it is interesting that most Labour hopefuls strongly back it too.

Peter Hain and co, whom for tactical or principled reasons, I’m not sure which, are pushing for fixed-terms, should be buoyed by this little, yet significant, finding.

In addition, there is also strong agreement among candidates responding to DEMREF 2010 that there should be greater use of free votes in parliament (91 per cent support) and that a mechanism to recall MPs involved in serious wrongdoing is required (96 per cent open to the idea).

These early findings give us hope that, maybe, the class of 2010 might be a bit more independent-minded and ready for reform following the expenses scandal and recent revelations over cash for influence, party funding and overseas jaunts.

However, the jury must still be out. On bigger reform questions, notably the electoral system and the House of Lords, we shall have to wait and see whether a similar cross-party consensus emerges among candidates over the next few weeks.

Large numbers of candidates from all parties have already put themselves forward for voter scrutiny on DEMREF 2010.

But DEMREF 2010 needs the vast majority of candidates to take part in order to meet its objective of helping to achieve greater openness and accountability during the election campaign.

Candidates wishing to be featured on DEMREF 2010 should email [email protected] or call 0208 761 8155.

Voters wishing to encourage their candidates to openly state their views on DEMREF 2010 should simply email the name of their constituency to [email protected] and a reminder will be sent to the relevant candidates.

This general election has been billed as the first e-election, where the power of the internet increases people power.

But we shouldn’t assume this is inherently democratizing. We could just end up digitalizing the big money direct marketing of the managerialist party machines to the detriment of democratic progress.

DEMREF 2010 in its small way, along with really good initiatives like the Democracy Club and Hustings.Com, which are largely under-funded and organic, are trying to live up to the billing.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

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This entry was posted in General Election, Op-eds and The Independent View.

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