Tag Archives: constitutional refo

 Why Westminster desperately needs reform

 Target seat parliamentary candidates don’t have much time to read books.  But they ought to find time at some point before the election to read How Westminster Works…and Why it Doesn’t, by Ian Dunt (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2023), to warn them how dysfunctional they will find Britain’s Parliament and government have become,

Some Liberal Democrats will be familiar with Ian Dunt from his previous book, How to be a Liberal, which came out in 2020.  His analysis of Westminster, based on extensive research and interviews with current and former parliamentarians, staff, civil servants and outside observers, is devastating.  Parliamentary sovereignty, he argues, is a convenient myth that covers executive dominance – which has become more dominant in recent years, above all under Boris Johnson’s prime ministership.

Political reform is not an issue that excites most voters.  Dunt attempts to explain how repeated failures in policy outcomes are affected by the constant changes in ministerial posts, the weakness of parliamentary scrutiny, the adversarial culture of the Commons and the increasing control by central party machines of the recruitment of candidates who are assisted into safe seats.  He includes two case studies to illustrate how policy disasters emerge out of the concentration of power in too few, often poorly-qualified, hands: Chris Grayling’s privatisation of the probation service, pushed through against strong advice from experts, and the evacuation of British and local Afghan staff from Afghanistan, by a Foreign Office which had run down its relevant expertise and ministers who only paid intermittent attention to its urgency.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 29 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Chris Moore
    Hello Mary, you say this, "he party made a huge tactical error – when they could have had massive influence on a vote by vote basis – and betrayed millio...
  • Gwyn Williams
    As a student some 44 years ago, I delivered leaflets in a byelection in a new(ish)housing estate on the outskirts of Reading. It was uneventful until a furious ...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might we please have a pamphlet or three on the harsh harm done to so many in our policy-deprived, not-rich fellow citizens and the some 25% of our children w...
  • David Blake
    Leaflets work, but they have to contain more than just 'Labour can't win here'. We need to get people voting for us because of our policies and values, not jus...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Mary Fulton: Confidence & Supply would have had the same risks for us as a full-blown coalition. It would have looked like we were just propping up the Tor...