The under-representation of minority groups is an issue that has been long-debated. In the first of our user-submitted posts, Jane Ward gives us her thoughts on what could be included in a constitution to protect the rights of these groups.
Britain’s diverse population is very poorly represented by the Parliament of today. In having such a narrow social group in the Cabinet, we need to ask how has this happened and what needs to change to ensure we are better represented? Parliament actively repels the very people that should be volunteering to stand as the nation’s representatives. Women, the disabled, the ethnically diverse, the various theisms as well as the working class each have value and deserve greater say in the country’s decision making process.
Here are some issues and challenges that I think need to be considered:
Women in Politics
It is an insult that so few women are a) seen to be sufficiently capable by local selection and more importantly b) attracted to a role in Politics. Women naturally have difficulty in functioning in the adversarial dog fight that is exemplified by PMQ’s as well as the anti-family/life demands of Westminster ‘boys club’ mentality and its unsocial hours.
Being a Politician must be a professional role
It must be possible to use technology to enable wider groups to function in the role. Going through YES or NO doors to vote on motions is just ridiculous and time wasting. I propose that no one should stand as an MP without having worked in a non-political sphere for at least 2 years. The job should be a division of the Civil Service and have a fully implemented career structure, by continued professional assessment and development. A job comparison audit should set salaries and expenses. The public will contribute to these reviews by providing feedback and if unsatisfactory reports are made, disciplinary hearing should be a feature and the capability of dismissal if appropriate levels of competence cannot be achieved or improved. No family members should be employed but administrative support should be provided by the Civil Service
First Past the Post is counter productive
The First Past the Post system is not working, we need a form of Proportional Representation to ensure that all diverse groups are represented however repellant. This alone should ensure an increase in numbers of people voting. Politics is tribal and because selection is limited to the 2 main parties, or worse a protest vote, this can result in an MP having a seat for life and this also means the numbers casting their votes at election time diminish. I propose that an MP stand for no longer than 10 years, it is too easy to become institutionalised and lose touch with the population and current developments.
The Lords is over populated
It is unsustainable for the present system of Honours to keep on adding to the already over full House. Its role for members needs to be better defined and in doing this those people that form part of it should have shown the necessary attributes to perform the role adequately. These people should be selected for making a significant contribution to society by popular vote at local level. There should not be an allocated religious component, nor should there be a significant number of retiring MPs. Far better to select citizens that show a diversity of life experience but also an aptitude for and interest in legislation.
Selling off Public Services
It is disturbing how those who hold a particular ideology are now able able to sell off pieces of our State Education, Health Care, Transport, Energy, Postal and Water Services. Public money has been invested in these functions and property. For this to be acceptable it must be enshrined in any Constitution that while it may be desirable or even cost effective to contract out some discrete services, it must only be on a Not for Profit basis. In any event the responsibility for this must remain with the Minister/Department which will have overall regulatory and monitoring functions providing reviews on cost and rigour.
Creativity in our children’s Education
Britain’s leading tradition in the Arts both at home and worldwide is to be celebrated. It therefore must be at the heart of compulsory education. We have huge resources of untapped potential in our young, however low expectations or lack of expertise often means this remains undeveloped. With creativity at the heart of the curriculum we will not only seek to discover each child’s innate ability, we will also better engage and enthuse them. The outcome of which would be in their much needed contribution to society later as engineers, designers, inventors as well as in the Arts and entertainment in general.
Please note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of ConstitutionUK, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Jane Ward has had several careers, working in Retail, Abroad and in Education. She worked longest as a Head of Art and Design in a school, then as a Business and Education Liaison Officer for Essex County. She is now working as an artist specialising in Constructed Textiles.