A gobsmacked world looks on in dismay as the UK slowly throttles itself in a tangle of argument, prejudice, constitutional failure and muddled thinking. So the first reforms are to the constitution. We must repeal the Five Year Parliament Act, restore the royal prerogative of the prime minister to ask for a dissolution without any formal reason and enshrine in law the nature and extent of the executive’s prerogative powers across the piece.
The principles are that sovereignty is owned by the people and expressed through their representatives in parliament. The Executive governs and Parliament legislates. Parliament can sack the executive and the executive can, via the monarch, dissolve parliament; a balance of power which has given this Union a stability of governance in even the darkest hours, but which is now lost.
There must be provision for a fair representation of the issues and interests of the Home Nations, either in a UK parliament, or perhaps by scrapping the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected senate to act as the revising chamber for all and the final backstop for the Union. The title Lords could be retained both for the institution and the elected members.
For all parliaments, not just the devolved assemblies, there has to be a modern voting system which ensures proper representation and majority government, either with or without coalition. The first past the post system, still in use in Westminster and many local authorities, works properly only if there are two parties. Otherwise you end up with power in the hands of representatives most people voted against. In the modern world of technology and social media where the electorate is informed and connected as never before, quite independently of official news, FPP is unfit for purpose
There was once a clear understanding of where the state ended and the private sector began. There was also a clear boundary between individual responsibility to provide and manage, separated from the state’s obligation to support and deliver. Excessive privatisation, outsourcing and regulatory quangos contribute to vast elements of everyday life, paid for or subsidised by taxpayers, but outside democratic scrutiny or ministerial responsibility.
Public utilities and public services are in many cases now at crisis point, made worse by austerity as the norm and shareholder priority as a standard. Wholesale nationalisation for the sake of it never works but state ownership of critical infrastructure and services certainly does. The state should be player and partner and at times competitor. But for monopolies like the generation and distribution of electricity the state must be the owner. The retail market can be open to private firms, but the state must be an option for those who want to buy their power direct.
At the moment state owned banks are in competition with those privately owned, even in the High Street, demonstrating a seamless blend of different ownerships, in the public interest. Some rail franchises are or have been state run with great success, so the state as a competitive player works. But outsourcing, for example the management of prisons or policing, so that they become a source of profit for shareholders, creates an unacceptable conflict of interest with unsatisfactory employment conditions and delivery shortcomings.
The current financial sector dominated economy, powered by asset inflation, is reaching the end of its life. Already it is causing hardship and serious inequalities, as well as sucking money away from new wealth creation. This in turn depletes the tax base, reducing available funding for public services and infrastructure investment, including housing, transport, communications and clean energy.
Reform requires quantitative tightening in the financial sector and an increase in the money supply into the base of the economy to fire up an economic regeneration founded on new wealth, greater than anything seen for several generations. It is complex and beyond the scope of this post. But it is worth laying down a marker. It is a must with or without Brexit. Without it, nothing else will work well enough to fulfil ambitions for a better future.