British democracy has been through an extended nervous breakdown in recent years with sustained assaults, especially from those whose role should have been to protect it. Urgent reform is needed to give control back to Parliament, restore credibility to the Government and avoid the growth of what Lord Hailsham called an elective dictatorship.
These are the conclusions of Sir Nick Harvey, former House of Commons Commissioner, and Lord Paul Tyler, former Spokesperson for Constitutional and Political Reform for the Liberal Democrats, in their new book, Can Parliament Take Back Control? Britain’s Elective Dictatorship in the Johnson Aftermath.
The writers outline the parlous state of parliament, arguing that recent assaults on the ministerial code, ideological witch-hunts against civil servants, the corrupting power of big money in politics and increasing government by diktak, mean that urgent reform is needed to clean up Westminster and restore faith in parliament.
They offer detailed proposals covering ten key areas from election law to long-discussed radical changes to the second chamber, with the latter to become wholly or mostly elected.
Other proposals include confirmatory hearings for cabinet posts, much more time for non-Government Parliamentary business, enhanced standards in public life, strengthening the Ministerial Code and protecting the impartiality of the civil service.
“What we are offering is a maximalist agenda,” explains Lord Tyler. “We know that not every one will agree with every one of our proposals. We also know that there is a hunger, in Parliament and cross-party as well as with the public, to shake up our political culture and achieve a stronger democracy – and now is the opportunity to discuss this before the next election.”
Sir Nick Harvey agrees. “Unless Parliament can be enabled to take back control from the executive, and prove itself to have the courage and strength of will to do so, the United Kingdom will fast descend the slippery slope to the ‘elective dictatorship’ about which we were so saliently and powerfully warned by Lord Hailsham – a true Conservative if ever there was one – nearly 50 years ago.”
Can Parliament Take Back Control? can be purchased here