Friday, October 09, 2009

My Small Footnote In Manchester

No WiFi meant no blogging at our party conference in Manchester, although I tried to battle network congestion to keep people updated with what was happening on Twitter. Most of my time was spent at fringe meetings pertaining to local government and meeting as many council leaders as I could to grab some great examples of how Conservative local authorities are tackling the issues that we face here in Sutton.

However, I did manage to make a contribution on the main stage, asking Shadow Leader of the House, Sir George Young what measures he would put in place to increase direct democracy and what he thought about a mechanism to recall bad MPs. He cited the example of the open primary in Totnes where any voter in that constituency could help choose the Conservative candidate. He also covered several proposals for local government which I will cover in more detail in another post, but included changing planning to make it bottom-up rather than top-down, referenda on council tax and elected police commissioners. He was keen to explore a recall mechanism to add an extra safeguard in between the more extreme automatic disqualification in the rare cases of having a criminal conviction or being made bankrupt.

Interestingly, the media kept true to form in my title as shown in the picture below. The BBC had already called David Cameron Prime Minister, Liam Fox Defence Secretary and ITV had promoted George Osborne to Chancellor. No-one in the Party is in any doubt that there is a long way to go before the election and we have more to do to demonstrate that we will be best placed to address the vital issues that we face. This is also the case locally. So when I fleetingly became the Leader of Sutton Council I allowed myself a little smile before getting back to the real world and the hard work that is required to make it more permanent.


Unknown said...

who ironed your shirt....

INIREF I&R said...

Adding to George Young's reply about direct democracy: In section 3.3. of the Tory green paper "Control Shift" we find, "The right of popular initiative is a feature of many political systems in the developed world. In Switzerland, people have mechanisms for direct democracy on almost everything from planning applications, to the precise use of tax resources, to medical ethics. Perhaps the most famous expression of American civic independence is in Oregon, where the system known as “citizen initiative” was introduced as long ago as 1902.
Under the Local Government Act 2003, local councils can choose to hold referendums on any local issue. But there is no mechanism for residents to petition for a local referendum per se.
We will give power to residents to hold local referendums on any local issue by legislating to ensure that a referendum is held in a local authority area if 5 per cent of local citizens sign a petition in favour within a six month period." UNQUOTE

The above applies to the local government level. In a recent BBC radio broadcast David Cameron may be heard saying that the citizens' right to initiate a referendum would also be brought in at country/state level. (Source: BBC radio 4. Beyond Westminster: The case for replacing or revising our system of representative democracy. September 2009).

What do you think are the chances that these forms of democracy will be introduced if the Conservatives win the next election?


Michael Macpherson

Guildford, ex-Carshalton

I&R ~ GB Citizens' Initiative and Referendum

Campaign for direct democracy in Britain Basic presentation The case for more democracy sign up for reform

Unknown said...


Thanks for the links and I'm glad you're keeping an eye out on your ex-home.

Citizens' Initiatives were mentioned in the session introduced by Caroline Spelman, Shadow Communities and Local Government Spokesman. Lord Bates, the CLG spokesman in the Lords appeared very keen on the idea, repeating the statement that you quote from 'Control Shift.' On that basis, I am quite hopeful that this will get on the statute books.

Every speech or briefing that I go to, I get ever more confident that the Conservatives will put their money where their mouths are in introducing direct democracy.

INIREF I&R said...

The chances as you judge them seem not too bad. I think that to increase the likelihood of reform, advocacy and expertise are needed. We have proposed that a centre for the study of democracy should be founded, so that we in UK can learn more about how citizen-led democracy works in practice. The accumulated knowledge would us help to achieve "state of the art" regulation and procedures of democracy. Do you know anyone who might like to help promote this proposal?