There is broad political consensus on the remedies for many of Britain's ills. Derek Coombs, chairman of Prospect and a former MP, regrets that it is not reflected in parliamentby Derek Coombs / January 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Many people agree that some measure of constitutional change is needed in parliament, but the remedies suggested are often as tired as the problems they are intended to address. I want to propose one simple but significant change which would dramatically alter the way parliament is run, by strengthening and engaging the more open-minded middle ground MPs of all parties.
The proposal is straightforward and would not alter our present voting system in any way. The government of the day must represent the majority of its citizens and therefore no political party should be able to form a government unless it has 50 per cent or more of the popular vote. If the winning party cannot achieve that on its own, it would have to form a coalition with another party. As no party has achieved more than 50 per cent of the popular vote since the war, this would invariably mean a coalition, sometimes Labour/Liberal, sometimes Conservative/Liberal or even Labour/Conservative.
The majority of British voters support the middle ground and the composition of parliament should reflect their view. Over a period of time, issues would be judged not on what is good for the party/country, but what is good for the country/party. Our legislators could concentrate on the large and complex problems facing the UK-and the unpopular remedies they often require-with a broad base of parliamentary support.
A classic example is education. There are too few good schools and very many underperforming or simply bad schools, in both the state and private sectors. The Conservative party never seriously confronts the problems of state education and how it can be improved and the Labour party is equally negligent of private education. We have only to look at a country like South Korea, which 25 years ago had a much lower level of literacy than the UK, to see what can be achieved. Our vision for improvement is too insular and party political. We must study the best educational systems in the world and adopt a crash programme to raise our standards to the very highest level. If we fail in that, it is sure that our decline will continue.
Likewise we need a bipartisan approach to the rising cost of social security. All parties know that changes are essential, not only because the ?90 billion annual budget is rising out of all proportion to what we can afford, but…