Most modern forms of government around the world involve ‘Separation of Powers’ based on the trias politica principle of three distinct, independent branches of government:-
The Executive: The active, decision-making leadership. In the UK, this would be the Prime Minster and Cabinet, although the Queen, as Head of State, technically has over-riding authority.
The Legislature: The policy-making arm of government, scrutinising bills proposed by the executive, holding the executive to account and debating new laws. In the UK, this would be Parliament, including both the House of Commons, and the House of Lords, which provides an additional check.
The Judiciary: The court system, with its judges, juries and magistrates, interprets and applies laws and may be used to settle conflicts and for law enforcement.
The principle of each branch retaining independence is held as one of the fundamental pillars of democratic government throughout the world. Historically, powerful autocrats leaders have often tried to control or suppress the power of other branches. Two examples are Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in suspending Parliament in September 2019.
Parliament and Elections
The voting system is rigged. First, it renders a disproportionate amount of MPs from the mainstream political parties, those that have the funds to lobby and campaign. As such, smaller parties are marginalised, not only by the voting system, but they have their deposits retained, making it harder for smaller parties to enter the race.
The British House of Commons is designed as a two-party system. This means one party facing the other in confrontation. This is reflected both in the layout of the House, as well as the confrontational, aggressive style of debating, in which MPs throw criticisms, often personal ones, at MPs from the opposing party. Many speakers make speeches intended as a personal attack on MPs from opposing parties rather than constructive comments about policies.
We all know this approach wastes an awful lot of time and is not conducive to agreement. In general, it only serves to divide people further. We would like to put forward a less adversarial approach, as well as a more inclusive approach which brings in the views of delegates and viewpoints from all parties.
An example would be the emotionally-fuelled debates of 26th September.
Second, the largest party also gets to choose the individual that becomes Prime Minister or Head of Government, and unless a coalition arises, they would get the entire cabinet government.
The largest party can also change leader and choose a new leader, who will become Prime Minister without being elected. The most recent examples are Gordon Brown, Theresa May and, of course, Boris Johnson.
A key characteristic about the British Prime Minister is that he or she has wide-ranging powers similar to those of a president in other major democracies such as France or the USA, particularly if you consider how easy it is was for Johnson to prorogue Parliament. Even Hitler had less power when the party he led first came to power. So is it really prudent, or safe for our democracy, to grant so much power to an unelected individual?
Suspension of Parliament
This leader has the right to suspend parliament indefinitely. In theory, he requires the Queen’s consent, as Head of State. In practice, the Monarch will simply follow the advice of the government, so the whole exercise is pointless. There is NO elected Head of State. Again, is it really prudent, or safe for our democracy, to grant so much power to an unelected individual?
Whether or not we believe the Queen had any real choice in the matter, and irrespective of our position and preferences on leaving the EU, we can only conclude that the country needs a Head of State who can challenge the Prime Minister. The recent suspension of Parliament by Boris Johnson indicates we do not currently have this.
The House of Lords could have been used, but has become an irrelevant, quirky (but expensive) side show, which is used for semi-retiring politicians. This now also needs reform. It would be sensible to have an international aspect to the House of Lords – a suggestion which may not be popular with all elements of society.
The Monarch has only a representative role in modern Britain. The Queen must follow the advice of the Prime Minister, and it is widely accepted that she has no real power to do anything else.
As such, there is no check on the powers of the Prime Minister beyond Parliament, so if the Prime Minister seeks to suspend (prerog) or close Parliament, there seems to be little anyone can do. Effectively, this is a huge flaw in the system that leaves us exposed to dictatorship.
Fortunately, it rarely happens, but Boris Johnson’s recent prorogation has brought this to the forefront of everyone’s minds.
We have identified several fundamental problems with the current system of government. The trouble is, government is dominated every time by the same parties, and smaller parties are left unrepresented.
So what is the solution? See our Reform2020 Manifesto for the Constitution.http://reform2020.org.uk/the-new-constitution-for-2020/