The Reform Act 1832 is often referred to as the start of modern democracy – abolishing rotten boroughs, giving seats to the industrial cities and extending the size of the electorate to 20% of adult men. It was also ferociously opposed by the Tories.
Why is this relevant? It is because EVERY item of constitutional and parliamentary reform over the last 177 years, whether it is secret ballots, votes for women, limiting the powers of the House of Lords, or assemblies for Scotland and Wales, has been opposed and argued against by the Conservative party. Once in power, the Tories generally don’t ‘un-do’ reform – but instead roadblock any further reform.
This is why it is essential that, in this last year before an election which seems destined to be won by the Conservative party, we move NOW on political reform. If the new Speaker wants to make improvements then he and the party leaders must get going on attempts now to make MPs genuinely accountable to those who elect them and to make parliament more representative and better able to scrutinise the government.
There have been a few sacrificial lambs and will be a few changes regarding expenses but if we don’t move now, then one year from now, David Cameron will be in Number 10, 400-odd MPs will just move from one side of the House to the other, the same old faces will settle back down in their safe seats, and nothing will happen! We will continue having a government with total power elected by the few and an unrepresentative and impotent parliament.