It wasn’t perfect, it still isn’t, but over the ages it has evolved. Change has often been slow, those who have been ‘in power’ have been reluctant to embrace change. So it is today. Today we have a political class which has little interest in giving the people what they want or what they need. Inflated with self-importance and captured by the ego massaging trappings of their ‘position’, politicians are set on a course of self-enrichment and determined that nothing shall stand in their way. It’s party before people and ‘me’ before anything else.
The main cause of this malaise is corporate power: the political class have been bought by corporations and vested interests. Their corrupting influence has prevented political parties from connecting with the public, it has distorted spending and tax decisions and become a cancer metastasizing at the heart of our democracy. It explains the drive to privatisation so loved by Friedman’s Chicago School, a light touch to banking regulation which nearly led to our ruin, a disastrous dalliance with PFI which has left the country with huge debt obligations, and the ability of the very wealthy few to get even wealthier at the expense of the majority. Parties accept ‘funds’ and favours follow. How has this been allowed to happen? Because the political class have refused to reform the political party funding system which has effectively allowed big business and multimillionaires to buy political parties. The distortions caused by the corruption of our politics are many, but our sizable and growing inequality must rank as being the worst. The cost of the waste of human talent, of shattered expectations, of lives lived in poverty and hopelessness, the huge social costs of this appalling neglect of duty are unacceptable in a modern society. There has to be radical reform.
This may be a day to celebrate, but it should also be one to pause and reflect on how we achieve change. If we don’t address the problem, social unrest will follow – sooner than many people think.
I wrote this ‘Agenda for Reform’ earlier this year inspired by the Chartists. Perhaps it’s time we started a ‘New Chartist’ movement to speed up reform?
In 1832, voting rights were given to the property-owning middle classes in Britain. This meant that less than 18% of adult males had the right to vote. The British people felt betrayed. Four years later the Chartist movement was started, demanding political rights and influence for every man. Chartism got its name from the People’s Charter which proposed six fundamental reforms. It became a powerful irritant to the established political class, with a rally in Kennington attracting 150,000 people. Three petitions were presented to Parliament containing 1.5 million signatures, a later one had a total of 3.5 million – 15% of the population! In every case, the politicians in Westminster voted not to hear the petitioners. Despite these setbacks, by 1918 all but one of the Chartists’ petitions had been accepted.
Chartism was a continuation of the 18th century fight against corruption and for democracy. Today we need to fight for the restoration of our democracy, and for an end to the corrupt practices that have been allowed to undermine it.
Our parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a farce by politicians who refuse to reform the corrupt system of funding political parties. They have made a mockery of the voting system. Corporate capital and the wealthy elite have bought our politics and our politicians. Personal and party interests now come before the interests of the electorate. Parliament no longer works for the common good but for the interests of the few at the expense of the many.
BRITAIN WANTS ANSWERS! BRITAIN WANTS CHANGE!
Why should we tolerate politicians and political parties who don’t work for the common good?
Why should we tolerate a corrupt political system that allows corporations buy and bully politicians to do their bidding?
Why should we tolerate politicians who allow corporate capital to bypass our democracy and control our politics?
Why should we tolerate a system where corporate lobbyists are free to pressure and influence politicians without any checks and balances and without our knowledge?
Why should we tolerate a system that allows billionaire media owners to determine the political conversation and manipulate public opinion?
Until we confront corporate power, and reform the party funding system, politics is a waste of time!
Is it right that we have to endure crippling austerity when the well off enjoy billions in tax reliefs and billions are doled out in corporate welfare?
Is it right that the poor are punished through swingeing indirect taxation for the excesses and mistakes of a wealthy few?
Is it right that those we elect to represent our best interests have failed to address the appalling level of inequality in our society, and who appear content that the United Kingdom has the second highest level of inequality in the western world?
Is it right that senior executives cream off millions and the state pays to supplement the appallingly low wages they pay their employees?
Is it right that we should have to tolerate a political class that has failed to prioritise investment in the country’s infrastructure, allowed the country’s industrial base to wither and engineered an end to social mobility?
Is it right that the British people have to suffer a system that allows the richest to become richer while three million children in our country are brought up in poverty and hundreds of thousands of people, despite being in work, have to resort to food banks to survive?
The level of inequality in our society is unacceptable!
For too long we have suffered the creation of too many rentiers, people who live off investments. They have been allowed to feed off our stagnant economy and become staggeringly wealthy. Britain’s rentier capitalism rewards those who contribute least towards the common good.
For too long we have suffered from politicians who refuse to reform the tax system which lacks transparency, is unnecessarily complicated, and unfair.
For too long politicians have refused to address the chronic housing shortage. Four million people are on housing waiting lists and house building is at an appallingly low level. Meanwhile council houses continue to be sold off at a discount, and no new council houses are being built.
For too long we have put up with a financial sector that has chosen to put personal financial gain ahead of fulfilling its proper role of fuelling and oiling the greater economy.
For too long we have endured an outmoded form of local government. Local party politics an impediment to progress. More importantly, the country has no efficient means of devolving power to the regions and the development and prosperity of the regions has suffered as a consequence.
For too long we have put up with a political class who have failed to reform the anachronistic and undemocratic House of Lords. It needs to be abolished. It should be replaced by a House of Representatives representing all regions within the Union.
For too long we have suffered a political class who put their interests and the interests of their party before the interests of the electorate, who deliver empty promises not action, glacial change in a world of accelerating change.
Without a new vision and fundamental reform, we’re heading for social conflict!
Is it not time we had a NEW CHARTIST movement?
Here are six demands!
- We want honest politics and honest politicians. We demand that the corrupting influence of money is removed from politics.
- We want a more equal society. We demand immediate action to reduce the level of inequality.
- We refuse to have corporations and wealthy individuals influencing government policy without our knowledge. We demand proper reform of the lobbying system.
- We want to be properly represented and to be part of the political conversation, not just impotent spectators. We demand political and constitutional reform.
- We have had enough of a tax system that is biased towards the well off and penalises the poor. We demand total reform of the tax system.
- We want the financial sector to fulfil its proper role of fuelling and oiling the economy and working for the common good. We demand reform of the financial sector
More about the demands…
We demand the corrupting influence of money is removed from politics. We demand an end to the corrupt and corrupting system of funding political parties that has destroyed our democracy. A system that has allowed the wealthy elite and corporate capital to purchase politicians and political parties, to influence legislation to their advantage, and to seize the nation’s wealth. We must reclaim our democracy! We demand fundamental reform in the way political parties are funded. How? By limiting the total amount allowed to be donated to a political party in any one year to £2000. By ensuring that only those on the electoral register are qualified to make a donation. By banning donations from companies, corporations and organisations of any sort. By ensuring donations to individual politicians, in cash or kind to their campaigns or causes are outlawed. The state should support political parties but that support should be geared to the number of members they recruit, forcing political parties and politicians to engage with the electorate.
We demand a more equal society. We demand an end to corporate welfare and the restoration of a welfare state that protects the most vulnerable in our society. We demand that the wealthy make a proper contribution to the society which supports their lifestyle and their endeavours. We demand that there should be no laws or taxes that favour or benefit the wealthy. We demand the minimum wage is a living wage. We demand an end to the inequality that is destroying hopes and aspirations, crippling social mobility, condemning millions to a life of poverty and hopelessness, suffocating the talents of our children, and dividing our great nation. The personal cost to individuals and the financial cost to the nation of this obscenity are not acceptable.
We demand proper reform of the lobbying system. The lobbying system is not open and transparent. Recent attempts at reform were used as a front to attack trade unions and charities. Nothing has changed. The system remains opaque. Rich and powerful individuals, corporations and institutions remain free to lobby ministers, government departments and politicians, to buy access and influence. The electorate are deliberately kept in the dark. It undermines the political system and distorts our democracy. We demand that all lobbying is transparent and open, and carried out within a lobbying forum: a forum which allows a complete record to be kept of all meetings, documents and discussions. All this information would be available online, with lobbying requests notified in advance to inform, and to enable opposing views to be expressed.
We demand political and constitutional reform. We no longer have an effective way of devolving power from central government to the regions. Our current system of local government is outmoded and inefficient . We need an effective means of devolving power to the regions and for them to be able to govern efficiently, and for their interests to be properly represented. We demand the regionalisation of England within a federal United Kingdom. Each region should have an elected assembly that would join with the assemblies of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in sending delegates to a new House of Representatives, a constitutional body which would represent the regions of the Union at the heart of government. These regions would participate in legislation alongside the House of Commons. Votes in the House of Representatives would be be by region, not by individual. The House of Representatives would replace the anachronistic, unelected House of Lords.
We demand total reform of the tax system. We demand a fair and transparent tax system, a simplified system that works for the common good. We demand an end to senseless complexity. We demand a system that maximises transparency, minimises tax avoidance opportunities and that gathers tax revenue effectively. We demand the scrapping of taxes that are directed towards the wealthy, such as reliefs on pension contributions, and investment income. Taxes on health and education should be hypothecated and progressive. Corporation tax should be abolished and replaced with a progressive trading tax. We demand support for the introduction of a global wealth tax and the closure of all tax havens.
We demand reform of the financial sector. After the crash of 2008 politicians promised us a reform of the banks and the financial sector. Little has changed, little has been delivered. Another crash is as likely as it ever was and the effects on us all would be as great, if not greater, than in 2008. Banks are still able to socialise their losses and privatise their profits. Intensive lobbying and political ‘donations’ have ensured that there has been no fundamental change in the way they operate. Retail and investment banking have not been separated, and this remains a threat to us all. The half measures that have been proposed have not sufficiently removed this risk. Banks remain self-serving. They are not fuelling and oiling the economy by providing investment and supporting enterprise, nor are they directing credit where it is needed. The market freedom they enjoy still delivers short-termism, guarantees low investment, works against building and supporting business and inflates house prices. They are managing our democracy for their benefit and to the detriment of everybody else. They are working against the common good. Banks are unique businesses, they have a social responsibility. We demand legislation and proper oversight to ensure banks honour that responsibility and along with all financial institutions, they act in the best interests of the economy and society. They have to serve the economy rather than be its master. We demand fundamental reform that delivers real and lasting change.
We need to work together and confront power with ideas that can change our nation for the better!