A number of political campaigning organisations of which I am a part are supporting POWER2010. It is part of a desire to put political reform high on the agenda in post-New-Labour Britain. The idea is to choose five policies to put at the centre of the POWER2010 Pledge and campaign for their adoption by the government as a 21st-century Chartist movement.
The current top ten policies are:
- Introduce a proportional voting system
- Scrap ID cards and roll back the database state
- A written constitution
- Fixed-term parliaments
- English votes on English laws
- A fully elected second chamber
- Expand the Freedom of Information Act
- Stronger local government
- Right to recall
- “None of the Above” on ballot paper
I agree with all of them except having English votes on English laws — England dominates Britain politically and culturally, so barring non-English MPs from voting on bills reckoned to be ‘English’ would have the effect of disenfranchising Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish MPs from a significant proportion of votes. A policy of ‘protecting’ the dominant group in society against minorities will always have the effect of increasing that group’s dominance. In general, the promotion of English nationalism by a few fringe groups is very dodgy.
There are other policies beyond the top ten you can vote for too; some of them are good, but not all. I support POWER2010 because I think we need a new People’s Charter. I also support the new People’s Charter promoted by the TUC. We need new ideas and policies to campaign for a change of our political set-up that goes beyond our media’s obsession with MP’s expenses. There are glaring imperfections with both of these movements. POWER2010 has a tendency towards superficial reform by focusing on institutional policies rather than values. In short, POWER2010 has a political philosophy that is little more than anti-authoritarian/anti-statist and focused on a rather liberal middle-class concept of solving real problems in society with changes to political institutions. On the other hand, the People’s Charter is rooted in the socialist values that will lead to greater equality in our society, recognising that greater economic equality of the people is fundamental to achieving wider liberties and an politically engaged civil society. The problem is that the People’s Charter is only the agenda of the trades unions and has not been put to a wider audience. A modern Chartist movement needs to be a mass movement owned by the people, and whereas the trades unions are a perfect place for this movement to begin, it has to grow beyond it.
So, for the meantime, I’m adopting a belt-and-braces approach: supporting the Internet-savvy POWER2010 with its decent support from a number of pressure groups and the well-grounded People’s Charter with its solid socialist policies. My hope is that fruit will come from these campaigns.