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COVID-19 exposes over-centralised minority-elected government in the UK

June 23, 2020 11:00 PM

Westminster

Westminster's broken political system is shutting out people who need their voices heard now more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic.

Our democracy doesn't need piecemeal change, it needs a radical overhaul.

On 8th June our Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain led a debate in the House of Commons calling for a radical overhaul of Westminster politics.

If the last three years have shown politics isn't working for people then the coronavirus crisis has made it clearer than ever that reform is needed.

Speaking in the debate, Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

"Over the coming months and years we're going to face numerous issues as we seek to overcome and recover from the coronavirus crisis. We need to work together - yet our Westminster politics is adversarial and divisive. These roots reach down into the foundations of our political culture. When Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer stand opposite each other at Prime Minister's Questions they are two swords' length apart to avoid physical fighting."

Meanwhile the smaller parties are squashed at the ends of the chamber and are largely unheard.

"First past the post" is partly to blame for this, creating a winner takes all mentality. We have a Conservative Government with a huge majority but with only 43 percent of the General Election vote. And nearly all the power is crammed into the UK parliament at one end of the country with only Scotland, Wales and NI having some say over what happens in their areas. And so the Government continues with the 'one-size fits all' policies and out of touch with the varying mood across the country not even listening to their own MPs, who are at least hearing from their constituents.

All the evidence suggests that the UK's coronavirus death toll is the worst in Europe and one of the worst worldwide. The supposedly weak government in Germany with its many regional parliaments, proportional representation and coalition national government took early decisive action and has a death rate a fraction of that in Britain. Their politicians are used to deliberating different ideas and information and then using co-operation and consensus.

Meanwhile the majority centralised 'strong' government in the UK dithered initially allowing the virus to take hold and is now striking out with random populist policies -rapidly changed if it turns out they are not that popular - in an attempt to show that they are in charge.

I think that we can say that we do not want a 'world-beating' or British answer to any of the coronavirus questions but just an adequate solution that works would be fine. Even if we have to copy a European answer or borrow the German system of testing!