Sunday, 13 May 2007

Consulting Brown

I watched Gordon Brown on BBC's Andrew Marr programme this morning and grew increasingly irritated by his proposals for greater consultation with the general public.

First he tried to give the distinct impression that one of the most radical reforms he was going to introduce is allowing for consultation on new legislation - well this already happens, it is called Pre-Legislative Scrutiny. We have Green Papers, White Papers, and quite often now even Draft Bills go through Parliament before the real Bill is introduced.

Second he then said that he was going to allow for consultation on the Queen's Speech. This is ridiculous. It is a waste of taxpayer time and money. Not least because we already have already had a consultation on what should be in the Queen's Speech - it is called ratification of a manifesto via a General Election.

Basically what Gordon Brown is trying to address is the problem of voter apathy in the UK - and it is an issue which is worth trying to deal with. But his way of "consultation" is a very Westminster Village and patronising approach towards tackling voter apathy, and is doomed to fail - what if the public had an opportunity to consult on tuition fees, or ID cards, or a tax on air travel and didn't like it? Would the Government have abandoned these? I doubt it.

I don't think anyone has ever said to me on the doorsteps "the reason why I am not going out to vote is because I never get to comment on legislation going through Parliament". Many people feel they have made their contribution to government by simply voting. People cast their vote based on a manifesto of policy and commitments - once the box is in the square, they want their politicians to get on with it, whether it is at parish, district or national level.

We all know that Brown has no mandate to govern - the opinion polls in today's papers make that pretty clear - so if he wants a consultation on what legislation he wants to introduce he should do the right thing and call an election.

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