A fossilised electoral system and failure to build a fully developed social market paved the way for Mrs Thatcher’s neo-conservative revolution of 1979. Rejected by the electorate in three general elections, the Labour Party as “New Labour” adopted core elements of the Thatcher agenda, which has shaped the policies of every government since and left the country without a credible alternative to US Republican Party inspired isolationism and winner-takes-all economic policies.
The Task Before Us
With the Conservative Party dominated by the right, faith in the Liberal Democrats undermined by past compromises and Labour incapable of providing credible opposition because of the fundamentally different agendas of its Marxist and social democratic wings, it is clear the Westminster establishment offers no way out of this poisoned heritage.
Three things are needed to build the foundations for a better future:
- a fresh political vision based on a clear, tried and tested model of a successful, modern social market economy;
- voter mobilisation on key issues such as good governance in public life, taxation, party funding, control of the media and judicial reform;
- a strategy to challenge our disastrous electoral system which has polarised and discredited our public life. This must involve progressive democrats combining forces on five great issues which can mobilise voters at this moment of crisis in our history:
- our relations with Europe and the world
- a fair voting electoral system
- the reform of parliament
- tackling inequality through the transfer of power as well as resources
- effective measures to address climate change
Beyond that, the sooner we move to a situation where coalitions are the norm and Parliament and local government represent the diversity of public opinion and interests in a meaningful way, the better.
To achieve this, Radical Reform will work with other progressive campaigns to promote issues of common interest, arguing for electoral pacts where they can bring about the fresh start which our country so urgently needs.
“All the great reforms, abolishing rotten boroughs and the slave trade; freedom of belief, and votes for women, were bitterly resisted and yet, when the public were mobilised, became irresistible. The time has come for a powerful new wave of reform to create a modern, responsive, outward-looking democracy and so provide the basis for a society of social justice and opportunity for all.”
SUMMARY OF KEY POLICIES
Objective 1. Honest Accountable Politics
- reform the electoral system so the number of MPs elected for each party accurately reflects the votes cast, with all candidates receiving more than 50% of the votes being elected forthwith and a run-off ballot in all other constituencies between the candidates who came first and second;
- top-up the number of MPs for represented parties otherwise with those who received the highest number of votes in the first ballot;
- reduce the number of constituencies to 500 and the maximum parliamentary term from five to four years;
- extend the franchise to those between 16 and 18;
- reduce national spending per constituency fought from £30,000 to £5,000;
- equalise the number of electors in each constituency;
- make it a criminal offence for MPs act as paid lobbyists;
- end the link between the honours system and membership of the upper house and reduce the number of members progressively to 400;
- establish an independent commission to appoint people with experience and expertise to reflect the ethnic, income, and geographic characteristics of the population, with women taking 50% of the seats;
- require the Government to publish an independent review of the case for and against proposed legislation.
Objective 2. Empowering the Public
- ensure the membership of local authorities accurately reflects the votes cast;
- replace two-tier local councils with unitary local authorities;
- devolve powers from central government to local bodies accountable to the public;
- Establish elected regional authorities with responsibility for schools, the NHS, the police, economic development, training and transport;
- expand opportunities for the public to participate in the running of local services;
- replace Police Commissioners with oversight by elected regional representatives;
- require the Office of Communications to ensure genuine press diversity through periodic plurality reviews;
- ban foreign domiciled individuals from controlling the editorial content of major media outlets;
- ensure contacts between newspaper proprietors and politicians are conducted in a transparent way.
Objective 3. An Economy for All
- establish national and regional multi-stakeholder consultative structures to explore emerging economic opportunities, together with a regional development bank;
- maintain debt at a level which preserves the capacity to borrow, while protecting public services through careful management and balanced tax increases;
- increase progressive direct and indirect taxes to fund improved investment in education, training and economic development;
- raise Corporation Tax while maintaining business taxation broadly in line with our main trading partners, and introduce a carbon tax;
- end tax exemptions and allowances which cannot be shown to be fair and cost effective;
- reform inheritance tax to limit exemptions and encourage wealth to be spread more widely;
- raise the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage Foundation’s Living Wage;
- make equal opportunities best practice a requirement for public sector contracts;
- give trade unions enhanced rights of access to organisations which do not pay all staff at least the Living Wage
- reform company governance to tackle short-termism: require all large companies to establish effective mechanisms to represent stakeholder interests;
- promote investment and training policies which encourage the rebuilding of manufacturing;
- reverse the decline in private, mutual and public ownership to create a broader-based and more diverse business environment;
- increase public sector funding for investment projects whose time horizon is too long for equity finance and to tackle transport congestion and improve broadband infrastructure.
Objective 4. Equality and Tolerance
- develop a five-year national programme to make the UK one of the ten most equal OECD nations; build empowerment into all aspects of the programme;
- increase spending on the NHS, education and other services in communities facing deprivation;
- provide nursery care free or at modest cost for all children, and free for all children in low income areas;
- increase resources for front-line agencies to combat modern slavery;
- promote swifter remediation to end unequal pay at work; with enhanced rights for trade union recruitment;
- make best practice in equal opportunities a requirement for public procurement contracting;
- improve stakeholders’ rights to challenge excessive pay awards;
- require local authorities to provide housing for all and empower them to borrow to build;
- increase the security of tenure of vulnerable tenants;
- target tax-free winter fuel payments to end fuel poverty;
- ensure anti-discrimination legislation is enforced; decriminalise sex work and increase efforts to tackle trafficking;
- bring social deprivation to the centre of policies for tackling drug abuse; ban marketing strategies designed to encourage new recruits into gambling.
Objective 5. Humane and Effective Justice
- give all individuals a right to legal assistance without costs they cannot afford;
- create a judiciary representative in terms of gender, age and ethnicity;
- increase the police force by 20,000; replace county-based police forces by regional police authorities; increase funding for the National Crime Agency and strengthen international collaboration to fight organised crime;
- restore privatised prisons and probation services to the public sector; reduce the prison population by 50%; adopt punishments which keep people in work and with their families; require a properly resourced re-integration plan prior the start of any prison sentence; give prisoners the right to vote in their home constituencies;
- repeal the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 and treat abortion before the legal limit of 24 weeks as a medical, not a criminal, matter;
- put divorce law back under the control of Parliament and bring it into line with best practice in comparable democracies;
- extend the right to form civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.
Objective 6. Excellent Schools
- empower elected representatives to plan, commission and monitor publicly funded schools and intervene to turn around failing schools;
- transfer schools from academy and free school managers to oversight by elected local authority representatives, teachers, education professionals and parents and end discriminatory selection processes;
- ensure resources fully reflect changing demographic conditions and increase funding for schools serving disadvantaged areas;
- develop a robust and comprehensive national curriculum;
- restore funding for Ofsted and regular inspection of all schools and promote collaboration between schools to ensure all schools are good schools;
- enable all students to acquire a balanced understanding of different systems of belief without promoting one above others; create a national office for educational standards to promote evidence-based policy.
Objective 7. Adult Education
- close the gulf between those who go to university and those who don’t and address the shortfall in vocational knowledge and skills;
- ensure applicants have an honest picture of the lifetime costs and benefits of post-18 study;
- require universities to give greater consideration to labour market realities in determining the balance of courses offered;
- reduce the ceiling for tuition fees from £9,500 to £3,000 a year and make up the shortfall from general taxation; require better-off parents to finance fees for under-25-year-old children directly or through a loan, with the child repaying the loan via PAYE;
- reintroduce maintenance grants for students from low-income families; promote one-year starter courses and two-year basic degree courses to improve access;
- take urgent steps to address the decline in enrolment in part-time education.
Objective 8. Health and the NHS
- Adjust funding for the NHS and social care annually to reflect rising demands and costs and improved efficiency;
- create a national bipartisan NHS Oversight Board responsible for protecting the integrity of the Service; transfer strategic management responsibility, within parameters set by the Oversight Board, to elected regional health authorities;
- ensure health professionals have a central role in all decisions relating to clinical issues;
- reduce the share of NHS services put out to tender by 50%; require all health providers to meet the same high standards of transparency;
- require the Government to ensure sufficient health professionals are available by increasing training in the UK;
- promote the integration of health and social services with proper funding and promote healthy living by increasing the cost of fossil fuels, sugar and alcohol.
Objective 9. Harnessing Science
- raise public and private investment in science and R+D to 2.4% by 2017 and, thereafter, to 3.0%;
- increase the number of school students (especially girls) studying maths and science and strengthen science and engineering related careers support in schools; remove impediments to postgraduate study of science and engineering at postgraduate level;
- prioritise UK involvement in EU funded research and remove the bar on skilled-worker visas to applicants for jobs paying less than £30,000 a year;
- appoint a minister responsible for promoting public understanding of scientific issues and establish an annual day to celebrate the achievements of British science;
- increase public support for the commercialisation of scientific discoveries; protect national interests when foreign-based companies seek to acquire UK technology companies.
Objective 10. Saving our Environment
- tighten the target for cutting net emissions by 2050 from 80% to 100% carbon neutral and restore Climate Change funding to promote rapid growth in renewable energy;
- replace carbon trading with a carbon tax to reduce industrial CO2 emissions and use the tax system to promote reduced energy consumption;
- increase support for district heating systems and expand energy storage;
- maintain 20% nuclear in energy mix and research alternatives to gas and nuclear energy;
- accelerate measure to tackle marine pollution by chemicals and solid waste;
- extend protection for all wildlife in inshore waters and the economic zones around Britain’s Overseas territories and promote the proposed UN convention on protection of the open ocean.
Objective 11. Britain Strong in the World
- Build a stable and positive relationship with the EU with barrier-free trade in goods and services; thereafter, work to become once again a full member of the European Union;
- support the development of international law and multilateral international institutions with a reformed the UN Security Council and strengthened international collaboration;
- uphold our commitment to contribute 0.7% of GNP to development assistance and support multilateral efforts to end poverty and empower women and people who are marginalised;
- restore freedom of movement for workers from the EU. Restore funding for the immigration service, the police and local authority inspectors and step up efforts to combat people smuggling and modern slavery;
- maintain defence spending at 2% of GNP and our current defence and nuclear deterrence capability;
- work to prevent nuclear proliferation and promote the elimination of all nuclear weapons as soon as this becomes practicably possible.
Objective 12. The Way Forward
- promote a fresh political vision based on a clear, tried and tested experience of a successful, modern social market economy.
- mobilise voters on key issues such as governance failure in public life, taxation, party funding, control of the media and judicial reform, which Westminster politicians refuse to discuss seriously.
- reform our political system, working with progressive parties and campaigns to rebuild our full-hearted engagement with our neighbours in Europe and our international partners, a fair voting electoral system, the reform of parliament, greater equality and effective steps to tackle climate change.