Tuesday 13 March 2012

MPs for sale: a proposal (modest) for reform

Parliamentary democracy is wasteful and inefficient. That's to say, it costs too much and takes a long time to do anything. I think there is a simple way round this which will make it cheaper, more efficient and in the end open it up to choice.

At present we elect MPs who then choose leaders.

This system which took centuries to evolve is not fit for purpose. It may well have been appropriate for a previous era but no longer. We need MPs to be switched on to the everyday needs of the public in ways that really matter to them: goods and services or in plain language: what they buy. How better to do this than to make the very way in which we choose our MPs to be part of the same process.

I suggest that we do to reform our electoral system is for us to be able to buy our MPs.

The way this would would work is not a lot different from the present one. We would be offered a choice of candidates in our constituencies, just as we are offered a choice of shops in the high street, or a choice of goods in the shop itself. We would then buy the MP we wanted, in other words pay a fee to the candidate we liked. Whichever MP earned the most in the 'sale' would be the winner.

One way to run this is for the price to be a flat fee. I think this is mistaken. Both the candidate and the constituent could vary matters. The candidate could offer different kinds of service to different kinds of constituent and part of the competition between the candidates would be packaging this up in a way that was attractive to the client.

So I might offer up a three class service: the 'regular' which is a flat fee of £5.00 for the parliamentary term, which would get you one consultation in the MP shop. The 'super' at £10.00 which would get you two consultations and the 'Ultra' at £500.00 which would get you as many consultations as you needed and a fine lunch on the parliamentary terrace - at an additional £100.00.

The system would also be open to sponsors who could donate sums of money to the candidate they chose. These sponsors could come from private or public bodies, individuals or companies.

So 'first past the post' as far as your local constituency is concerned would be the person who had stacked up the most money from the constituency buyers along with the sponsors' contributions.

Then this group of successful candidates would assemble in Westminster. There would be a short period while they either confirmed allegiance to each other or created new alliances until the group with the greatest funds took power. Numbers of individuals wouldn't come into it. So, theoretically, a small group of MPs backed by extremely successful and creative entrepreneurs could take power, while a large number of MPs with relatively less well-off backers might be unsuccessful.

I think it would help if this interim moment could also be open to sponsorship so that groups of candidates could rustle up sponsorship deals from eg British Nuclear Fuels, Coca Cola or whoever in order to come out winner.

I think this is the only way we can get this country on its feet again.