Parliament must be more relevant to all

PUBLISHED: 11:03 18 October 2007 | UPDATED: 12:57 04 May 2010

Gordon Brown s decision not to call an election may have spared readers a procession of parliamentary candidates knocking on their doors, but it has also denied them the opportunity to cast their vote on the new Prime Minister and the direction he is taki

Gordon Brown's decision not to call an election may have spared readers a procession of parliamentary candidates knocking on their doors, but it has also denied them the opportunity to cast their vote on the new Prime Minister and the direction he is taking the country.

I think that is a pity and, like most people, find it hard to believe the Prime Minister's claims that the surge in support for the Conservatives had nothing to do with the decision to resist a snap poll.

It is interesting that earlier this year when Gordon Brown highlighted areas where power held by the executive would be surrendered or limited, nothing was said about the power of government to decide the timing of an election.

This has now become one of the most talked about constitutional issues and Mr Brown's dithering over the summer has certainly added merit to the argument for fixed terms.

Whether it is fixed terms, attacking public disillusion with politics (and politicians), or the power to go to war, I certainly welcome the debate on how we can make the government and parliament a better servant of the people.

There is no doubt that the British system of government needs real change, but whether the former Chancellor is the best person to deliver it is another question. Mr Brown was, after all, at the heart of government for a decade in which mistrust in politics grew immeasurably and the word 'spin' took on an entirely new meaning.

He has also - for all his talk of citizen juries and increasing public engagement in politics - ducked the opportunity to win a mandate for his leadership and continues to block a referendum on the new EU Treaty, which will transfer power from Britain to Brussels in spades.

Despite the whiff of hypocrisy that surrounds the Prime Minister on constitutional reform, we must seize the opportunity to make parliament more accountable and relevant to the public.

This was one of the many issues I discussed recently with Josh Oddi, the representative of the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) for East Cambridgeshire and Fenland.

Josh is at the forefront of efforts to increase the involvement of young people in the political process and I wish him every success.

It is important that teenagers' voices are heard - not just so their views can be better reflected in policy making, but also to debunk the negative 'hoodie' stereotype which has been earned by the actions of an anti-social minority.

While elements of the media reinforce this perception, the reality is worth remembering: the majority of young people are brimming with enthusiasm, great ideas and positive energy.

One of the great privileges of being an MP is that I get to see this on a regular basis whenever I visit schools and youth projects or watch the superb involvement of young people in the Viva Youth Theatre.

The UK Youth Parliament is harnessing all this and I look forwarded to reading the proposals in their next manifesto - whenever Gordon Brown decides to call the next election.

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