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Tory-LibDem LoveFest

15 May

The question on everyone’s lips must be “how long will the love fest last?”. Well the Liberal Democrats have glued themselves to the hip of the Conservatives and so far everything is fine. David Cameron is the new British Prime Minister and Nick Clegg his Deputy. The two make a very vibrant looking team and must make the British feel that they can take on the world. They have already agreed to a 5% cut in salaries.

Political reform is one of the items on the Lib-Dem agenda on which the Conservatives were prepared to make a compromise. The UK may not need very much convincing about changing to proportional representation. There certainly will not be an outcry if there is reform in the House of Lords. Well these are the easy bits, its going to be a long hard slog to get that crippling deficit down to manageable proportions.

The following sets out the proposed political reform:

May 11, 2010

The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.
The parties will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.

We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

The parties will bring forward the proposals of the Wright Committee for reform to the House of Commons in full – starting with the proposed committee for management of programmed business and including government business within its scope by the third year of the Parliament.

The parties agree to reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration.
We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

The parties agree to the implementation of the Calman Commission proposals and the offer of a referendum on further Welsh devolution.

The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics.

The parties will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a full review of local government finance.

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The UK Election Debate – hear about immigration

21 Apr

All three parties agreed that there was need for political reform. The one aspect that they seemed to agree on was the right of the people to recall MPs that are corrupt. In addition Labour emphasised the reform of the House of Lords where there would be an elected House and there would be no more hereditary peers. The Conservatives seemed to be more concerned with cutting MP’s salaries as well as the number of MPs. The Lib Dems seemed to be particularly concerned with party funding and cutting the cost of politics. These are all issues that are real to the Barbados electorate as well.

Elections called in UK

7 Apr

We do not expect that Barbados will pay as much attention to elections in the United Kingdom as they did to in the United States elections – my how things have changed! Nevertheless those old colonial ties still run deep in the critical institutions in Barbados including our churches, schools, the civil service and of course our Parliament. In such circumstances there is still an inherent interest in those elections now due on May 6, 2010.

Background
The incumbent party is Labour which is headed by Gordon Brown who was formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer and successor to Tony Blair. The main opposition party is the Conservatives lead by David Cameron. The Liberal Democratic party is the second opposition party led by Nick Clegg . In the contest between the two major parties, Labour is trailing in the polls. The Labour’s loss of popularity probably stems from the decision to participate in the invasion of Iraq. It has been shown subsequently that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and it does look like the UK Government under Blair might have been seduced because of his overwhelming desire to have a close relationship with the George Bush White House.The Labour Party is arguing that they have a team with substance that has taken a lead role on the world economic crisis and has put the UK in a position that is the envy of many of the industrialised countries – with a deficit yes, but not as big a deficit as some other nations.

For Us
Gordon Brown has been particularly hawkish on financial services reform and sees the international business sector – referred to most as tax havens and offshore centres – as a very weak link in the chain. Whilst the OECD has essentially succeeded in its efforts to have Caribbean nations comply with exchange of information requirements, anyone should expect that there is certainly a lot more to come. He will argue that he has good supporting evidence as a result of the catastrophic collapse of the Icelandic Banks in which UK residents had invested. It is unlikely that he would listen to the argument that it was the lax regulation in the USA that was the catalyst for the implosion. Well it is likely however that Labour and the Conservatives would have similar views on this issue. Nevertheless Gordon Brown’s near obsession must stem from his years as Chancellor where he must have cultivated the belief that tax havens were stealing from UK Government coffers.

The Liberal Democrats
One of the interesting issues that has been raised has to do with the possibility of the election being so close that there is no clear working majority. As you might imagine the major political parties seem to be dismissive of this idea. This would however be an interesting position for the Liberal Democratic party which under the last dispensation had some 63 members of Parliament. The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. This is a point of interest for Barbados as in its modern political history none of the existing parties other than the two major political parties have managed to capture seats in Parliament. Some are of the view that there is a clear need for Barbados to move beyond duopoly politics and give people greater choice. This could occur quicker than we think if the minds of Barbadians could be open to this possibility.