We have written before about the mood of anti-politician populism that is growing around the country here. We argued that one way for politicians to find a way around this was to aggressively take up a constitutional reform agenda and demonstrate change in the way the country is governed. One way this could be done would be to reform the way government ministers are appointed by, for example, copying the Swedish model of MPs not being government ministers, just experts who accountable to the legislative (for example, why not make Dave Prentis Health Minister?). Other more old fashioned ideas of reform include proportional representation.
In our piece linked to above, we argued that this populism and associated constitutional reform could be harnessed by the left just as much as it could harnessed by the right. No one on the left was reading obviously, as David Cameron has today made a move on this issue by calling for the way MPs set their own pay (and that of their staff). He also called for reforms of the Special Adviser system and for new oversight of ministers. It is covered in the Guardian, Independent and BBC online.
MPs’ financial arrangements are a scandal matched only by the way they are mis-reported by the tabloids. Their pay is appallingly high, but the real scandal is found in the way staff are treated – arbitrary pay levels, unpaid overtime, unclear and unhelpful management styles. It makes the Mother of all Parliaments look like an ASBO kid when compared to the modern and effective system of staffing in the Nordic, Australian or US legislatures.
Reforming the way parliament works would be one (small) way of showing voters we understand their disgust at the way politics works. The fact that Cameron has been the first to make hay on this should worry Labour strategists.