Earlier today Theresa May gave a speech to the Conservative Party conference setting out her vision for 'a country that works for everyone'. She said she wanted to "build that new united Britain in which everyone plays by the same rules, and in which the powerful and the privileged no longer ignore the interests of the people."
If Theresa May is serious about preventing the interests of ordinary people being trumped by the powerful and the privileged she needs to do everything she can to make her government transparent; she needs to make sure that everyone's voice is heard equally; and she needs to kick big money out of politics.
Unlock Democracy thought we would give her a few pointers on how best to achieve this:
1. Introduce a fairer voting system
This afternoon you made an excellent point, you said 'Our democracy should work for everyone, but if you've been trying to say things need to change for years and your complaints fall on deaf ears, it doesn't feel like it's working'
Too right Theresa! Our unfair and outdated voting system means that each election millions are denied the chance to have their voice heard. Only a small minority who live in marginal seats have a chance to influence the outcome and decide who has the right to govern the country. First Past the Post gives a disproportionate number of seats to the two main parties, wasting millions of votes for smaller parties. Nearly 250,000 people signed our petition to make votes matter, they're telling you things need to change. We need a voting system like STV which truly reflects how people voted. As you said yourself 'change has got to come' and now is the time to finally do it!
2. Introduce a real lobbying register
As it stands the Lobbying industry has an estimated worth of £2 billion and most of this is spent by big business. Whilst lobbying is an important part of the democratic process, the corporate sector continues to drown out the voices of voters and civil society. What's more, we don't even know when they're doing this. The current lobbying register introduced in 2014 covers less than 25% of lobbyists and provides no meaningful information about who or what they are trying to influence.
To live up to your promise about 'challenging vested interests' you need to introduce a real lobbying register, bringing the UK into line with the rest of the world. It needs to cover all paid lobbyists and tell us who they are talking to, what they are aiming to achieve and how much they are spending. Lord Brooke's Lobbying (Transparency) Act aims to do just that and has just moved on to committee stage in the House of Lords. Supporting this bill would be a good start.
3. Reform party funding
If you want to show the public that the country is 'driven not by the interests of the rich and powerful, but by the interests of ordinary, working class people', then reforming party funding should also be a priority. Parties increasingly rely on large donations from wealthy individuals to fund their election campaigns. This money can buy access to politicians and influence policy, after all, parties have to be careful not to upset those filling their coffers. The Conservative party website advertised that for a donation of £50,000 donors can join the 'premier support group', gaining invites to private dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions and election events with David Cameron and other senior politicians. The public simply don't believe that people would be willing to part with so much money without getting something in return.
To tackle this, you will need to put caps on donations at £10,000 preventing any donor or having too much of an influence on a party or a campaign. You will also need to reduce the spending limits in general elections so parties aren't so reliant on big donors.
Now, undoubtedly there will be some barriers to achieving these three things, some will come from inside your own party. But to paraphrase you, there's always an excuse - a reason why something can't be done but this should not justify inaction. All these things are necessary 'to employ the power of the government for the good of the people'. So now you know what to do, you're ready to go out and do it.