New government pledges to transform British politics

19th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's new coalition government will usher in the biggest shake-up of politics since the 19th century, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg promised on Wednesday.

His Liberal Democrats joined Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right Conservatives last week and immediately announced plans to reform the upper house of parliament and hold a referendum on voting reform.

"This government is going to transform our politics so that the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state," Clegg said in his first major speech.

The "big, sweeping changes" were designed to "persuade you to put your faith in politics once again," after a damaging lawmakers' expenses scandal last year, Clegg said.

The government -- the first power-sharing administration in Britain since World War II -- will repeal "unnecessary" laws, make politics "open, transparent and decent" and radically redistribute power away from the centre.

"Britain was once the cradle of modern democracy -- we are now on some measures the most centralised country in Europe bar Malta," he said.

The House of Lords, the upper house of parliament, will be made fully elected by abolishing hereditary peers, he said, lamenting: "We have been talking about reforming the House of Lords for over 150 years."

In the House of Commons, the lower house, the government has backed the introduction of fixed parliamentary terms.

Clegg dismissed critics of a proposed new requirement for a 55 percent majority of MPs to agree to a dissolution of parliament before the end of its five-year term.

Clegg said they were "completely missing the point", arguing that the measure would help ensure stability.

He said a referendum was essential on introducing the Lib Dems' long-cherished dream of electoral reform, with voters asked to endorse the Alternative Vote system.

The current first-past-the-post system was "a major block to electoral change".

The leaderships of both parties -- although not natural political partners -- appear to back the changes, but they are likely to face opposition from members who are not satisfied with what their leaders have signed up to.

© 2010 AFP

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