Article Index

3. Looking at further Constitutional reform

The argument for holistic political economy included an analysis of the limits to our current form of representative democracy. Therefore, ways of altering the current system to move it in the right direction need to be looked at.

Rationale

The job is only half done, select committees are gaining traction, we have a supreme court, but the House of Lords is a mess and the most pressing issue is that political authority is illegitimate when a minority of voters can put in place a government with a majority of seats and the ability to impose its ideas.

We need to go back to thinking about local government and the regions, not just to shuffle off responsibility for the cuts (as in the recent use of local taxes to supplement social care) but instead to genuinely distribute power to bring it closer to the people it is meant to serve. Given the fact that politicians are power seekers getting constitutional change up the agenda is in itself a major political challenge. That is the reason that the HoPE Association needs to engage in non-party political and extra-parliamentary activity.

Governmental Reorganisation based on Systems (Note; Constitutional Reform Nov 2019)

It occurs to me that consideration should be given to reorganising government (the departments, agencies, outsource companies, local government and others) based on the systems that need to be managed sustainably.

To illustrate what I mean, consider that the chalk rivers of the Chilterns (unique and of world renown) are drying up because of water extraction from the underlying aquifers and the consequent reduction of the water table. This problem was first pointed out in the 1980's but nothing has been done. It would appear that is is at least partly due to a lack of joined up i.e systems thinking. Responsibility is spread across numerous bodies; The Environment Agency, The Rivers Trust, Water Utilities, Local Governments Housing and Planning Departments, and there are probably more. Each of these has different aims and objectives which do not align. The Environment Agency, which might have the power to do something choses not to exercise its power because it would be seen as "draconian", it choses a light touch regulation approach so works "in partnership" with the the water companies to help them meet their supply objectives. The water companies have a duty to supply and accept their political directive to maintain supply and keep water bills down. Water is too cheap. The utilities regularly use drought orders to continue to extract water from rivers that are already stressed. Local Authorities cannot withhold planning permission because of water stress. The recent Environment Bill contains no mention of water provision or measures for ensuring the sustainable supply of water. Water use in the UK, per capita exceeds what other countries can manage, no new infrastructure such as reservoirs, that would alleviate the extraction from aquifers, are being considered. 

My suggestion is not a panacea, political will and vision are still needed and both of these are plainly lacking right now, but the point is that it is structurally impossible to look at the system as a whole using the political and civil institutions that exist right now. The problem cannot be articulated within government because its design does not allow the issues to be surfaced anywhere where there is any responsibility and accountability. When the problem is articulated outside government the government is structurally incapable of doing anything about it because it does not have the organisation to do so - any political will that may exist in the wake successful lobbying quickly runs out when it hits departmental conflicts and diverse competing and /or unaligned groups. This part of the problem can be fixed by design. Then at least the total system can be brought into view and a sensible discussion take place on what solutions might look like. Political will can be used building consensus, by mirroring the systems the structure of government would assist the solution. 

By extension this approach might also be used across the board - Food Supply and Energy Supply to name but two can be viewed as systems. Then at least the total system can be brought into view and a sensible discussion take place on what solutions might look like. Political will can be used building consensus, by mirroring the systems the structure of government would assist the solution. 

This becomes a matter for debate and research which would be coordinated by the HoPE Association; debate about what are the systems and sub-systems (what consensual model can be built in Soft Sytems terminology) and research into how they should be organised, what powers are needed and how management would work and be accountable.