I&R ~ GB comments on:
The Coalition: our programme for government. Freedom, fairness, responsibility. May be downloaded from direct.gov. Conservative and Liberal-Democratic parties.

How about the promised shift of "power to the people"? Unconvincing. The authors of this coalition plan offer policy and democracy "for the people" but shy away from introducing effective civil participation.

In the table below we comment on and assess the national (Westminster) petition, local democracy, the tax veto, the MP (sacking) recall, how we elect our MPs, constituency boundaries and number of constituencies, local councils and a possible referendum about the European Union.

DISCUSS the coalition's democracy plans at Democr@cy Forum (scroll to find link) or leave a COMMENT at our BLOG


– Coalition democracy table
Further coalition plans related to democracy
Press articles about The Coalition plans
– Footnote:
David Cameron recorded in Autumn 2009 saying that he would introduce citizen-initiated referendum both at local and national levels.


I&R ~ GB comments:
The Coalition: our programme for government. Freedom, fairness, responsibility. May 2010.

I&R ~ GB: These lofty words lead us to ask: Just how do you propose to, "deliver .... power and responsibility in the hands of every citizen"? We assert that in order to exercise power and responsibility our people need better and more democracy. In response to a number of promises and plans of the new government coalition we comment, raise questions and invite debate, see below:
David Cameron and Nick Clegg conclude their introduction:
When we set off on this journey we were two parties with some policies in common and a shared desire to work in the national interest. We arrive at this programme for government a strong, progressive coalition inspired by the values of freedom, fairness and responsibility. This programme is for five years of partnership government driven by those values. We believe that it can deliver radical, reforming government, a stronger society, a smaller state, and power and responsibility in the hands of every citizen. Great change and real progress lie ahead.
Petition: Very weak reform of national democracy which falls behind David Cameron's pre-election promise. See Footnote Con/Lib
We will ensure that any petition that secures l00,000 signatures will be eligible for formal debate in Parliament. The petition with the most signatures will enable members of the public to table a bill eligible to be voted on in Parliament.
Local citizens' initiative: Weak reform of local democracy -- read the small print! See Footnote Con/Lib
We will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue.
Taxation veto: Potentially powerful local democratic tool, details not yet revealed Con/Lib
We will give residents the power to veto excessive council tax increases.
Recall: Constituency citizens' initiative to impeach (recall) MPs may be watered down by Coalition Con/Lib
We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by l0% of his or her constituents.
How we elect our MPs: "Take it or leave it" referendum offered on electoral system: Poor show!

We 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.
Electoral boundary changes and fewer MPs announced, which all looks like Gerrymandering. Constitutional reform like this must go to referendum!
... the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies.
Directly elected mayors for cities; personality politics plus indirect democracy do not guarantee civic success!
We will create directly elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities, subject to confirmatory referendums and full scrutiny by elected councillors.
EU. Obligatory referenda promised on Europe: no such guarantee in sight for constitutional change at home.

We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that treaty – a ‘referendum lock’.

Further coalition plans related to democracy

We will implement the proposals of the Calman Commission and introduce a referendum on further Welsh devolution

We will introduce a new ‘public reading stage’ for bills to give the public an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation online, and a dedicated ‘public reading day’ within a bill’s committee stage where those comments will be debated by the committee scrutinising the bill.

We will establish five-year fixed-term Parliaments. We will put a binding motion before the House of Commons stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 20l5. Following this motion, we will legislate 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.

Press articles about The Coalition plans

Mr Clegg compared his proposals yesterday to the Great Reform Act of 1932. But in fact his platform is less about granting new democratic powers to the public than making whole rights that should never have been interfered with by the state in the first place. It is undoing the damage wrought by the previous administration.

Source: The Independent Leading article: Some long-awaited cheer for liberal hearts. 20 May 2010
The Deputy Prime Minister was answering questions after making a speech in which he declared that the Government's programme of political reform represented a "fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen" and the most significant change to British democracy since the Great Reform Act of 1832. "This Government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state."
Source: Coalition under attack for its use of reviews to hide points of disagreement.
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor, The Independent 20 May 2010
Nick Clegg's 'great reform' speech made some bold promises. Andy McSmith analyses what they will mean in reality. 20 points (21st added by irgb)
Source: Blueprint for a new politics, or much ado about not very much? The Independent 20 May 2010

In matters of handing power back to the people, improving democracy, before the election the Conservatives seemed to be ahead of the LibDems. In a BBC broadcast last autumn (2009) David Cameron could be heard promising that he would introduce citizen-initiated referendum both at local and national levels. His words may be heard via the following web page

Now (late May 2010) the coalition says that we may be allowed to petition parliament by collecting thousands of signatures. We have enjoyed the right to petition parliament for hundreds of years so we gain little. No citizens' right to demand and obtain a national referendum is foreseen.

In local government a number of citizens may be allowed to put forward a proposal and demand that a referendum be held. However, David Cameron's office has informed us that the result would not be legally binding, only advisory.