Opposition Parties Voice Strong Support for Blueprint to Boost Democracy ; Campaign for Democracy
Grice, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
The Tories and Liberal Democrats have welcomed the Power commission's blueprint to revive Britain's ailing democracy, boosting the chances of the proposals being implemented.
With Gordon Brown endorsing the thrust of the commission's report, campaigners for constitutional reform hailed the inquiry as an important milestone in their fight for measures to bridge the gulf between the politicians and the people. In an interview with The Independent, Mr Brown backed a key element of the report - concordats setting out the relationship between Parliament and the executive and between central and local government. That would be seen as a step towards a written constitution.
In its report yesterday the independent commission, chaired by the Labour peer and QC Helena Kennedy, proposed 30 recommendations to reengage people with politics. They included the abolition of the first - past - the-post voting system in line with The Independent's Campaign for Democracy, which has won the support of almost 40,000 people.
Oliver Heald, the Tories' spokesman on constitutional affairs, said the Power report would be considered carefully by the party's task force on democracy, chaired by the former cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke.
Mr Heald said: "Conservatives agree strongly with the commission's view that too much executive power is today concentrated in the hands of ministers rather than in the House of Commons, and that this is one of the areas where there needs to be a 'rebalancing of power' within our constitution.
"We share the commission's concerns about the disengagement felt by many people from the formal political process and the disconnection between the public and politicians."
But Mr Heald said the Tories disagreed with some of the recommendations - including the plan to reduce the age at which people can vote from 18 to 16.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' president and leadership candidate, said: "The Power report is timely, welcome and important. British democracy is in crisis whatever the Government pretends. Most voters are ignored and most people feel they have no influence. The Liberal Democrats will continue to push for fairer parliamentary representation and greater government accountability."
Chris Huhne, a rival Liberal Democrat leadership contender, pledged his "110 per cent" support for The Independent's campaign and said: "The Power inquiry is an excellent basis on which to convene a UK-wide constitutional convention which should attempt to reach agreement on the problems with the present system and then on solutions. …