Essay: British Public Policy

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British Public Policy

Over the last year, the British Parlaiment has been embroiled in an expenses scandal that has shaken the political system to its very core. Evidence of this can be seen in the latest poll, which shows that the Conservatives are in the lead with 36%, while the Liberal Democrats are showing 26% and Labor is at 29%. (Young) This is significant because in the Parliamentary system, the party who controls the most seats can form a coalition to run the government. With the vote being so close, it appears as if the Labor Party could join forces with the Liberal Democrats, essentially returning Gordon Brown to 15 Downing Street. Because such a scenario could more than likely happen, means that Brown must engage in a number of different policies to reform the government and address the various issues that could be affecting the economy. The most notable would include: reforming the House of Lords and addressing the rising levels of government debt. If the Prime Minister can effectively address both issues, he more than likely could solidify his power base in the future.

Reforming the House of Lords

The British political system is based largely upon various powers that were obtained from the Crown through various revolutions / uprising such as 1688. Where, it would give vast powers to Parliament, yet allow the Crown to maintain its influence within the political system. This problematic because the Royal family is suppose to be nothing more than a figure head that has no power.(Birch) However, when you look beneath the surface, this power is exerted in directly from behind the scenes. The best example of this can be seen with the House of Lords. This is upper House of Parliament; that works in conjunction with the House of Commons. The problem with House of Lords is that the Queen selects who she would like to serve in the chamber. Once someone is appointed, they are allowed to serve for life and usually consist of elder statesmen or people of prominence within society. Originally this was designed to give the Crown some form of counsel that would work with Parliament. Over the years, this institution has evolved into one that has the power to review and send back legislation to the democratically elected House of Commons. Over the years, this allowed the public to see the House of Lords as a contradiction. Especially, when you consider the fact that this appointed body of individuals has the power to essentially challenge the Prime Minister on a whole host of issues. (Cowell) a good example of this can be seen with the 350 times that they have blocked legislation that was passed by the House of Commons and was supported by the Prime Minister, since 1999. These kinds of consistent developments have allowed the public to see the political system as one of favoritism. Where, the socially elite that are politically connected to the Royal family, will have a greater voice in matters of political affairs. As a result, the electorate has become frustrated with the political nepotism that is taking place. With Bruce Ackerman a professor of political science at Yale University observing, "The promise of democratic legitimacy is a sham. The bar on re-election strips voters of their basic tool for democratic accountability: the politicians' fear that their constituents will throw them out of office." (Cowell) What this shows is that in the House of Lords, because someone is allowed to serve for life, they have no accountability to the public. This is one of the reasons why voter disenfranchisement has been rising, as any kind of reforms that have been introduced, will do little if anything to address the issue of accountability.

Despite, the obvious issues that are facing Brown, he can be able to bring about effective political reforms to the House of Lords. One way that this can be accomplished is through calling for a voter referendum on reforming the House of Lords. Where, all members will follow similar election and reelection patterns like U.S. Senate. This is the upper House of the U.S. Congress, which has reelections every six years. The fact that members of the House of Lords would be subject to the scrutiny of the people, will help improve transparency and it will allow Gordon Brown to win back the confidence of the voters. As the various expense scandals that have taken place while he was Prime Minister, have severely damaged his reputation. Engaging in this type of reform, will help to repair his image and will allow him to restore the confidence of the public in the political process.

A second issue that must be addressed is the rising levels of government debt, this problematic because Britain's total national debt is currently sitting at 12% of the GDP. (Waterfield) Recently, the EU has expressed concerns at the high levels of debt that were fueled by the different bailout programs and large amounts of public services. With EU officials commenting about this issue by saying, "The first thing a new government has got to do is agree to a convincing and detailed program of debt consolidation. It is by far the foremost challenge for a new government. I trust that whatever the color of the government it will do this." (Waterfield) This is significant because it underscores how Labor will immediately have a fiscal crisis that must be wrestled with. To show that they are a part of the solution; requires that the Labor party work with opposition members to form an effective plan. One possible way to achieve this objective is: to create a commission that will examine how the overall levels of debt can be reduced, without having to resort to more draconian type of measures.

Issues Labor Should Avoid

Because the expenses scandal has given Labor a black eye, means that they must separate themselves from the other parties. One way to do this is to address the nation and pledge a new era of cooperation with all sides in Parliament. This would help to restore the image that the Labor party is working to actively solve the various problems. The one notable issue that they would want to avoid is the war in Afghanistan. This is because recent public opinion polls show that 53% of the electorate is opposed to the war. (Morris) the reason why Labor would want to avoid this issue is: because of the perception that they are engaging in the same actions as before. Where, their former leader and current leader supported this policy. To avoid being associated as a product of the political system requires: distancing themselves on this issue, so that the reforms will allow perceptions of Labor to change among the electorate.

The biggest vulnerability that Labor will face is the perception that they are engaging in the same activities as before. Where, the different MPs are seen as embracing those activities that will benefit themselves first and the interests of the nation last. To avoid this kind of label; requires that Gordon Brown transforms the party towards one that will tackle the tough issues facing the country head on to include: reforming the House of Lords and addressing the rising levels of government debt. The issue that they should avoid is the war in Afghanistan, as this could serve as a lightening rod that would point out the failed policies of Labor in the past. This significant because the British public is venting decades of frustration that they have with the current political system. Where, the overall influence of the Crown in the process is creating a double standard that the establishment continues to embrace. If Gordon Brown can be able to tap into this anger and then redirect it towards support… [END OF PREVIEW]

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