In his maiden speech as Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg promised a “Big Bang” of changes to politics, which presumably means they’ll be rolled out over millions of years before contracting again. It’s easy to be cyncial about what he said – which is why I’m writing this blog. But lets look at the facts.
Clegg promised us the “biggest shake-up in democracy” in 178 years, when Gladstone had to admit he called Disraeli a joke and then screamed “Come Baaaaaack” in a strange strangulated voice. And indeed democracy is being shaken up – we’ve got a massive reform to the House of Lords where well over a hundred new peers could be created to give the government a majority, constituencies are going to be shrunk to help the government keep its majority, the backbench 1922 committee is going to include ministers to help maintain the government’s majority, and the new fixed term parliament comes with a handy requirement of a 55% vote for dissolution – to help maintain the government’s majority. All in all, quite a “shake-up in democracy”, canyouseewhatIdidthere.
As I’ve said on Twitter, it’s the 55% thing which has got to many people, but lets be frank, the world has moved on and most people now have to give 110% – so half that seems about right. Personally I don’t see what the fuss is about, but then I’ve always been a glass-55%-full man.
Those are my 55% jokes. Lets move on.
I’m not denying there won’t be real change. Cleggers has already radicalised John Prescott’s old role of Deputy Prime Minister, which constitutionally only requires you to punch a man in the face every four years. And then there’s scrapping ID cards (though shouldn’t we keep them just for Cameron and Clegg to help us tell them apart?). But does Not Doing Someone Else’s Really Expensive Rubbish Idea count as real change? I’m no longer going to spin myself round really quickly 15 times with my eyes shut before doing my morning wee but I still wouldn’t claim that’s the most radical shake-up in urinary habits for 170-odd years.
What about the electoral system, you say? Surely that’s radical. We now know there will be a referendum at some unspecified date not on Proportional Representation but on AV, which, in case you don’t know what that is, by the time of the referendum will probably be explained as a system of voting where the votes of the lowest polling candidate are removed and transferred to the Conservative candidate.
And as for this being the greatest decentralising change since 1832 and all that, I suggest that Bert and Ernie (as Caitlin Moran so brilliantly characterised the Great Cleggeron) should try telling that to the people of Scotland who now have their own Parliament, the Welsh with their assembly, Londoners who have their mayor etc. Perhaps 1832 actually meant just after half past six the previous evening.
With thanks for pics to David Beresford