Let’s hope for real reform

(c) UK Parliament

Tim Johnston is a Labour Party activist and recent graduate

It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of real reform going around, nor that much of it is being suggested. The Tories’ plans (which the Lib Dems are totally opposed to) of re-drawing the electoral boundaries and slashing the number of MPs from 650 to 600, is not real reform. The AV referendum, although very welcome, is not real reform.

There has been little in the way of real, ethical reform over the past several years. Perhaps the exceptions to this lack of real reform are negative too. The Terrorism Act, immigration law, a fake ‘reformed’ foreign policy (the idea that we are now a force for good as opposed to destruction) as well as reforms to education and welfare are very present: but they are not real.

Real reform means that politics is not something that manages so much as it serves. Real politics is something that serves the soul of the world – that heals the relationships in our world. It is daring in its vision and unshakeable in its task. It is not done through force it is done through love. It means that those involved with politics, particularly those that represent us, serve selflessly.

It means going beyond representing our community, our region and our country, but goes so far as to represent the world – to act on behalf of everything, not on something. Of course, we have to start small, local and tight-knit, but what is the point of creating a situation for the community to flicker, and perhaps later on, wither and die only to be later raised again in a new light, struck with a fresh match? All of the wood needs to burn for the fire to reach its potential – not just a small portion of it; a branch or two.

George Osborne’s policy of separating high street banking from the casino-style banking that aided the global financial collapse almost three years ago, is a rare but recent example of real reform. Why? Because in the power of wealth and wild risk-taking, a safety net has been created for the people that that wealth is supposed to serve.

As people working within politics – which does not just include politicians – we all have a duty to serve. That means, above all, that politics must not be about selective interest or, worse still, self-interest. That is why the most real reform we can make to our political system is not necessarily a change in the voting system, but a change in the incentive to be politically engaged.

MPs earn far too much money. A new law that would prevent MPs, and any elected representative in political life, to not pay any one above the national average income, would be an excellent way to root out those representatives who are involved merely for debauched interests. If this is combined with a ban on second jobs – and not just a ban on “lucrative” second jobs, then there is no incentive for those focused by ulterior motives to enter into elected representation in politics. And, if there are still those with ulterior motives involved in politics, and yet want a pay rise, then there is the safety net of having to put through policies that help raise the average national income in order to raise their own pay.

That is probably the most real reform that this country, and in other countries’ parliaments around the world, could do. It is not far-fetched. Expenses should be provided for the absolutely essential and necessary travel and shelter for elected representatives to get to and stay in for their political work. But items such as food, second-homes and the like are not luxuries that are necessary, and should therefore not be included in the expenses scheme. Sleep in the office, buy your own food.

Service and self-sacrifice are claimed to be virtues in this country by the political elite. The only problem is that they tend to mean it only when it involves wielding the barrel of a gun into someone else’s face. The heart that is talked of and praised in this country is one that is eager and ready to take the heart of another for itself.

Real reform is what centres our hearts and minds on each other – the family of human relationships. Policies that seem to have nothing to do with this are often able to actually facilitate these virtues and goals. A better voting system allows people to better express what they want, and for a fairer and more democratic community to know about each other and help one another.

Reforming civil liberties legislation like the Terrorism Act will help alleviate so much of the animosity and hatred towards people of other faiths. A lot of society’s ills are systematic. A system which encourages its own change and development, to cut out the systematic nature of itself; facilitating freedom and love, compassion and the ability to live in peace and to care for ourselves as a community, and as a world, is surely a good system.

So long as steps are taken towards this and not away from it, this revolution will gather pace, and will be a constantly changing, bettering and self-sacrificing system. Let’s hope for real reform. Let’s hope for that.

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