Today’s cover story, which you can find here, is an exclusive interview with the Labour leader Ed Miliband. Westminster politics, he admits, is a game watched “by a few hundred people in Westminster, but it doesn’t travel beyond Westminster”, the public having given up on “a bunch of blokes shouting at each other”.
He is right in the diagnosis – joining a discussion under way for weeks in these news and opinion pages, fuelled by your correspondence. But what remedy does he prescribe? I wish Mr Miliband (and any rival leaders who copy him) well in his plan to let the public join a political party as “supporters” for just £3, rather than fully fledged members at £45 a year. They will be able to vote in leadership elections and attend meetings.
Mr Miliband is caught between a party membership that has dwindled in number but is rejuvenated in neighbourhoods; the people he relies on to tread leather in his bid for office next year – and a public that cares about political issues but loathes the televised scenes from the ape house which misrepresent so much good work carried out by our MPs.
He should be commended for challenging the party status quo, although he remains beholden to the unions for bankrolling.
But in my mind he has not gone nearly far enough. Why not suggest staging some parliamentary sessions outside London? Take Parliament on tour around our big cities? (Don’t mention the security cost, this is the future of our democracy we’re talking about.) How about inviting the public to submit questions for PMQs? (David Elsam from Wallasey, on the Wirral, makes a similar point on today’s letters page.) Baby steps, but anything to restore vigour to our pallid body politic...