Leading Article: Homes, taxes and Madagascar

Share
Related Topics
Try this next time you meet your MP. Step up, take him or (occasionally) her by the hand and say the words "constitutional reform". Stand back and watch a strange physical reaction set in; the eyes stray to the watch, the legs begin to twitch, the hands to fidget. You are the unattractive dancing partner at the office party. He or she will want to get away - to leave you to your lonely enthusiasms.

This is not entirely irrational behaviour. Traditionally, those who have campaigned for constitutional change - such as Charter 88 - have ploughed their furrow in a different field to that of the majority of voters. MPs are sensitive to this; they do not want to waste their time with you - discussing the Malagasy constitution or PR in Costa Rica - when they could be talking jobs, health and taxes with all your neighbours.

But, after reading the Rowntree Reform Trust "State of the Nation" poll, detailed in this newspaper today, your member may in the future decide to join you in animated conversation after all. For the poll suggests big majorities for certain reforms. For instance, the need for Scottish devolution has become almost consensual in Britain - only a tiny group of eccentrics oppose it. Likewise, more than three-quarters of adult Britons seem to favour a freedom of information act, a bill of rights and a written constitution. If voters are less enamoured of a change in voting system than they were, that could be because they believe that they can now get rid of the Government without it.

Sadly, these figures will not of themselves propel politicians into the reform camp. They will still use their own devices to measure opinion: the postbag and the doorstep. Whatever the poll says, few feel strongly enough to write in and say that they are incensed about the lack of formal codification of citizen's rights, or stand at the door, ignoring their negative equity, to moan about the House of Lords. Which is why we are right to suspect that even New Labour, under that nice Mr Blair, will be tempted to renege on its commitments to reform after winning an election.

However, there is another, much more ominous message from the Rowntree poll that should strengthen the argument for changing some of the ways in which we are governed; these are the findings about just how low politicians have sunk in the estimation of the voters. There is a sharp upward trend in the numbers thinking that Parliament works badly and that our system is "out of date".

This disenchantment is dangerous - and it is only in part caused by the personal activities of MPs themselves. Much of it is a rationalisation of a rather diffuse perception that we are not well or openly governed. Wise politicians will seek ways of channelling these feelings into much- needed reform. So next time you meet, you could ask your MP: "Are you wise?"

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star