Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Look for your legacy elsewhere Gordon.

If you cast your mind back to the end of Tony Blair's reign as Prime Minister you will remember there was a lot of talk about what his legacy will be. In the main, most people decided it would be the Iraq war but in the longer term he will probably be recognised as the Prime Minister who introduced the Human Rights Act or the National Minimum Wage Act.

Back to today and there is a realistic chance that Gordon Brown will have to endure the legacy of being neither voted in or out by the British electorate. In order to prevent this and perhaps hold onto his job for a while longer, Brown will make an announcement today at 12.30 to consider reforming the voting system. The proposed 'alternative vote' has not gone without criticism while others see it as a manipulation of the system to suit Labour interests.

The proposal for constitutional reform has been thrown around since the MP's expenses scandal broke more than a month ago. The truth is, we are still suffering the reverberations from this and even today The Daily Telegraph is publishing stories on the scandal. We can change the electoral system and change all the MPs, but if there is still an 'in it for yourself' attitude then this will all have been for nothing.

As there constitutionally must be a general election within the next 12 months it seems highly unlikely that such legislation will be passed but this doesn't mean Gordon Brown can't make a difference with the rest of his time in office. Firstly there needs to be reform of the current MP's expenses system which will probably mean, at the very least, accepting the changes proposed by the Kelly committee.

I believe though that if Gordon Brown were to go further than this then he could secure something of a legacy in terms of openness of government. He was already praised at the start of his premiership for scrapping plans to limit the Freedom of Information Act proposed by Blair. Now will be the best time to pursue the Act further and allow greater access to information on the mandate that public money is unknowingly being mis-spent. Reforms could include being able to scrutinise private companies that execute a public function, being able to look more closely at QUANGOs such as Network Rail and even scrapping the rule that public records cannot be released until 30 years down the line. The Dacre Review conceded, correctly, that sensitive information could be kept for the 30 year period but there is still a lot of other important information being kept away from the press and public.

If this is pushed through along with making the Minstry of Justice (the department that deals with requests for information) more efficient then I believe Gordon Brown, in this respect, can leave Number 10 with his head held high. He vowed to remove the sleaze from politics that Tony Blair brought with him and, although an obscure way of going about it, he can tick that box.