18th Jan, 2019

Clarke calls for 'sea change' in political debate during city talk

Rob George 13th Jan, 2018

FORMER Home Secretary and Labour Party politician Charles Clarke called for a change in politics during a fascinating talk at Worcester Cathedral.

In the eighth annual Worcester Lecture, Mr Clarke said he wanted to see a political system which allowed long-term problems to be addressed in a constructive way.

More emphasis should be placed on rational and open debate to change the way politics is conducted to better connect politicians to the people they serve, according to Mr Clarke

The annual Worcester Lecture series is the result of a partnership between the University of Worcester and Worcester Cathedral.

Mr Clarke said, rather than successive governments addressing issues like climate change, the NHS, welfare and immigration with short-term answers, politics needed to move away from point scoring to explore solutions in a constructive and open way.

He looked at the mixed success of efforts to address key issues, for example, through independent bodies, judicial reviews and public inquiries.

“The conclusion that I draw from this brief survey is that attempts to bring long-term thinking and action to bear on significant questions will not succeed unless they directly engage the political leaderships of the main UK political parties,” he said.

He said there needed to be agreement by party leaders about which issues needed a long term approach and a small group set up to agree proposals and strategies, which could engage other interested bodies and experts.

Secondly, he said academia and the media both had a role to play in bringing to the forefront rational discussion on these long-term issues, with “better media analysis of politics and political choices”.

Mr Clarke said: “It is essential that academic research everywhere is ready to engage in the public debate, to address the real choices faced by government and others and to be ready to submit its work not only to the peer review of fellow academics but to the rather less rigorous, but perhaps more challenging, review by the media, politics and public opinion.”

Following episodes like the MPs’ expenses scandal, Mr Clarke said that the perception that politicians were only interested in personal ambition and enrichment, rather than public service, had eroded public confidence.

He said this had weakened the ability of politics to address key issues of society.

He recommended more free votes in Parliament, MPs being able to test the views of their constituents and introducing the alternative vote system for elections to reduce the number of ‘safe seats’.

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