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Political Reform

March 31, 2015 7:33 PM

The Liberal Democrats believe that our political system needs a total overhaul. Too much power lies in the hands of too few people. Decisions are taken too far away from those they affect.

In Government we have taken some important steps forward: we've stopped future Prime Ministers from calling elections when it suits them by fixing the length of Parliaments. We've given people the right to recall their MP for wrongdoing. We've cut the influence of money in politics by restricting big campaigns from buying votes in elections. And we've given much more power to local areas in England and to the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to run things for themselves.

It hasn't been easy: Labour and the Conservatives ganged up to block our attempts to reform the House of Lords, make Britain's voting system fairer, and clean up party funding. So there is more work to do in the next Parliament. Our manifesto sets out plans to introduce fair votes at every level, and for every citizen from the age of 16, starting in local government. We will return to the fight to overhaul the House of Lords to make it democratic and clean up party funding. We will honour our commitments to devolve more power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and, in England, let local areas take charge of their destinies with "Devolution on Demand".

Record of delivery Promise of more
Devolved £7bn of funding for transport and economic growth to local areas in England. Meet the needs of England with "Devolution on Demand" letting local areas take control of the services that matter most to them.
Passed a Lobbying Act to introduce a register of lobbyists and curb the influence of special interests in elections. Get big money out of politics with a £10,000 cap on political donations as part of wider funding reform.
Fixed term Parliaments, taking away a Prime Minister's Power to call elections when it suits their own party. Better democracy with a fair voting system in local government and at Westminster, votes at 16, and an elected House of Lords.

Key Policies

1. Devolution on demand. We want to devolve more power and resources to local areas, but of course not every area wants to move at the same pace. That is why we believe the process for devolution inside England should not be top down, but bottom up - allowing local people to decide which approach is right for them. We will pass a "Devolution Enabling Act" to allow local areas to take on more power and responsibility from central government.

2. Fair Votes. Under our current system most elections across the country are often a forgone conclusion, with votes and voters taken for granted by politicians and parties. We believe that all votes should count equally. STV - our preferred system - also delivers a more co-operative and diverse politics which we believe would improve our political system. We will lower the voting age to 16 and move to an elected House of Lords, starting from the proposals we put forward in 2012.

3. Party funding reform. Politics should be a battle of ideas, not bank balances. But every time we try to do a deal to reform party funding, Labour and the Conservatives walk out at the last minute to protect the people who bankroll them: unions for Labour and millionaire businessmen for the Conservatives. It's time to cap donations at £10,000 as part of a comprehensive deal to clean up politics for good.

Significant steps have been taken, such as introducing fixed term parliaments and city deals. We know that political and constitutional reform can sometimes take a few attempts to deliver - as Scottish Devolution showed. We believe that the arguments for Lords reform, PR and Devolution on Demand remain strong and we will make them as powerfully as we can.

We believe that the way we do politics and Government matters. You have to ask if the last government could have been so reckless with the economy, or taken us to war in Iraq or for that matter, if Margaret Thatcher could have introduced the poll tax, if we had had a more representative parliament and political system. A reformed political system would reflect the will of the people rather than that of vested interests.


1. In 2005 Labour won a majority of 64 seats despite getting only 35% of the vote.[i]
2. In Manchester Labour have 95/96 council seats with 55% of the vote.[ii]
3. Central Government raises 95% of tax in England, considerably more than comparable countries.[iii]
4. At 16 people can have sex, pay tax, give consent for medical treatment and become company directors but not vote.[iv]
5. The Liberals first made the case for House of Lords reform more than a century ago.


1. In 2010 Liberal Democrats got just 8% of MPs despite getting 23% of the vote.[v]
2. There are nearly 800 peers[vi] , none of them elected by the people.

[i] House of Commons Library General Election 2005

[ii] manchester.gov.uk councillors

[iii] House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee 2014 - p11

[iv] www.votesat16.org

[v] news.bbc.co.uk election2010 results

[vi] www.parliament.uk composition of the lords