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Interview with Helena Kennedy QC about the launch of POWER2010

Guy Aitchison
15 September 2009

Blogger Mark Reckons has interviewed Helena Kennedy, Chair of POWER2010, the new campaign for democratic reform which launches today. POWER2010 is a bottom-up campaign which asks members of the public to submit and vote on their ideas for fixing our broken politics - the most popular will become the Power2010 pledge to be used to persuade and audit candidates and parties at the next election.

I'm working full-time on the campaign and hope to be blogging regularly on its progress and the different ideas it generates here. In this interview Helena Kennedy explains to Mark how the campaign will work and how we hope it will succeed:

POWER2010 sounds like an interesting campaign for political obsessives like me but why do you think this will succeed in a way that previous ones perhaps haven't? For example as far as I can tell, despite all the hard work of you and your colleagues, almost none of the original Power Inquiry key recommendations have been implemented three and a half years on.

There have been, as you say, many campaigns over the past few decades which have tried - in various ways - to get democratic and constitutional reform realised. I have been involved with many of them. You are right - despite the welcome the Power Inquiry report received - little has changed. I think you have identified the problem very accurately. In the end we have been reliant on politicians - those with power to implement reforms - reforms which in most cases will see them losing Power. And - they just can't take that!

So despite fine words, things don't change. But I do believe that change can happen. Look at how the Scottish Parliament came about - we needed an Act of Parliament and for MPs to vote for change. But they were persuaded in favour of the Parliament in the end because of the campaign in Scotland which involved civil society and real people and over years persisted and changed the culture in which that conversation was taking place. We need to do the same now.

The MPs expenses row gave people a real shock - a shock that has led many to begin to believe that it's the system that needs reforming - that replacing one set of MPs with another isn't going deliver meaningful change. It's a question of how we do politics not just who is in charge.

How will you decide which citizens form the group to decide the shortlist of reforms?

We will ask an independent body to run the process of honing down all the ideas we receive into a range of suggested reforms which we can put to the popular vote. The citizens will be randomly chosen from across the country and be representative.

If one of the five reforms that the public want is electoral reform to a proportional system for the House of Commons, how can we persuade potential turkeys to sign up to a certain Christmas?

I think it isn't just electoral reform which poses this problem . So many democratic and constitutional reforms will temper or confine the power of those in power - by sharing power with other bodies - by giving people more of a say or by creating more effective checks. The way we get over this is to have a moral hold over those in power. We want them to know that back in their constituencies there are thousands and thousands of local people who will continue to call for and press their local representative for these changes. Democratic reform is no longer the play thing of a small groups of people; it's something we all want and need.

Read the interview in full.

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