The Labour leadership candidates on the future of Britain: Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband, one of the frontrunners for the Labour leadership, answers questions on political reform, civil liberty and the English Question.
Ed Miliband
21 September 2010

OurKingdom has asked each of the Labour leadership candidates for their views on five key questions to do with civil liberties and constitutional reform – we will be publishing the responses we receive one by one in the run up to the announcement of the new leader on Saturday. The first was from Diane Abbott, the second set comes from Ed Miliband.


The Labour Party Website outlines the need for "a radical programme of constitutional and parliamentary reform," and acknowledges that the "political system deters participation."  Do you believe it is now time for a written constitution?If we are going to change Britain for the better we need to restore people’s trust in politics and I certainly think that a radical programme of political reform is part of how we that, including looking at things like party funding, an elected House of Lords and how we elect our MPs.

I’m very sympathetic to the idea of a written constitution because it would formalise the checks and balances on government and enable people to be clear about their rights as citizens. I think at times Labour has risked being too cavalier about the extension of the power of the state and too casual about individual liberty. A written constitution could play a role in ensuring we have a state which can still make a difference to people’s lives but is not overbearing.

A common criticism made of the Labour party during the Blair and Brown years was that it was responsible for the "erosion of civil liberties," exemplified by detention without charge, the DNA database and national ID card proposals.  Did Labour take it too far from '97-2010?  And, as leader of the party, what would be your position on the Great Repeal Bill?

I am very proud of much of what we achieved in government but I also think we have to recognise where we got things wrong and we have to change. I've said throughout this campaign that I believe New Labour was at times too casual about the liberty of individuals. I'm in favour of using DNA and CCTV because it can provide crucial evidence the courts need to convict criminals. But we made mistakes over ID cards and 42-day detention and how we handled stop and search powers. I want to lead Labour on a journey to a different identity for the future: social democratic on economic policy, standing for redistribution and tackling inequality, liberal in our respect for individual rights.

The Labour party manifesto contained a commitment to a referendum on the Alternative Vote. Will you be campaigning for AV in the forthcoming referendum planned by the Coalition? And would you go further and support a referendum on proportional representation as originally promised by Labour in 1997?

I'm in favour of the AV voting system for the House of Commons and will campaign in favour of AV in the referendum. I believe that changing our electoral system so that every MP has the support of more than half of their constituents is one way in which we can begin to restore trust in politics. I am, however, concerned that the Coalition have bundled the AV vote with sweeping reforms to our constituencies that risk changing the size of constituencies when too many people are still excluded from the electoral register. I hope that we will be able to change these plans in Parliament. I’m not in favour of proportional representation for the House of Commons.

The recent controversy over the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has exposed a new dimension to the West Lothian question, and illustrates the continuing contradictions between the unitary and devolved elements of the UK's political structure.  Is the eventual formation of a devolved English Parliament now inevitable? If not, how should the West Lothian question be dealt with?

I'm not in favour of a separate English Parliament and I’m against creating two-tiers of MPs in the House of Commons. I think one thing we must do is change our approach to politics. Devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has strengthened the Union. I want to see a greater devolution of powers to localities and communities across Britain and I want to see more decisions being made locally. This will inevitably create tensions between local and national decisions, but we need a politics and a democracy that is mature enough to cope with these tensions and see debate and discussion as a source of strength.

Next: Andy Burnham.

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