Isaac Stark - Highgate Wood Sixth Form

 

The United Kingdom is grappling with challenges that demand a thorough overhaul of its political system. It stands at a juncture where urgent, decisive action is required. However, the current political system is inherently flawed with its entrenched interests and lack of accountability, rendering it ill-equipped to address these pressing trials. Comprehensive reforms to tackle these challenges more efficiently and inclusively are imperative.

Political representation needs urgent reform. The first-past-the-post system has created a toxic political landscape dominated by two parties, leaving feelings of disenfranchisement among large swathes of the population. In the 2019 general election, the Conservative Party won 56% of the seats with just 43.6% of the popular vote; the Liberal Democrats received only 1.7% of the seats despite winning nearly 12%. This disparity underscores the need for a more proportionally representative system, which would enable a range of political viewpoints to be represented in Parliament, fostering robust debate, compromise, and decision-making, preventing a privileged few from wielding concentrated power. Increasing public participation in the political process is another crucial reform. Citizen assemblies, whereby randomly selected people discuss and recommend key issues, result in more democratic and representative decision-making informed by diverse perspectives. In Ireland, citizen assemblies have successfully addressed contentious issues like abortion and climate change. Compulsory voting – although potentially unpopular with baseless affronts surrounding infringements on personal freedom – would lead to a truly representative democracy.

The current system also lacks transparency, with politicians evading scrutiny: Conservative MP Scott Benton was ensnared in a lobbying sting, whilst a Led By Donkey's investigation exposed parliamentary representatives willing to take on second jobs for exorbitant wages during a cost-of-living crisis at the expense of constituents. To rebuild trust in the political system, mandatory disclosure of lobbying activities and uniform, capped state-allocated campaigning budgets, as well as vigorous checks and balances surrounding government decision-making, must be implemented.

The lack of diversity in political representation is also a pressing issue. Women and ethnic minorities are significantly underrepresented in Parliament, undermining democratic principles of equal representation; implementation of quotas for diverse representation and increased support for candidates from underrepresented groups is vital. Sweden and Germany have successfully enforced gender quotas in politics, increasing female representation in their respective parliaments. Moreover, the current system has contributed to a growing wealth gap and a lack of social mobility. To address this, progressive taxation policies, investment in social welfare programs, measures to promote fair wages and workers' rights and increased support for public services and infrastructure are essential. Prioritising policies supporting SMEs and local economies to foster inclusive economic growth and reduce regional disparities, such as in the North, is paramount.

Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges facing the UK and global governance. The current political system has not effectively addressed this issue, lacking decisive action and failing to prioritise necessary changes. A dedicated department for environmental issues must be introduced, with the power and resources to implement policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Investment in renewable energy, environmental conservation, and socially responsible production methods is required; by leveraging state ownership and control, the government can implement policies and regulations that promote environmentally sustainable practices and alleviate adverse impacts of economic activities, signalling a clear commitment to addressing the urgent threat of climate change and ensuring that it remains a top priority on the political agenda.

Comprehensive reforms are badly needed to address the challenges facing the nation. By creating a more democratic, responsive, and effective system with bold, transformative changes, the UK can build a more inclusive, sustainable future for all its citizens.