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21 January 2010

Charter 2010? I’m not convinced

An unhelpful take on a hung parliament

By George Eaton

There’s more chance of a hung parliament after the next election than at any point since 1974 and now a new campaign group has been launched calling on the parties to declare how they would handle such a result.

Charter 2010 hopes to secure a commitment from all leaders to transform a hung parliament into a “stable and representative” government that can focus on dealing with the economic crisis. The group’s founding supporters include Robert Skidelsky, David Owen and Meghnad Desai.

It doesn’t call for a Lib-Lab coalition or an alliance between Cameron and Clegg, merely a government “supported by more than one party”. But the belief that the recession necessitates a government of national unity almost points towards a Labour-Tory grand coalition, a rather ludicrous idea first floated by Martin Kettle in the Guardian.

I don’t think there’s any chance of Charter 2010 achieving its aims (politicians don’t deal in hypotheticals), but the unprecedented interest in a hung parliament will damage the Tories’ morale.

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Incidentally, I must take issue with the group’s claim that constitutional reform is “an argument for another day” and that the economic crisis trumps all. This entirely ignores the relationship between Britain’s dysfunctional economy and its outdated constitution. As the historian John Keane argues:

Let us remember the true cause of the deepest slump since the Great Depression: democracy failure bred market failure. Unelected regulatory bodies and elected politicians, parties and governments let citizens down.

There’s something rather distasteful about the group deriving its name from the great Charter 88 (founded through the New Statesman) and then so casually dismissing the urgent need for constitutional reform.

 

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