A Peoples Parliament

This article is by Philip Hardstone, Secretary of the Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament.

There is discussion ongoing within the realms of the devolution movement on the kind of model Yorkshire should adopt. This is my personal preference.

Twenty-one years of my working life were dedicated to pioneering new ways of working on behalf of one of the county’s largest social landlords, ways of putting tenants at the heart of decision making in a partnership of equals with their council landlords.

Such a partnership worked well because it was built on mutual trust and commitment.

I honestly believe that much can be learnt from how the more progressive social landlords have involved and empowered their tenants in shaping their services and environment. Lessons that can be applied to transforming the whole of Yorkshire into a much better place to live and work for all.

A deliberative-participative democracy 

I believe in a deliberative-participative democracy  – my proposals are for a ‘Peoples Parliament’ that enables ordinary citizens to influence and be involved in decision-making at every level of the process.

This Parliament will be commissioned with transforming Yorkshire into a better place to live and work for all of our citizens, whether that is in a tiny rural hamlet, village, town or large city such as Bradford, Hull, Leeds or Sheffield.

Members of the Yorkshire Parliament (MYPs)

I am proposing a small, cost effective parliamentary body that would be at the pinnacle of the participative and deliberative and work in close partnership with councils and council leaders.

The MYPs role will be to deliberate on the ideas and proposals emerging from the participative process without bias and come to a shared conclusion on the best way forward. This will be conducted well away from any Political Party whipping system.

For election purposes, the county will be split into 52 Yorkshire Parliament constituencies, based on the current 52 Westminster constituencies. Each constituency will elect one person to represent their community at the Yorkshire Parliament using the Alternative Vote system. Anyone will be encouraged to stand in these elections, provided they meet the same criteria for standing in the elections to Westminster, such as not serving a prison sentence.

The Parliaments Executive will be chosen based on their individual merits, expertise and experience by all the members and not just the controlling group as is the case now. 

The Executives role and influence will be very different to that of national Government Minsters and Council Leaders under the Party system. It will be to work with the paid officials to purely to carry out the decisions of the parliament, not to initiative or dictate policy themselves.

A Parliament with a mission

I envisage a Parliament with a mission. The Yorkshire Parliaments success will be judged on achieving these four aims written into its constitution.

Parliaments Agenda  

I firmly believe that local communities are perfectly capable both of grasping the issues and of bringing much-needed knowledge, experience and, crucially, its ‘user expertise’ to the table of government.

The aim is to capture this ‘user expertise’ through a bottom-up approach to shaping the more detailed agenda and way ahead for the Parliament.

This will be achieved by setting up a series of ‘community feeder panels’ across the county using sortition (random selection) from different interest groups. Each panel will be given the assistance of a professional neutral facilitator. The panel’s job will be to come up with proposals for achieving the Parliaments four key aims in what I am calling a local ‘Peoples Manifesto’ based on genuine consultation and ‘collective deliberation’.

Where these synergies of ideas merge into common themes, these common themes would set the agenda for the Yorkshire Parliament.More local issues would either be picked up by the local authority or dealt with through other devolved community powers and budget

Policy Deliberations

It is anticipated that MYPs will wish to seek a broader and more detailed set of views as they set about their deliberations in turning the various proposals before them into more precise and workable policies.

There are a number of participative methods designed for this purpose, including:

  • Citizens Assemblies
  • Citizens Juries
  • Crowdlaw

They will also wish to engage key partners in this process, such as business representatives groups, voluntary organisations, and environmental groups for examples.

Policy Failure

With the best will in the world, policies wherever they stem or how well they are thought through, don’t always work out the way it is first hoped that they will do.

In such instances it is more sensible to think again and try something different to achieve the given objective.

It is first necessary to identify where there is a failure and its cause. Ordinary people again have a huge part to play in this by applying their ‘user expertise’ to the scrutiny process.

2 thoughts on “A Peoples Parliament

  1. Just a suggestion, but this article could probably be enhanced and might appeal to a broader audience if it included some thoughts on how the parliament would actually deliver tangible benefits to the people in the context of the practical constraints and opportunities that it would have to deal with. For example, what sort of relationship might it have with Westminster; what powers might it have; where would the money come from; and how would an executive with no natural majority be able to satisfy all its stakeholders?

    I realise that we are just talking about the theoretical model here but I think we need some sort of context if we are to be able to turn these ideas into reality.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Richard.

      You are right, this is purely a theoretical model at this stage and I would be the first to agree still needs much more thinking through and discussion. There are some important basic principles here, that if generally agreed, I believe, worthy of building on in the way you describe

      PHILIP HARDSTONE

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