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Wednesday, July 04, 2007 

It can't last, can it?

Is it really possible that it's only a week since Blair finally walked? After blighting the political scene of this country for over 10 years, it's remarkable how the mood does seem to have lifted somewhat, in spite of the laughable attacks at the weekend.

It's partly those very attempts at murder that underlined just how politics had worked in this country for so long. We expected an instant reaction; we didn't get one. The Scum has been howling; it's been ignored. Rather than briefings to the press, statements have been delivered to the Commons. We perhaps ought to be savouring it: it may well not last long.

Nothing could have more exemplified this than Brown's long expected and rumoured about, but not leaked, green paper on constitutional reform. It doesn't go far enough, it's true, and some of the measures announced are pure window dressing, as it's unlikely the public really cares that much about whether the prime minister personally appoints the poet laureate or not for instance, but after 10 years of increasing centralisation in which a prime minister felt little but contempt for parliament and acted more like a president than any leader this country has ever had in the democratic age, it's not just refreshing, it's invigorating.

A truly radical prime minister would have gone far further. There is for instance, no mention of electoral reform apart from setting up how we reached the current constitutional settlement we have. The House of Lords would be abolished, and full democratic elections to a new chamber would be enshrined. A fully independent figure would be appointed to decide on all prosecution cases, including on the dropping of investigations into companies such as BAE. The security services would have a watchdog similar to the IPCC set-up, rather than simply beefing up the parliamentary committees which monitor them. Scottish MPs would not be allowed to vote on matters purely affecting England and elsewhere where the policy decision has been devolved to the Scottish parliament, and vice versa. The ban on demonstrations outside parliament without permission would be lifted immediately, not after consultation. The monarchy should be abolished. Other suggestions are made by Stumbling and Mumbling and David Marquand in the New Statesman.

We should however enjoy the moment of a government doing something that it might greatly regret later on. Even for cynical bastards like me, this last week has been far more promising than I bet some of us could ever have thought.

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