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It's Speaker Week on PM. Read Tim Collins' ideas here.

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Eddie Mair | 17:00 UK time, Monday, 15 June 2009


Here at PM, we're offering you the chance to vote for the best ideas on cleaning up public life and restoring faith in politics.

We're calling it Speaker Week.

We've asked four people - none of them politicians - to put forward their personal manifestos for change. You can hear them on consecutive nights, and on Friday they'll debate each other.

Then you'll be able to vote by phone for the person whose ideas you like best.

Tonight, it's the manifesto of Colonel Tim Collins.

Feel free to read his words and let us know what you think by clicking on Comments.

As a candidate, I would seek to re-establish the connectivity between the people and parliament because that is the link that has been broken. We have gone through a period over the last 11 years where increasingly, politics have been about self, and political parties have been about their own party interest. I found it fascinating, for instance, when James Purnell resigned that he talked about his great love for the Labour Party and Gordon Brown's great love for the Labour Party; no mention of the Nation. Ultimately, I think what we have to do is break this party stranglehold, this selfish aspect, and re-establish connection with the people. It needs to be about us as a Nation, collectively helping each other and taking a wider view and abandoning Party Political viewpoints. I think we need a huge shake up in the Party Political system in the United Kingdom. I think we need the emergence of new parties because, frankly, the old parties are old and tired. I really don't think they have the faith of the Nation behind them anymore.

So as Speaker, I would seek to have Parliament re-connect and begin once more to represent the people of the United Kingdom and not narrow viewpoints gathered in smoky rooms.

The way in which one can re-connect is to ensure that candidates have come from the real world. Far too many politicians are people who have lived in a form of La La land; they were a sixer in the Brownies, then they scrambled their way up to be head of the school debating society, eventually emerging as the president of a College Student Union. They then make their way to Parliament to carry the bag of some senior politician, until they go off and get their own constituency. Before long, some of these people are leading the country without any idea of what it's like to live on planet earth. These people have never laid awake at night wondering how they're going to pay their employees. They've never led men into danger, and they've never stood wondering if they're going to have a job the next day because of the decisions they make.

They are like a company running your wealth; they don't really care. It's like someone driving a hire car, it's not their concern. What we need now are people re-connecting. Real people in Parliament. People who care and understand what it is to get a decision wrong, who understand the consequences of their actions, the real human consequences. That's what we need to re-connect with the Nation.

The way in which we can ensure this would be to establish, ultimately, a set of candidates who have come from the real world. Obviously, because it's a democracy it can't be compulsory; people can vote for whoever they like. But I think that once we start to raise the standard of parliamentary candidates, that will catch on. There will be a gold standard, and we will no longer be content to be represented by someone who has never stood in our shoes.

I think in terms of overhauling the parliamentary system, what we need are better people in parliament, as opposed to a better system for getting them there. I'm content with first past the post.

But inside parliament itself, I think we have to take a long look at the Upper House. Recent reforms have left the House of Lords neither fish nor fowl, and since we've started these reforms, what we've got to do is finish them, so that we can actually have a representative House of Lords. We need to find ways that we can have people that can take the longer view, bearing in mind that politicians get elected every 5 years, and that's as far as they can ever see into the future. We need people who represent communities and take the long view to represent the interests of the people who live there.

I think you would find me more of a commanding officer or a headmaster as a Speaker, as opposed to someone who sits and decides who should speak during a debate. By headmaster or commanding officer, what I mean is that I would rigidly enforce standards. Anyone whose integrity dipped would be required to resign. There can be no place in public life and there can be no place in public office for those who lack integrity. It's a basic requirement. And like the army, I wouldn't expect to have to ask someone to resign. The second their integrity is called into doubt, they should tender their resignation themselves to avoid the shame of being humiliated and being dismissed.


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