Thursday, May 28, 2009

David Cameron on transparency and opening up politics

David Cameron speech on Fixing Broken Politics
Tuesday, May 26 2009

Everything I've spoken about - redistributing power to people, re-instating accountability in our politics...all of it will, I hope, help get more people involved in politics and public policy and help end that despairing sense of powerlessness that pervades our society.

But there's one more item on the agenda: transparency.

Ask most people where politics happens and they'd paint a picture of tight-knit tribes making important decisions in wood-panelled rooms, speaking a strange language.

If we want people to have faith and get involved, we need to defeat this impression by opening politics up - making everything transparent, accessible - and human.

And the starting point for reform should be a near-total transparency of the political and governing elite, so people can see what is being done in their name.


First because transparency tears down the hiding places for sleaze, over-spending and corruption.

Soon enough all MPs' expenses are going to be published online for everyone to see...I and the rest of the Shadow Cabinet are already doing it.

And if we win the next election, we're going to do the same thing for all other public servants earning over £150,000.

Just imagine the effect that an army of armchair auditors is going to have on those expense claims.

Indeed, the promise of public scrutiny is going to have a powerful effect on over-spending of any variety.

A Conservative Government will put all national spending over £25,000 online for everyone to see, so citizens can hold the Government to account for how their tax money is being spent.

And we will extend this principle of transparency to every nook and cranny of politics and public life because it is one of the quickest and easiest ways to transfer power to the powerless and prevent waste, exploitation and abuse.

That's why, for example, all our Conservative candidates for the European Parliament have signed a pledge setting out new standards of transparency and ethical behaviour.

Every Conservative MEP elected next week will publish online a breakdown of all office costs, all travel, names of each member of staff they employ, and details of all meetings with businesses, lobbyists and other interest groups.


But transparency isn't just about cleaning up politics, it's also about opening up politics.

Right now a tiny percentage of the population craft legislation that will apply to one hundred percent of the population.

This locks out countless people across the country whose expertise could help.

So why not invite them in on the process?

We'll create a right of initiative nationally, where if you collect enough signatures you can get your proposals debated in the House of Commons and become law.

And we'll open up the legislative process in other ways too.

The way bills are published online today is stifling innovation and blocking democratic engagement.

So a Conservative government will publish all Parliamentary information online in an open-source format.

This will help people easily access Bills and other legislation in order to create useful applications - like text alerts when something you're interested in is debated.

And it will mean many more expert eyes helping to explain laws as they're formed, flagging up flaws and suggestions for improvement.

Anything that acts as a barrier between politics and the public has got to be torn down - including the ridiculous ban on parliamentary proceedings being uploaded to YouTube.

We need a change of government to drive through this transparency agenda because let's face it, we're not going to get it from Gordon Brown and the Labour government...who tried to block the publication of MPs' expenses by exempting Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act.

But this spirit of glasnost needs to extend beyond Parliament and throughout our political parties too.

One of the reforms I'm most proud of is the widespread introduction of open primaries for the selection of Conservative parliamentary candidates in recent years.

I want to see that continue, with much greater use of open primaries for the selection of parliamentary candidates - and not just in the Conservative Party, but every party.

In time, this will have a transformative effect on our politics, taking power from the party elites and the old boy networks and giving it to the people.
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