Gordon Brown's speech on new politics at Centre Point

Gordon BrownGordon Brown MP, Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, said today in a speech on new politics at Centre Point:

It is time to see an end to the old politics and to change our politics for good.

In the weeks to come, I will travel the country, speaking with the British people, and seeking your support.

But all politicians, of every party and at every level, must acknowledge that there has been a fundamental rupture in the bond of trust between those who serve, and those who they are sworn to serve.

And I believe that we cannot truly master the other big challenges facing our country – economic recovery, public service reform, climate change, social care – unless the legitimacy of our democracy is fully restored.

And so I am asking the British people for a mandate to undertake the most comprehensive programme of constitutional reform in this country for a century.

Yes, I want to secure the recovery and not put it at risk.

Yes, I want to protect and reform our frontline services.

But I also want to rebuild faith in public life.

And so Labour’s manifesto is about more than securing victory for our party. It is about securing the British people’s pride in our history, as the country of the greatest democratic promise, the home of the mother of all Parliaments, and the nation whose abiding ideals have inspired the world.

And so today I want to set out our comprehensive plan to forge a new contract between the public and our public servants.

Because I would take no pride in walking through the door of Number 10 again, take no joy in victory, if it comes without a mandate to get rid of the old discredited system of politics, and replace it with a new system that ensures people who hold positions of authority are more accountable to and truly representative of the ordinary men and women of this great country.

Because I came into public life with one aim above all others: to do my duty by the country I love.

These changes are no substitute for good character – but they are a long overdue recognition that our politics needs fundamental reform to meet the high standards for accountability and transparency that today’s society demands and deserves.

And so this is my commitment and the mandate I seek:

That MPs will be banned from working for lobbying companies.

And that MPs who want to take up paid outside appointments will have to seek prior approval from an independent body to avoid jobs which conflict with their responsibilities to the public.

And we need to ensure that MPs are permanently accountable to the people. That’s why I want the people to have the right in future to recall MPs where they are guilty of gross financial misconduct and Parliament does not act.

But a new politics does not simply mean constraining the behaviour of individual MPs – it also means strengthening the power of Parliament to hold the executive to account.

The British people will be given a new right to petition the House of Commons to trigger debates on issues of significant public concern. And to make this a reality, we have supported changes to give a stronger voice to backbenchers, so in the next Parliament, select committees and their chairs will be elected by a secret ballot of MPs.

And let me say to you today, that Labour’s manifesto will include our commitment to charting a course to a written constitution.

And, after citizenship education has improved, we will give Parliament a free vote on reducing the voting age to 16.

And in order to reassure people, in this new century, that the executive will no longer be able to determine when it should put itself forward for the people’s approval, Labour’s manifesto will include a new commitment to fixed term Parliaments.

But I believe that reform must be more fundamental still.

That is why I can announce today that, if Labour prevails in this election, the British people will make the choice on the central questions of our constitutional future in a referendum next autumn, that will rightly give the people the final world.

And so I am proposing a referendum;

First, on changing the House of Commons for the better and forever. I want to reform the electoral system so that no MP is elected without the majority support of those who vote in their constituency.

Second, on changing the House of Lords root and branch. I want the British people to be served by an elected House of Lords. We will ensure that the hereditary principle is removed from the House of Lords, despite the Conservatives’ determination to block all change in the current Constitutional Reform Bill.

Once we have removed the hereditary principle, further democratic reform to create an elected second chamber will then be achieved in stages. At the end of the next Parliament one third of the House of Lords will be elected; a further one third of members will elected at the general election after that.

Until the final stage is agreed, the representation of all groups should be maintained in equal proportions to now. We will consult widely on these proposals and on an open list proportional representation electoral system for the second chamber, before putting them to the people in a referendum early in the new Parliament, before October 2011.

And the outcome, reform not just for our time but for a new century of democracy, will not be decided by me. Britain’s democratic future will not belong to any politician or party. It will be up to the people.

And I believe that this is so important that all parties should come together to campaign for a common programme of reform. On some issues we are agreed.

But on too many the Conservative Party, for all their talk of change, remain hostile to the fundamental change in our politics that the people so clearly seek.

We are committed to democratic reform of the House of Lords in the next Parliament. They are not. And even this week they have blocked reforms to the way hereditary peers are still able to sit in the House of Lords.

We are committed to letting the people decide on a more legitimate way of electing MPs, but our proposals were blocked yesterday by a Conservative Party that likes to talk about change, but never to deliver it.

And so I know that this is a road which progressives must walk alone. Progressives know the struggle always continues and so if further change is needed, we will make it.

Because more, far more, is now at issue than the revolving door of power shifting between parties.

Too much of our politics has been a closed shop to too many people for too long.

So this election is about more than whether we change parties - it's about whether we change our public life.

I ask our fellow citizens to give us the mandate - and we will not only protect the recovery, but act to recover the public trust

We will not only safeguard the public services – but rejuvenate public service.

We have been through the turbulence of a global recession that hit all across our country, and a political corrosion that knew no party lines.

We weathered the storm - and Britain was never broken by it.

Now we look forward in hope.

Now a new prosperity, a fairer society, and a truer democracy are within our grasp.

That, simply put, is the whole cause of our campaign.

And today I ask for your vote - not merely for a set of programs, but for the sacred principle that our democracy belongs to you - not just at election time, but all the time.

I ask for your vote - and I pledge a future where your voices will be heard and your values will be honoured.

That can be the Britain of the future – a future fair for all.