This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today host a round table of think tanks and democracy campaigners at Portcullis House.
He will chair a discussion on ‘Britain’s Broken Establishment’, and what he is doing in government to reform British institutions and the political system.
He will be meeting political reform campaigners including the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy and 38 Degrees, as well as think tanks from across the political spectrum, to discuss institutional reform across government, politics and the economy.
Opening the meeting, he is expected to say:
I’ve been in Government for two years now. I have looked at the institutions of our establishment close up. And I can tell you, I am more determined than ever to see them change. Britain’s broken establishment is now well past its “sell by date”.
We must never forget how we got here. We’ve seen a series of crises in our major institutions - the expenses scandal in parliament, the crashing down around our ears of the banking sector, party funding scandals, and the sordid spectacle of phone hacking.
To anyone who says these issues are not relevant to everyone, try telling that to the victims of crime whose phones were hacked, try telling that to the taxpayers who are still dealing with the cost of the financial crisis started by the banks whilst they paid themselves hefty bonuses, and try telling that to the people who remain to this day outraged with all politicians for expenses and the big donor money that sullies politics.
The economic crisis and political crisis aren’t separate. They are part and parcel of a deep failure of our established institutions. You cannot build a healthy economy without strong, clean politics. When the banks were out of control, our leading politicians were simply looking the other way. And I’ll tell you why: because we had created a system where the government became reliant on the huge but unsustainable tax revenues from the City, while the parties looked to the financiers for their funding. Compliant MPs got their rewards by getting a plush tax-free seat in a wholly unaccountable House of Lords. And woe betide anyone who took on a media that largely colluded in this fragile compact: almost the entire political class competed to bow and scrape in front of Rupert Murdoch. The whole thing was rotten, and it inevitably came crashing down.
Two years on I genuinely believe that we are at a critical moment. We are in the final stages of cross-party talks on party funding, we are about to publish a Bill for Lords Reform, we are enacting major reforms of our banking sector, and the Leveson Inquiry is opening a lid on politics, the media and the police. To leave this repair job half done, for me, is not enough.
My view, hardened by two years on the inside, is that Britain is not broken at all. It is the British establishment that is broken. It is the institutions at the top that have let down the people. As political leaders, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and I all have to step up, and make sure we seize this moment. I really think if we can’t tackle these deep problems in the established institutions of our country now, you’d have to wonder if we ever can. It is now or never. We have to show real courage.
After two years in government, I’m even more determined than ever. We are at a critical, precious moment - we must seize it. I am more determined than ever to reform the broken institutions of this country. Unless, we do, we will never be the nation we could be. There is a better Britain bursting to escape the shackles of an old, tired, failed establishment.