Citizen MPs, ‘Youthstart’ centres, Volunteering, A Royal Commission on Housing and the Social Mobility revolution

1) Citizen MPs
• Introduce proposals for a new class of MPs to be known as Citizen MPs.
• Citizen MPs to be selected at random, as with jury service (except it would be harder to get out of becoming a Citizen MP). I.e. there would be a fair geographical spread and social/age representation.
• Each Citizen MP would serve for 12 months. They would constitute a third of both Houses in Parliament. There would perhaps be 400-500 per year from all over the country, thus meaning that each major town would be likely to be represented by their own Citizen MP.
• Their presence in Parliament would weaken the power of the Whips. In order to win votes, the Government would need to convince these ‘lay folk’ of the rectitude of their policy, thereby enhancing the importance of debates in the chamber.
• The concept of Citizen MPs could be allied to a broader Government move to reinvigorate a sense that citizens have rights and responsibilities. Citizen MPs could be part of a wider move towards elected Crown Prosecutors, directly-elected mayors and other public officials. The concept of jury-style selection of representatives could be extended to local councils.

2) ‘Youthstart’ centres
• A national network of staffed centres for young people of secondary school age.
• To be billed as the next phase of the highly successful and popular post-1997 Surestart scheme.
• Each Youthstart centre to be well-funded and well-designed (perhaps involving leading architects such as Lord Rogers or Lord Foster)
• To be rolled out in deprived areas first, then nationally in time, with the aim of having one in each ward.
• Tied in with a new emphasis on youth work becoming a discipline in itself, with a new qualification that graduates / 6th form-leavers can obtain on-the-job (thereby giving employment to young people).
• To be a secular, adult-supervised, inclusive space for young people with social facilities such as non-alcoholic cafés/music-making/sports facilities, etc.
• Facilities and information on training, careers, etc to be available.
• Young people to be closely involved in the management.
• Local businesses/armed forces/police/high profile individuals to have the opportunity to sponsor, become involved in management, thereby reducing costs and familiarising young people with business/working life.
• Possibly explicitly funded by downgrading or scrapping Trident or a windfall tax on banks/energy companies which make excessive profits.

3) Volunteering
• All graduates to be offered a 25% reduction in their student loan repayments if they commit to and complete a minimum of 2 years of mentoring children in schools in deprived areas.
• Tax incentives for people to volunteer in their communities. People could receive a 1 per cent income tax rebate if they volunteered for two hours or more per week.

4) A Royal Commission on Housing

• To investigate how Government policy can ensure that everybody lives in a decent home, be that rented, private or social housing.
• To investigate key issues associated with housing such as how to increase the supply of housing (both private and social); how and whether to do more to enable young people to buy property or rent in rural communities they grew up in; how and whether to build communities on Green Belt land; to investigate best practice from abroad; whether we could move away from the UK’s focus on home ownership as preferable to quality rented accommodation.

5) The social mobility revolution
• Given that social mobility has probably got worse since 1997, the party should now, explicitly say that we stand for advancing social mobility, meritocracy and equality of opportunity. Possible policies:
• An NHS-style target to reduce average class sizes over time to near those of private schools.
• Punitive taxes on private education.
• Increase teachers’ salaries in line with other senior professions while simultaneously tightening the qualifications criteria for becoming a teacher – thereby enhancing the status of teachers in society.
• Set indicative targets for each major profession, the armed forces, business and other organisations of power and influence for increasing the representation of state school-educated people in their ranks.
• Establish a Social Mobility Commission to monitor the above, and report directly to the PM on progress.

John Slinger

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