NationalWorld view: Rishi Sunak needs to be a reformer and hand power back to the UK’s regions

The rise of Rishi Sunak should herald something other than the coming of just another plodding Prime Minister. He needs to reform the UK for the better.

<p>Rishi Sunak must modernise democracy in the UK (Image: NationalWorld / Getty)</p>

Rishi Sunak must modernise democracy in the UK (Image: NationalWorld / Getty)

The devastating cost of living crisis and the shambolic political chaos of recent months have shown that the way Britain is run needs to be dramatically overhauled. So today NationalWorld and our sister titles across the UK make a plea to the latest of our new prime ministers to be a true force for change.

The 'levelling up' agenda may have been well-intentioned, but it has not been backed up with any meaningful progress. Every part of the UK should be freed up so that they can properly exploit their unique economic opportunities, put the needs of local people first, and create a vibrant, more relevant form of government.

True federalism will make the UK stronger, not weaker. It will allow communities to properly address the urgent financial crisis facing millions of people, so many of whom can no longer afford to even heat their homes, never mind feed themselves or their children.

Add to that an NHS in perpetual overload, roads and rail unfit for the 21st century, a woeful shortage of affordable housing, law and order in disarray, sewage being discharged into our seas and rivers, local environments overwhelmed by development, and a desperate shortage of skilled labour - and the need for reform could not be more stark.

We need to end the London establishment's grip - with a smaller central government primarily concerned with financial policy, foreign affairs and defence. The House of Lords stuffed full of cronies is not fit for purpose. It really is time we empowered regions to chart their own course under the umbrella of a forward-looking UK.

Rishi the Reformer?

Bankers tend to be better at providing and managing funds rather than executing a company restructure or operating a business. With his background Sunak might be best advised to stick to the latter. The challenge is that the UK is in desperate need of a restructure - of both its system of government and its economic management. Running our increasingly diverse regions and nations from some imperial centre exposes the need to re-democratise our institutions and traditions.

The UK needs to fragment the overriding power and influence from central government through a reform programme that is at least a quarter of a century overdue. The pandemic brought matters to a head - in the aftermath it is the individual towns, cities, regions and nations that have shown the energy to rebuild back better and create opportunities for their communities.

Centralised politics, not just the incumbent government but all parties, have failed to deliver leadership - more concerned with personal advancement and major national and international events than relating to day to day concerns of the people.

Only new principles and structures of governance will deliver real ‘levelling up’:

  • A smaller central government primarily concerned with financial policy, foreign affairs and defence
  • A federalist system to create genuine levelling up, transferring power to regional assemblies to control and develop their economies and public services
  • A slimmed down House of Commons and a reformed second chamber, reflecting all parts of the country, appointed on the basis of commitment to public service for a limited term, scrapping the tradition of peerages
  • A reformed electoral system of proportional representation that reflects the diverse voices of the UK

If the last few weeks of political upheaval has told us anything it is that the nation expects competent governance and a new era of fairness. The current voting system which concentrates too much power in the traditional parties operates against both consensus governance and denies changes that will promote social mobility and geographical and cultural diversity. These reforms can liberate communities to make the most of themselves.

The rise of Rishi Sunak should herald something other than the coming of just another plodding Prime Minister. He should be Rishi the reformer, the moderniser of democracy who will devolve power to the people and their local communities. Time will tell.