THE UK NOW HAS a number of problems far beyond the reach of the political elite and, with our economy on its knees, the traditional remedy of throwing money at them is no longer an option. Business people have a range of skills well-suited for improving the communities that we live and do business in. Rather than handouts, however, we should be giving our neighbours a hand up; there will be no shortage of candidates.
Public sector cutbacks are now causing increasing numbers to explore alternative ways of providing essential services. Social entrepreneurs are appearing and they need all the help they can get. Top down solutions don’t work and politicians must now set aside the barriers that prevent people from sorting out problems for themselves.
Successive governments have caused many of our problems by opting for political expediency rather than practical, long-term, decisions. In fairness, however, their horizons are restricted by the electoral cycle and constant campaigning to keep their jobs. Our borrowing is out of control, major cracks are appearing in our monetary system and we have chronic problems in our education, housing, healthcare and transport sectors. We have the skills and resources to play a leading role in tackling these issues. Not on a commercial basis, although benefit would flow from more affluent communities, but to fulfil our responsibility to society. Begin by asking yourself the following question; ‘how would you explain our political system to a youngster?’
Would you describe its infantile tribalism, incompetence and graft with derision, or with embarrassment as someone who has quietly tolerated it? Business people normally keep well clear of politics but there is now a tangible opportunity to bypassing the system and go straight to the problem instead. It would take a very brave politician indeed to stop our help getting through.
As well as providing the revenue that governments depend on, the private sector delivers an extensive range of goods and services at affordable prices. However, instead of being called on to help with some of our most intractable problems, we get used as a cash cow and ignored. Business people do try to assist but often encounter resistance from narrow-minded politicians and bureaucrats protecting their own territory. As a result, little of the skill and experience generated within the business community ever gets used for the greater good. Our biggest fear is getting caught in a political minefield or a firefight between feuding parties. However, if political tribalism were to go, our input would be welcomed with open arms.
Rather than stand idly by whilst our country is being wrecked by political chicanery and sheer incompetence, business prople must now help to create a parliament that works for us rather than against us. With a clean sheet of paper, no sane person would replicate the current system and the Free Parliament campaign has recently tabled a range of enterprise-led reforms  with the support of Lord Digby Jones.  The core aim of these proposals is to prevent political parties using parliament for their own ends and allow it to function for the greater good instead. The House of Commons must become a respected institution challenging politicians to find the best possible solutions rather than constantly battling to save their own skins.
Our parliament should have the views, needs and aspirations of the electorate woven into its fabric rather than being cynically exploited for votes. For any democracy to operate properly there needs to be functioning links between people, enterprise and power. Parliamentary Privilege allows MPs to perform their duties without external interference but must now be extended to prevent interference from inside the House as well. The passage of time combined with a growing number of MPs selected on merit would do the rest.
So great a gap has opened up between political parties and the electorate that a vast industry of lobbyists and PR companies has sprung up in a futile, but highly lucrative, exercise to reconnect them. Reform is plainly overdue but it will not happen on its own. It is incumbent on those of us with managerial skills and resources to come forward and help the electorate replace political stasis with exciting and innovative local projects. To change the way our country is governed we must first of all motivate the electorate to demand that change happens. As part of this process, the Campaign for a Free Parliament is £10,000 awards to the winners of competitions to find the best independent candidate in every Westminster constituency. If enacted, these proposals would bring about the biggest improvement to our democracy since the signing of Magna Carta in 1215; however such is the magnitude of the problems we now face, nothing less will suffice.
People are already reclaiming their town halls in places such as Frome, Canterbury and Buckfastleigh. Community-led enterprises are springing up all over the country and a Social Stock Exchange  has even been formed. The timing is right and we will be pushing at an open door, however we must act soon or prepare ourselves, and our families, for a very grim future instead.