New Forest East



By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 22 June 2000

Having spent many years waiting to get to Westminster, I generally keep trips away from Parliament to an absolute minimum. Mid-May, though, was an exception and I found myself in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, for a day and a half.

The mission was to teach some new democratic parties the art of Opposition--something my party has had to re-learn itself after long years in government. If William Hague thinks he has problems, he should thank his lucky stars that he is not a Ukrainian!

The Rada (or Parliament) is really one of those wretchedly fragmented assemblies based on failed electoral systems imported from the Continent. Any party which achieves a mere four per cent of the vote can get itself a few MPs. Any politician, thwarted in a leadership bid in one party, can split off to form a new sect and still scrape into the Rada.

What this means, of course, is that the Parliament cannot function properly, It is a shifting kaleidoscope of fractions and factions that cannot deliver on any manifesto which may have been offered to the electorate previously. Thus it is that the Foreign Office-funded Westminster Foundation for Democracy has to send people like me to explain to ambitious but inexperienced politicians the age-old lesson that, if they will not hang together they will be hanged separately.

I suppose that the Ukraine is doing no worse that Italy with its 50-plus governments since the end of World War Two. The odd thing is that, with a system which has enabled British citizens to elect and remove successive governments according to their performance, some people in this country would like us to go down the Italian-Ukrainian road.