Posts Tagged 'Electoral Reform'

The political class is frit

Writing in the New Statesman’s blog, The Staggers, on Tuesday George Eaton made the following observation about what would happen if the current polling percentages were repeated at a General Election:

The Conservatives can have no complaints about the outcome delivered by an electoral system they have consistently defended and Labour governed for a full term after winning on just 35 per cent of the vote in 2005 (it bagged 55 per cent of the seats). But party figures have told me that they fear Labour could face a “crisis of legitimacy” if it wins an outsized majority on a thin slice of the vote. A share of 34 per cent would be the lowest winning percentage of the vote since 1832.

The language is interesting.  Set aside for a moment the idea of such a large majority for Labour if it only secures 34% of the votes cast at the General Election on a turnout of around 65%.  The real crisis of legitimacy that would finally emerge as a talking point following such an election ‘victory’ is that there would be a Labour government, imposing its will on the entire country without check, balance or accountability to voters, that was voted for by only 22% of registered voters.

There is not just fear within the political class about the impression that would be made by a large Labour majority on a very small percentage of the vote.  There is fear people will wake up and declare it to be unacceptable that with approaching 40% of voters rejecting all the parties, any of them can claim to represent the people.  The illusion of legitimacy for the political class will be crumbling.

We can expect to see another push for Proportional Representation as part of an electoral reform package.  Perhaps even the first moves to make voting compulsory.  Not just because the distribution of votes would make party representation in the House in terms of seats ‘fair’, but because it would allow for the appearance of legitimacy as the political class will seek to focus attention away from turnout and purely on to share of the vote – while increasing numbers of Britons refuse to support any of them.

Mandates and hypocrisy

Anyone who has listened to Ed Miliband (why, oh why…) in recent weeks, as he witters on about tomorrow’s voting system referendum, will have noticed the line to take that has been adopted by his PRs and spin doctors – that of electoral mandate.

Repeatedly, including this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, Miliband has stated that the ‘Conservative led coalition’ is undertaking cuts and other actions for which they ‘do not have a mandate’.

It seems strange of Miliband to complain about this.  After all, was it not Labour who allowed millions of migrants into the country without a mandate to do so? Was it not Labour who signed the Lisbon Treaty without a mandate to do so? And where was Miliband’s righteous indignation about Labour’s lack of mandate when doing what it wanted, irrespective of the wishes of the public?

To emphasise the hypocrisy of it all, where was Miliband when a lawyer representing the Labour government argued in court that people had no reasonable entitlement to expect that a political party will carry out its manifesto pledges? Did he resign in noble anguish? Did he hell.

This brings us back to the reality of our situation today. We are merely pawns in the self serving power games of the rival factions of the political class. They spend all their time fighting like rats in a sack about trivialities because when it comes to matters of substance they are in agreement.

The voting reform referendum is just another triviality. Another contrived battle of ‘principle’ helpfully played out as a major issue by the dumbed down mainstream media. As this blog has asked before and does again now, what is the point deciding how we vote when our votes do nothing to determine which people wield power?

All AV would do is further cement consensus politics in this country.  It will permanently shore up the elective position of the political class and further distance people from decison making power. First past the post is a lesser evil, but elections are now irrelevant anyway as laws are handed down from the EU for our toy politicians to burnish, embellish and implement without hesitation.

The vote we should have, about whether this country should fully govern its own affairs through its own democratic structures, or accept rule from overseas by bureaucrats in Brussels and accept the EU’s alien anti democratic structures, is not on offer to us. We are denied that choice.

None from the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats want the people of this country to decide for themselves and make that fundamental decision about how this country is governed. So why should we play their game and take time to vote about which system best suits the narrow political interests of those insipid groups of power seeking climbers, liars and charlatans?

A plague on all their houses.

Tories counter offer with Alternative Vote referendum

Breaking news on Sky… Electoral reform has been offered to the untrustworthy Liberal Democrats by the panicked Conservatives.  A national referendum on the ‘Alternative Vote’ has been put on the table in a last ditch attempt by the Tories to prevent Nick Clegg climbing into bed with Gordon Brown’s successor.  David Cameron is on the ropes and this is a desperate last gambit.

The positive thing about the Alternative Vote is that the all-important constituency link is maintained.  It is not proportional representation, which would break the direct accountability of MPs to their constituents.  However Labour, in its typical undemocratic fashion, is offering the system without asking the electorate if they approve.  Everyone wants to dance with Nick.  He must be loving it.  The voters however are an irrelevance as members of the political class rush around looking for ways to secure patronage and advantage for themselves.

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This is not what Britain voted for

‘The negotiating teams are working really well together.’

That is the latest statement from William Hague, speaking on behalf of the Conservative Party team engaged in discussions with the Liberal Democrats.  One wonders what the Butcher’s Bill will be in terms of culled manifesto commitments when a deal is finally thrashed out.  One thing is certain, if a deal is made then Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters are not going to get what they thought they were voting for.

No one knows what is being agreed behind closed doors.  It is politicians, not voters, who are deciding what commitments are dropped.  There os no accountability to the electorate in this process.  Power continues to reside with the political class, the voters are nothing more than ignorant observers in this process.

This is the common consequence that can be expected if proportional representation is adopted as the electoral system in this country.  Too many people look at the election results and say that because across the country a party achieved a certain percentage of the vote, they should have that percentage of Parliamentary seats.  It’s nonsense.  Parliamentary elections are where constituencies vote for the person who will represent them in Parliament.  Quite properly the person with the most votes wins.

People who vote for candidates who are not elected have not been disenfranchised at all, they were merely backing a candidate who was rejected by most people.  If they do not like the outcome they should understand that their agenda isn’t sufficiently popular.  It is wholly unacceptable that a small collection of like minded constituencies should be able to force the wishes of a majority of constituencies to be compromised.

PR is just a vehicle for giving those holding the least popular views the whip hand over those who hold the most popular.  Yet it is presented as democratic to make it seem acceptable.  The constituency model is essential to our democracy but PR undermines that.  The electoral reform that is needed is that which prevents electoral fraud from being perpetrated and that equalises the number of people in each constituency. PR is not needed to achieve that.

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We need a written constitution not proportional representation

Gordon Brown’s desperate attempt to win Liberal Democrat votes at the general election, by dangling the proposition of electoral reform in the shape of the Alternative Transferable Vote (ATV) in front of them if Labour returns to government after the election, has sparked much debate.  But one of the better articles on the subject can be found over at The Economic Voice, written by Andrew Withers (Looking for a Voice). Withers includes an excellent summary of the constitutional mess the UK finds itself in, attributed to the vandalism of the spiteful Labour administration, that should be burned into the mind of every voter.

But the real reason why Withers’ piece stands out for me is the way he gets beyond the narrow vested interests of the main political parties that will debate Brown’s proposal.  For as he rightly identifies, any reform needs to have at its heart a truly democratic focus that empowers the individual, or as Withers puts it:

We need a new Constitutional Settlement, not a Soviet style one imposed from above, but a written Constitution that guarantees the rights of the individual over that of the State. Not Jack Straw’s perversion of what duties we all owe to the State.

He is absolutely right.  The UK needs a written constitution.  The existing dog’s breakfast that passes for a constitutional settlement leaves it to a couple of dozen influential members from the three main political parties, whose elected voting fodder inhabit the House of Commons, to dictate on an ad hoc basis the extent of the permissions that will be granted to the population on any number of issues.  The most clear recent example of this was the stitch up known as the Lisbon Treaty.  Ireland was forced to put the decision on ratification to the voters because it was a constitutional requirement to vote on such a substantial shift of power.  With the benefit of a written constitution the political class would have been unable to put their own interests first and bypass British voters to impose more EU control on this country.

The existing settlement is not only completely unacceptable, it is fundamentally anti-democratic.  It is reminiscent of the self serving Parliamentary era witnessed in the days between the execution of Charles I and the start of Oliver Cromwell’s reign as Lord Protector.  It is a corruption that needs to be dismantled.  And let’s not forget the absence of a written constitution also allows judges to interpret the law in very different ways, as their own personal biases see fit.  This makes the legal system little better than a lottery.  The cumulative effect is that the establishment – or the state if you will – is an effective dictatorship that rules us, whereas its purpose and role should always be to serve the public.  Not for no reason did the Americans, having rejected British control, ensured the enduring rights of citizens by enshrining them in a constitution.  Britain has long had the need for a constitution of its own and that must be the focus of people who believe in real democracy.

While there is much where I agree with Withers, I am not convinced however that the way to a written constitution is through proportional representation.  He certainly makes a powerful case for a written constitution, but the introduction of proportional representation (be it ATV or the German and Swiss models of PR that he lauds) does not guarantee such a constitution would be delivered.  As an electoral system First Past The Post is far from perfect.  But it still feels preferable to a system that entrenches the political parties, the increasing consensus between which is negating opposition to the prevailing groupthink and is at the root of the democratic deficit suffered by England, as well as the mish mash of electoral systems in force in various parts of the UK.  A system that elects the most popular candidate, rather than the least unpopular one, is more positive in my opinion.

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