Monday, May 10, 2010


The secret negotiations that are going on at this moment between various British politicians are probably a major argument against any change in the first past the post system. I don't believe any of the leaders has a mandate from those who voted for them to negotiate away their manifesto policies merely to obtain power. OK, I am very naive, but also very concerned at the phrases that are being used to remove decision making from the public arena, and our parliament, into Tammany Hall style party headquarters.

The phrases "balanced parliament" and "coalition building" are clever euphemisms for repeated chaos and political chicanery after every election.
The Reichstags after the two German Federal Elections in 1932 were certainly well balanced, and most coalitions are notoriously unstable.

The other phrase being used is an "alliance of the progressive parties" which means Labour, who have progressively lost 5 million votes since 1997, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the Green MP and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists [Plaid Cymru]. How will that go down with English voters?

We have also seen the Liberal Democrats calling for electoral reform and a much fairer voting system. I am all for that because our system is flawed and grossly unrepresentative of the wishes of the people. No one can justify an electoral system where one party receives 168,216 votes and has 8 MPs, while another receives 917,832 and does not have a single representative in parliament.

We have seen on our TV screens the leader of a party [Scottish Nationalists] that received only 1.7% of the votes cast talking about forming a coalition with another party [ Plaid Cymru] that received 0.6% of the votes cast to help keep a discredited Prime Minister in power.
Are these current and any future negotiations really about achieving a fairer system, or are they just about the search for political power by politicians who were possibly complicit in the expenses scandal that rocked the nation last year?

With all this talk of a fairer voting system it is interesting, and quite worrying, that the two parties that received the fourth and fifth largest share of the votes did not succeed in getting even one single MP elected. They were UKIP 917,832, and the BNP 563,743, and before we make any changes to the electoral system we should consider all the implications.

But there are certainly two urgent measures that need to be implemented as soon as possible:
1] Constituencies have to be redrawn with equal sized populations.

2] Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs should not be allowed to vote on English matters that have been devolved in their own to their own parliaments and assemblies.
If English MPs cannot vote on these devolved matters when they affect Scotland, why on earth should Scottish MPs vote on what happens in England.

Wheel and deal: to engage in commercial or political scheming.


Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

I have just looked up my constituency and see I voted for the candidate who got the most swing against (and whose party always comes third anyway)- which fits with my usual life-position of being an outsider. I am incidentally, against so-called "proportional representation" that removes local accountability. I want an MP who represents me, not some faceless bureaucrat. (eg one reason our sitting MP lost was because she opposed a much-needed school in our borough for about 5 years. In proportional representation you just don't know what the individuals think, they all become faceless.

To anyone who wants proportional representation I say two things: (1) local accountability and (2) look at Italy. Any system that can surmount those two obstacles is probably worth looking at in more detail. But could this lot of turkeys do that?

Norman, I understand what you are saying but I don't rule out a coalition or an agreement to vote together on certain matters of principle. I think that adversarial politics, where rudeness prevails, can be very low quality. Who knows....people in the US complain about the pork-barrelling in the Senate....I suppose there are flaws in all systems.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine you are spot on with your comment "But could this load of turkeys do that?"
With decent politicians any system can be made to work the problem is that we are suffering from a particularly shallow and weak group of leaders in the UK at the moment.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

As an Australian I grew up with the modified version - preferential voting. I always felt it was fairer (and if I voted for a less-popular party I could consciously decide where my vote then went when it became clear that my desired candidate wouldn't win). However, I note from recent research that this method doesn't necessarily result in the number of representatives reflecting the popular vote, which seems to be

Germany has a mixture of PR and FPT these days, with a 5% minimum vote before you can get into parliament at all. But as the weekend vote in one state has proved, the negotiations can go on there too. (It's going to have to be a three party coalition - no problem with radicalism, but stability will probably be at the price of doing anything much...)

NZ has the most refined PR system that I'm familiar with, but that also has a particular historical background due to specific Maori seats - the system itself was adapted in the 90s, but it wasn't straight from FTP.

And I note that 'rotten boroughs' and multi-rep seats were some of the things the 19thC reform acts were designed to overcome...

Not sure what the solution is, particularly when you simply don't have one party with a majority.

(Questions: will people put up with having UKIP and BNP MPs if it means the system as a whole is more representative? Will any party support a system that permanently diminishes their potential vote?)

Er, hello, by the way - new job in new country is taking up most of my time right now.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

From Labour MP Tom Harris:
The word "progressive" has now been redefined as "willing to barter away everything you campaigned for in return for the chance to be in government, albeit at the beck and call of a party that has spent its entire existence trying to wipe you off the political map".

1:31 PM  

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