Sunday, 9 May 2010

Electoral Reform

Opportunities for meaningful political change do not come often, but there is one now and it must be seized.

The situation is clear although it is complicated. The Tories did not win the right to form a government, but Labour most definitely lost the election. The bizarre effects of a First Past The Post (FPTP) election means that many people who do not support Labour or the Tories either do not have any opportunity to vote for a party that they do support or they vote tactically for one of these two in order to keep the other out.

This means that although the Lib Dems (LD) had 28% or 29% popular support before the election, only 23% of voters turned that support into a real vote. In addition to this, the LD vote was more evenly spread than that of the two major parties so they had lower chances of their votes being converted into seats. The consequence is that with 23% of the vote the LDs have only 10% of the seats. That is profoundly undemocratic and it is worse when you consider that 28% of voters may have wished to vote LD.

For Libertarians, the situation is far worse. We are in the position that the Green Party were in a generation ago. Despite the Greens standing hundreds of candidates and having a massive public profile for their policies, they have only just been able to secure a single seat in Parliament for their leader. This is a democratic disgrace.

For a new party with good, clear policies that would appeal to many voters, but lacking big financial backers and the army of backers of the big institutional parties, FPTP prevents any chance of even the smallest success in either national or local elections. That is not democracy and it must change now.

The Labour Government has taken this country into such massive debt that our economy is on the brink of collapse with all the terrible consequences that are beginning to unravel in Greece. This means that we must have a new Prime Minister and the prospects of reasonably stable government in the short term established very early this week. If that is not achieved, there will be great volatility in the currency markets and it will become harder every hour for all of us to be saved from very serious damage to our quality of life and financial future.

The tasks for today for our political leaders are these:

Gordon Brown

Resign immediately. You were never elected as leader of the Labour Party, you were never a legitimate Prime Minister, your performance in office has been disastrous and in the only leadership election you have ever faced you have conclusively lost. The Labour Party cannot maintain any credibility so long as you remain Prime Minister and the interests of the country require Labour voters to be adequately represented in the negotiations to form a government.

Nick Clegg

Do not make any deal that does not include a commitment to the introduction of electoral reform with a timetable for completion before the end of this year. You stood on a platform of fair votes and your present bargaining position owes everything to that undertaking. Failure to deliver electoral reform would be a betrayal of the worst kind and would not be forgiven.

David Cameron

You did not win a mandate to form a government and the economy of this country is in such a perilous position that you have a duty to reach agreement without delay on the formation of a government that can command a clear majority in Parliament so that effective decisions can be taken without delay. There is no Parliamentary majority among parties of the political right. Differences between Tory and LD memberships mean that a coalition is unlikely and a supply and confidence arrangement will be fragile. In these circumstances you should present a simple draft Queens Speech and emergency budget to all Parties and seek agreement to them being allowed to pass. Despite the opposition of your party to PR, there is clear demand from the public for electoral reform and it must be offered within a strict timetable that does not extend beyond this year. All other Parties should allow your minority government to function until a reformed electoral system is in place and a new General Election can be held.

The chaos of queues outside polling stations as polls closed; the disgrace of stations running out of ballot papers; the nonsense of an unelected second chamber and the absurdity of not having fixed term Parliaments, all contribute to Britain being seen as a country with third world election standards and grossly outdated democracy. All our leaders have an urgent responsibility to resolve these matters with the urgency that is necessary to prevent us collapsing into a third world economy as well.


minnieroyle said...

i also think that something needs to be done about the abuse of the postal voting system

Malpoet said...

It is not just postal votes. With no ID checks there is fraud at polling stations too. People also need to be able to vote wherever it is convenient for them. To achieve these things as well as the removal of the unelected Lords, reform of local government, reducing the voting age to 16 and very much else, we first need to get a proportional election system.