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Elite stranglehold on Britain – unbreakable?

As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.

Their dual achievements:

  • comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
  • vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.

Direction of travel

Beauchampé:(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .

The elite stranglehold could be broken

OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol)  saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.

 

 

 

 

Hoodwink ‘populists’ or reform the electoral system?

 In September elections in Mecklenburg, the home state of Angela Merkel, the rightwing party Alternative for Germany won, beating the chancellor’s Christian Democrats.

afpIn the FT today, Jan-Werner Müller, professor of politics (Princeton), author of ‘What is Populism?’ comments, “The AfD’s subsequent strong showing in a regional vote in Berlin, Germany appears to fit a conventional diagnosis of European politics: populists are on the rise”.

The politics of fear resurfaces; mainstream media, representing corporate advertisers, express fears that this might make individual countries — and the EU — ungovernable

Müller soothes these fears: “What are described as populists are often protest parties which can potentially play a constructive role in existing political systems”. He adds that they are more likely to develop if established parties reject legitimate grievances and pretend there can be no alternative to their policies.

He implies that these can be appeased – witness Theresa May’s current concern for working families struggling to make ends meet – but making no reference to even more needy families – the two generation unemployed. Müller fears less easily deflected “genuine populists who claim that they are the only ones to represent the “real people” and that all other political contenders are illegitimate”.

“The fact that citizens actually cast ballots or peacefully demonstrate shows that they have hope of being heard” – an ill-founded hope?

Müller offers a panacea: “What is needed in Europe is a sense that citizens have choices, and that leaders make decisions for which they assume responsibility. This is important nationally but also at EU level. It presumes that individual nation states in a system of majority decisions can live with being outvoted.” (emphasis added)

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This sounds remarkably like the theory of ‘managed politics’ – the current system in England, where two parties have safe seats and alternate in government, ensuring that others are excluded by continuing to use the first last the post voting system.

A BBC report recalled that, since 1935, no government has had the support of a majority of voters according to the Electoral Reform Society. In 1929, 1951 and February 1974, the party with the most votes actually lost the election.

Only an alliance for electoral reform advocated by the Green, SNP, Plaid and Lib Dem parties offers a prospect of a more truly democratic government

As people at the most recent WMNEG meeting were reminded, in 1997, Labour’s manifesto said there was a strong argument for modernising the electoral system. The current shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Labour MPs Ben Bradshaw, Paul Blomfield, Stephen Kinnock, Clive Lewis, Jonathan Reynolds, Chuka Umunna, and Daniel Zeichner have now signed a letter to Mr Corbyn in May calling on him to support a change in the voting system to proportional representation.

More recent polling from December 2015 shows the public now broadly back a proportional voting system. A BMG survey shows 57% of the public agree with the principle that “the number of seats a party gets should broadly reflect its proportion of the total votes cast” – compared with only 9% who disagree.

lucas-bartleyIn July, Green MP Caroline Lucas proposed electoral reform in a private members’ bill which received cross party support but was ultimately voted down by 81 votes to 74.

The party’s new co-leader Jonathan Bartley (right) has campaigned vigorously on this issue for many years.

This was a narrow majority – many MPs abstained: if all persevere, eventually a truly democratic system will be put in place. It is hoped that the coalition government then elected will be one which works for the common good.

 

 

 

Times reader: “Forget about all this Gerrymandering. Wake up. We are still voting as though we were living in Walpole’s era

In the Times today, an article by its political editor Francis Elliott was headed: “ Labour faces the loss of 24 seats after redrawing of electoral map”.

It stated that of the 50 Commons seats to be cut Labour loses almost half — 24 — while the Tories suffer only 14 losses. New rules which allow for seats that straddle county boundaries are set to benefit the Tories in a series of marginals: Harlow, Stevenage, Great Yarmouth and Carlisle will become far more ‘blue’.

The first draft of the new map, based on electoral registers released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, will be produced by the Boundary Commission in September and finalised two years later, but the Telegraph produced its own estimate in May 2015:

How the map would look under the new boundaries:

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One reader pointed out that making all votes equal is the requirement of democracy only in a first past the post voting system. Even if all constituencies had exactly the same number of voters a democratic outcome would not be achieved.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Electoral Reform, said: “The constituencies which saw the biggest drop (in seats) are largely student seats and deprived areas — groups which are already under-represented. The areas with the biggest rise are largely wealthier areas. This patchy picture means electoral registration, and the number of parliamentary seats representing each area, is getting more unequal by the year.”

Last word from a Times reader: “Forget about all this Gerrymandering. Wake up. We are still voting as though we were living in Walpole’s era. Politics has changed and so must voting behaviour” – and systems.

Take Back Parliament: change our voting system

Take Back Parliament brings together a coalition of different groups and organisations in the call for fair votes. They include POWER2010, Unlock Democracy, Ekklesia, nef, Electoral Reform Society and Vote for a Change.

Take Back Parliament is not aligned to any political party – instead it seeks a fair voting system so that all parties have representation in Parliament according to the number of votes they receive. 

Its message: 

Our “winner takes all” system of First-Past-The-Post is broken beyond repair.

It produces unfair and undemocratic results, like the one we’ve just seen, which don’t reflect the wishes of the British people. 

It empowers a few thousand voters in “marginal” seats who decide elections, while those in “safe” seats, where the MP has a large majority, are ignored. 

It hands huge power to the ruling party based on a tiny proportion of the vote.

It is time for the UK to move to a proportional system that ties a party’s share of seats to its share of votes across the country. This is the fairest system. It would ensure everyone’s vote counts; it would offer voters more choice and it would produce a government and Parliament that represents the British people.  Any change in our voting system must be led by the people, not politicians.

We are calling for a Citizens Convention to be convened to decide on a new voting system to be put to the people in a referendum.

For news of rallies and petition click on the link at the beginning of this post