Blog Archives

Make all votes matter: campaign for real democracy


On Tuesday, politicians from across the political spectrum, campaigners and people from all walks of life (a few pictured below), took part in the Hungry for Democracy action initiated by Make Votes Matter, a 24-hour hunger strike to call for a new voting system, one that truly represents the diverse nature of Britain today.  

Labour, Green Party, UKIP, Lib Dems, Women’s Equality Party, SNP, and Plaid all shared a platform to fight for a parliament that truly represents the people. 

Proportional representation is advocated to ensure a fairer distribution of legislative seats   At present, the power of the vote is determined by geography because of the out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system. People feel disenfranchised and ask why they need to vote when the same party always wins in their constituency. In some of those places the winning candidate is elected on under 50%, and in some instances with under 40% of the vote.

In the last election our voting system made a difference in only 99 of 650 seats.

Over 80% of the public in 2017 voted for one of two parties. An estimated 20% of the electorate voted tactically to keep out the party they didn’t want.

Proportional voting systems used for elections in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, have been in place since 1999, providing a good blend of constituency MPs and  regional MPs.

Several parties – or groups within parties – are fighting for a manifesto commitment to proportional representation, building a better kind of politics. There could even be a cross-party, shared manifesto commitment to electoral reform and a constitutional convention.

A Progressive Alliance?

 

 

 

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Was fear the key?

In the Birmingham Press , Steve Beauchampé, who correctly predicted that the Tories would be the largest party in terms of seats and vote, comments on the results of the General Election 2015. The writer has made a pedestrian (3) summary of points made:

  • although (Ed: because?) a decent and honest guy, Ed Miliband has never convinced voters that he was Prime Ministerial material, whilst Labour was not trusted on the economy.
  • The Conservatives had their relentlessly vaunted ‘Long Term Economic Plan’ whilst Labour gave us Liam Byrne’s ‘I’m afraid there is no money’ piece of paper, probably the shortest suicide note in political history.
  • No party wins a UK General Election when both their leader and their economic competence persistently polls second in the court of public opinion, something that Miliband and Labour did for almost five years.
  • the Conservatives, having finished second in a large majority of Liberal Democrat seats in 2010, were always the most likely beneficiaries of the expected Lib Dem vote collapse.
  • it was clear that Labour would suffer heavy losses to the Scottish Nationalists – in a geographical area where the Conservatives themselves, quite literally, had almost nothing to lose.

The fear factor

A hung parliament still seemed likely though, possibly allowing Labour to try to form a government by assembling a left-leaning alliance. But . . . cleverly knitting together the public’s two main worries, Cameron’s claim that: “One wants to bankrupt Britain, the other wants to break up Britain” might just have been the most effective line spoken during the entire campaign, whilst their poster showing Ed Miliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket was crude but effective.

Labour’s incessant lambasting of the SNP merely reinforced this narrative and with the minor gains and losses between Labour and the Conservatives largely cancelling each other out, and with the First Past The Post electoral system taking care of any threat from smaller parties – such as the United Kingdom Independence Party and the Greens – the Conservatives were all but assured of retaining power.

The travesty of First Past The Post: surely the most effective lock for perpetuating the Labour/Conservative hegemony anyone could devise:

UKIP polled almost 3.9m votes (12.6%).

The Green Party over 1.1m (3.8%), but each won just a single seat.

The Lib Dems (2.4m votes and 7.9%) remain under-represented with just eight seats, Labour, the Conservatives and (probably for the first time) the SNP are significantly overrepresented.

There seems little prospect of either an elected Second Chamber or the devolution of powers to English regions involving democratically accountable structures.

When we can’t even offer every MP a seat and table in the Commons chamber and adequate office space in which to carry out their duties what hope is there for more fundamental reform?

Only around 66% of those registered to vote actually did so, whilst millions more people aren’t even on the electoral register (Individual Voter Registration saw over 900,000 drop off in the year to December 2014 and far more could join them at the end of 2015).

The Conservatives attained absolute power on 36.1% of the vote and despite having few, if any, elected representatives in many of the largest conurbations. Such unjustified concentrations of power are also to be found under Labour rule; for instance the party controls all 96 seats on Manchester city council.

Yet instead of addressing these seismic failings in our democratic system, Britain is likely to spend much of the next five years becoming more isolationist. It is all very depressing.

Read Beauchampé’s Press article in full here.

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