Category Archives: ELECTORAL REFORM

The NO to AV campaign have it: The end of constitutional reform for a generation

So the official result is nearly in, but the NO VOTE has already now officially passed the 50% mark.  The Yes to AV camp had given up and gone home some hours ago, and the first gloating has begun in the largely right wing press.

The Spectator was one of the first off the mark and the inane commentary has begun.  Narrow mindedness and self preservation of the 2 main parties has won out and many are now saying openly that thankfully that will be the end of constitutional reform for a generation.

It is likely that I will be dead by the time real constitutional reform comes to the fore, which it surely will one day, it is just that in Britain we are always the last to drag our traditions kicking and screaming into the modern world.

The Alternative Vote was never the best system, everyone knew it, but we also knew that it was always the only reform any of the major players could consider stomaching. But they were able to fight off the challenge to their unfair advantages built into our system.

Nick Clegg made a massive gamble in his coalition agreement and sold his soul for AV.  In the end, much of the public could not stomach what he gave up for this.

The No campaign acted disgracefully and it will be hard for many to be able to look on some figures within that campaign in the same light.  Baroness Warsi playing at extremism was an absolute disgrace.  As was the way the Tories stabbed Nick Clegg in the back with the no campaign and the targeting of him personally.

The lies told over funding and people having more than one vote; and it helping extremism will go down in the political pages of history showing just how to run a cynical and negative campaign. If you repeat a lie often enough people believe it.

In the end, the vote for AV gave the chance for those who like FPTP; those that wanted PR; those that could not forgive Nick Clegg; and those wanting to put strain on the coalition, to all campaign for a no vote.

The Conservative Party, BNP and Communists, and the old guard of the Labour Party won out.

If this is the end of our constitutional reform, it is a sad end to the progress of pluralism seen over the past 15 years.  With the partial reform of the House of Lords, devolution and mayoral elections, the benefits of local democracy and a more proportional system can be seen, as with the Scottish elections tonight.

A country should never stand still in a false belief that the past is best.  We should be looking forward to see how we can improve.  A better more accountable and transparent political system will always improve the quality of govenorship   even if those clinging onto power do not think so.

YES TO AV: Our last chance to close the democratic deficit

So this is it, the day has finally arrived where the nation goes to the polls in order to decide on the future of the election system for general elections in the UK.

The opinion polls suggest that the no vote has had a massive surge in popularity over the last 2 weeks.  My own personal experience of meeting people and having watched debates in the media seem to back this up.

Several moments over the last few days have almost driven me to throw valuable items at the TV screen when hearing them repeating in verbatim the no campaign.  Watching the Young Persons Question Time on BBC3 a few nights ago was a very depressing experience.  Many people seemingly repeating adverts they had seen in the no campaign.

“some people have more than one vote”                  –         not true
“It will cost £250 million extra than FPTP”           –         not true
“It will produce hung parliaments all the time”     –         not true

If you would like to see how the system of AV works, please see here, this is not a propaganda piece for the YES or NO campaign but a straight forward explanation by Jeremy Vine on the BBC.

It has been a sad campaign where the negative campaigning has by far outweighed the effectiveness of the positive.  This referendum was more about fear than about electoral systems.  The Yes campaign became more vociferous towards the end, but appears to have been too little too late.  We can only hope that the polls are wrong, and some element of sanity prevails.

Yesterday an excellent article was written by the FactCheck team for Channel 4 investigating the claims that David Cameron and others have stated bout AV,  ” It’s a system so obscure that it is only used by three countries in the whole world – Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Our system in contrast is used by half the world.”

The results of this analysis show that of the 50 countries who use FPTP, 41 were ex-colonies or overseas territories of Britain.  So we directly gave it to them or imposed it on them.  The USA is a strictly 2 party system, and is designed to prevent pluralism and influence of smaller parties, while India accounts for 1.2 billion people in this calculation, who was a previous colony.

On the other hand, the ONLY country to use FPTP in the EU, is the UK.  In terms of the amount of democratic countries, the most popular system of voting is actually List Proportional Representation or List PR., with 71 countries.

William Hague has said that it would be “unbritish” to change from FPTP.  It seems he is correct as we exported it to the world.  However, any new democracy that has sprung up in the past 20 years, has not used FPTP.

We must also consider how our system has developed.  From the top down, based on nepotism and patronage only allowing a wider franchise when the powers that be were forced to do so, or it was in the interests of particular political parties.

Meanwhile the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2010, showing just how democratic and accountable countries are shows that out of the top 25 countries, the UK only comes 19th on that list, and of the top 10, 7 do not use FPTP.

By the logic of David Cameron and others, if we are to just do what other countries do traditionally, then democracies would never progress, they would remain stagnant.  Not only that, the most populous system is dictatorship with 2.5 billion people on the planet subjected to it, should we then adopt this system?

In the 2005 general election, a minority of 35.6% had a majority in the House of commons, able to enforce their will on the rest of the population.  In the last election, the Conservative party got 37% of the vote.  If the constituency boundaries were a little more equal, as they will be at the next election, they would have had a working majority again.

The share of the vote of the party that wins FPTP elections in this country is progressively obtaining less approval over time, yet still obtaining unlimited power through the party system in the House of Commons.

The democratic deficit in this country needs to change.

Debunking Myths about AV 

“some people have more than one vote”                  –         not true
This is not true.  The way AV works is that if no one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote (ie.) a majority; then the party with the lowest vote is eliminated and there vote is transferred to another candidate of there choice.  This is expressed by the 2nd preferential vote.  All the votes are then counted again and so on until someone has the approval of more than 50% of the vote.

In each ballot round all votes are counted again.  No one has more than one vote in each ballot.  This is a way of ensuring that the candidate who wins has an approval of a majority rather than a minority of the constituency.

It must also be stated that if you wish to just vote for one candidate, like for FPTP, then you are free to do this, it is YOUR CHOICE.

This also ensures that small extremist parties do not get power, as they have a very narrow base of support.  This is why the BNP and the Communist party are campaigning for a NO vote.


“It will cost £250 million extra than FPTP”           –         not true
This is simply untrue.  The analysis carried out by the government has not allowed for any extra costs associated with AV.  The only extra cost of the system is that some counts will take longer.  However, ballot counters are not paid by the hour, so the actual increase in cost would be small if at all.  No counting machines are required so the reference to counting machines is a complete red herring.     

“It will produce ,hung parliaments all the time”     –         not true
Australia has had 2 Hung Parliaments in the last 90 years, the UK has had 5, in addition to governments that have not had a working majority.  Australia use AV.

The full extent of exactly how AV would affect the UK vote is not fully known because there may well be a higher turn out as people may feel that because their vote is more likely to count, then more people would vote.  In addition, people could freely vote for the candidate they WANT, without feeling they have to vote for the candidate they least dislike.  Because if the candidate they vote for is eliminated, they can transfer that vote to a candidate who is still in the ballot.

Confusion of the AV debate

The politics of fear that has taken over in this country over the past few years due to economic uncertain times and the rhetoric of political parties has substantially affected the AV debate.

Many have mixed up within their minds the idea of “coalitions like this one”, the “electoral system” and “poor government”.

If you do not like this particular Tory/LibDem government, this is NOT because it is a coalition.  There are many coalitions in the EU, the German economy has consistently out performed the UK yet has coalition governments.  Good government or bad government is not simply because of the electoral system, but of the calibre of politician.  However, the representative nature of the political system is created by the electoral system.

If you consider the Clegg factor, or the woeful policies of this government it is not because of a coalition but rather their CHOICE to lie to the public or u-turn on policies.  Their political choice.  The article here explains this more fully.  In short there is nothing in the governments actions that was brought about simply because of coalition compromise.

I have heard people say they believe in AV but that they want to “teach Nick Clegg a lesson”.  This is a nonsense view to have.  The choice we make today is about the future of democracy in this country, not about individual political parties.

An Argument For AV 


Lets be clear, the AV system is not a panacea.  It will not get rid of all ills within our political system.  All it will do is give a small improvement on FPTP.

It is likely to improve voter turn out

It will mean that politicians will HAVE to reach out to a broader section of society rather than their core vote

Fewer Safe seats

Every MP will have to get more than 50% of the vote, an actual MAJORITY, whereas at the moment 60% of seats have less than 50%

It retains the one MP to One constituency link

It is unlikely to massively change the outcome of elections, but allow smaller parties with BROAD SUPPORT to get a larger representation

It will ensure extremist parties do not get any more representation than they do now

AV use in the world 

AV is currently used by about 29 million people in the world in 3 countries –  Australia, PNG and Fiji.  However versions of AV are used in over 60 countries in the world to either elect their President, Prime Minister, or parliament with the run-off system.  

This system rather than having candidates listed in preference, if a candidate does not have 50% of the vote, the last candidate is eliminated and a new ballot is taken, that is a whole new vote, and this continues until someone has more than 50% of the vote. Many systems ensure only two rounds are required.

This is a more expensive and long winded version of the AV system we are being asked to vote on, but very similar, with a very similar outcome.

Versions of AV are also used to elect ALL the leaders of the main political parties; the London Mayoral election; the election of the speaker of the House of Commons; Trade Unions; businesses use it and charities.

Lets be clear, the people who are most vociferous in their opposition to AV are people who do not believe in a wide democratic franchise.  The Conservative party has always seen itself as having a “right to govern”, and with FPTP they have an unfair advantage and can cling on to a disproportionate amount of power with an ever dwindling share of the vote.

The old guard of the Labour party also want to keep FPTP for a similar reason. People in the House of Lords like Dr Robert Winston also takes this view and represents an unelected chamber, that is against all principles of democracy.  He has also repeated many of the myths listed above.  A discussion of this can be seen here.

Conclusion

The AV system is NOT the best system available, BUT it is the BEST system on offer.  It will not radically change our voting system and will not radically change the outcome of elections.  There will be a slight increase in the fairness of the system as a whole and make MP’s work a bit harder at election time to reach out beyond their core vote.

Some say that it is Nick Clegg who has put this to the country – this is about as far from the truth as you could get.  It is those WITH the power that has put this to the country which is why they have put a system as close to the FPTP system as possible.

Nick Clegg would have wanted to put a Proportional System of voting to the country, which would be the best and fairest  system.  But Gordon Brown and David Cameron would not allow the public to decide on this for fear of losing their grip on power.

If anything, this proposal has been put to the country by David Cameron and not Nick Clegg.

We must think of the future, and not party political posturing when deciding on this referendum.  This is likely to be the only time in my lifetime that we are asked what political system we want.  If we vote no, it is likely that the democratic deficit in this country will continue unabated.

Our constitution moves very slowly, the UK tradition is based on very small evolutionary steps.  This is one of them, and if we do not take it, we will not have another opportunity for at least a generation.

YES TO AV : FIRST PAST THE POST – Why it doesn’t do what it says on the tin

First past the post has some advantages in some circumstances which we should all acknowledge,  However, even some of the advantages laid out by the No to AV campaign are less than convincing.

There are two main arguments used by the NO campaign regarding the FPTP system and how good it is.

The First reason is one that has been used by the Prime Minister, David Cameron on a number of occasions as a dead cert reason for voting NO in the referendum.  They assert that with FPTP the public can always throw out the incumbent government in a clean way and it is clear cut.

This sadly is not the case.  The mathematical calculations that now goes into the results of a FPTP election in a multi-party system is quite mind boggling.  If we take the last election, it was quite possible, and at one point looked likely, that the Labour Party could come third in the contest, with less than 29% of the vote and yet still remain in power, and have an overall majority in the House of Commons.

Not only that, but at several points in history, and the 1980’s may well be a good example of this, when a government is opposed by a majority of the population, but there is a split vote, or the population opposed to the government, even though a majority, cannot unite around one alternative, then the minority government stays in power by default, with a disproportionate amount of power.

As time goes on and the two main parties continue to get less and less of the overall vote, quirky outcomes to elections will become more and more common with FPTP.

The second often stated reason FPTP works well is that it provides STRONG government.  In practice this means giving a disproportionate amount of power to a minority to wield power over the nation.  However, strong government does not mean GOOD government.  There are few that would argue we have had continued good governance over the past 65 years.  It also ignores the fact that we have had weak government for many years under FPTP as well, like from 1974 to 1979; 1990 to 1997, as well as several periods of either no party having over all control in Parliament or coalitions governments. To completely debunk this myth we can also look at Australia who have had the AV system of voting form 80 years and have had fewer  coalition governments than the United Kingdom.

The facts do not fit the rhetoric.  Both of the main reasons people cling on to the old system of First Past The Post do not stand up to any close scrutiny at all.

We need a change to the AV  voting system to make it that bit fairer, we need to vote yes to AV on Thursday 5th May.

OTHER SIMILAR POSTS
An open letter to Dawn Primarolo
Yes To Av: Lies, Fascists and the Baroness 
YestoAV: A reply to some critics  
Historians wade in on the AV debate 
No to AV: Lies Damn lies and dinosaurs
NotoAV campaign’s Cynicism winning the public’s vote

PROUD TO BE BRITISH: The Aftermath of the Royal Wedding

Guest Author: Jonathan Pims

So it is the morning after the day before.  I really feel wonderful today, the sun is shining, the streets are gleaming and the birds are singing like never before.  Just as the Prime Minister, David Cameron said many months ago, this was just what the country needed to lift it’s spirits in these uncertain times.

As the Royal couple look to the Gods thanking them for the wonderful weather, they contemplate their rightful position at the head of our countries hopes and dream, while the people look up admiringly.

What a wonderful scene.

The World looked on yesterday in awe at the way our society is organised, and how well we celebrate a wonderful day for the great and the good.

In true British tradition, all was forgotten for a day, as we opened the bubbly before 11 am draped in the Union Flag.

But this was not about a day, but about the country as a whole.  We can now look forward and not back, no more thoughts of austerity or recession; job losses or cuts.  No more worries about the NHS or our meritocracy, why should we worry when the context has finally been put into it’s rightful place.

There were jokes on twitter about the crowds being the start of the queue for the AV referendum!  Of course now, after yesterday, no referendum is needed.  Why would anyone want to vote to change the system we have.  If an event could sum up our true beliefs as British people, it was the Royal Wedding.  Lets celebrate the hereditary principle.

The House of Lords has worked fantastically well for the last 100 years so why change it?  The Blairite attacks on our representative democracy by getting rid of the majority of our hereditary peers was simply an act of vandalism, an attack on the people, an attack on our constitution.  It was no wonder he stopped reform when he did.

We need a system for stability, not change. A system that can bring strong government that we can be proud of, where a minority can rule over the majority, imposing their will on people that never voted for them.  Only First Past the Post can do this.  It is so important we keep this system, where the constitution ensures that our political system goes from the top down and not from the bottom up.

Socialism and its ideals nearly destroyed this country over the last 60 years.  The so called “democratic movement” and those calling for “constitutional change” are simply socialists by any other name.

People don’t want more power, more accountability, or more say in their affairs.  By all means let them sort out their own communities social problems in the Big Society as we withdraw support from the councils, after all they have also been infiltrated by these socialists.  But when it comes to democracy, people know where they stand.  As the picture above shows, the people look up to their betters and they look down knowingly.  This is how it was always meant to be, its the best way, the only way.

Those campaigning for the yes to AV vote in the referendum just don’t get what is great about the British and the British constitution.  Up until a few years ago, and disgracefully changed without even a debate, we were subjects and not citizens.  In my view it should have stayed this way.

A society can move forward and be at peace with itself when we know where we stand.  The monarchy, House of Lords, Disproportionate amount of power for a few politicians  in the House of Commons, a Police force that will uphold the rule of law and take out newspaper sellers who defy the authorities, this is how it is meant to be.

We were born to be ruled by the elite, a small group of people who were born to rule, and educated to carry out their order, without interference by the ill educated masses or ethnic minorities.

Many attempts have been made to encroach  on our freedoms.  Health and Safety Fascists; Environmental socialists; and a Human Rights act that actually takes away our freedoms telling us how we should treat our own people.  What right do they have to put limits on our rulers?

The church has shown itself exactly why it is at the heart of our constitution. Rightly attached and embedded into our constitution with our head of state.  In a secular society this is just what we need.

Thank God, AV has been buried by this show of Britishness.  The Royal Wedding has taken away the recession blues and the threat to our constitution.  There is no need to be depressed at economic meltdown or the rise in homelessness.  This is the way it should be.  No need to reduce the amount of safe seats in parliament or increasing accountability, it is the way it is supposed to be.

Those that still, after all we have seen over the last few days, vote for AV should be ashamed of themselves.  The fact that the BNP are campaigning against AV is just a double bluff of extremism.  AV is an attack on the very nature of our Britishness, trying to assert the extremism of meritocracy on an unsuspecting nation.

I am so proud to be British, to be where I am in society.  I doff my cloth cap with the rest of the nation to the Royals, Lords and MP’s, and to the way things are and have always been.

I love my country for the way it is. I am proud to be British.

cc

MP Bids to Curb Union Power: Another attack on British Democracy

Over the past few months there have been many attacks on democracy in Britain by the coalition government.  Today Tory MP Dominic Raab is introducing a private members bill in order to prevent Unions of essential services and transport illegal unless the vote for yes represented over 50% of the electorate able to vote.

This has been talked about for some time by Conservative MP’s and the CBI as a way of taking pressure off employers to keep wages low.  David Cameron mentioned this in Parliament as an issue he would look closely at if strikes became widespread. A clear threat to unions to stay in check or face more anti-union laws.

It is unlikely anythink will come of this bill, however, the seeds have been sown as a threat, throwing down the gauntlet to the Unions, showing that those on the right could bring such a bill forward in government’s Parliamentary time.

This is simply an act of vandalism on the rights of people in this country to take industrial action in a democratic organisation.  It is fundamentally un-democratic and abhorrent to the liberal nature of our society.

Lets be clear, I do not belong to a union, although I have been in the past, and there are many times people have gone on strike and I have disagreed with either their issue or their tactics.  However, that is not the point.  Whether I like it or not, I accept the right to ballot members to take industrial action if they so wish.

Quite often, those that take action, at least in the short term lose a lot more than they gain as they have to go several days without pay.  No one takes these decisions lightly.  People have families to feed and mortgages/rent to pay and the decision to take industrial action is thought about seriously by whoever takes it.

Unions are democratic organisations, they are not monolithic institutions run by Trotskyites who arm wrestle people into striking on a whim.  There is too much to lose.

What this bill shows is the gross disregard for democracy and fairness the Conservative Party and the CBI have.  It is exactly the same as the call by some for the referendum on AV to only count if it got more than a certain percentage of the vote.

The facts about democracy and especially our democracy in Britain, is that we do not force anyone to vote.  No one is penalised for not voting as in Australia or in other countries.  Many people think this should be so, but our democracy has a certain amount of consent built into it’s culture.  While people have the freedom to chose whether to vote, that is their right.

Very often in democracy in Britain, whether it is in General Elections, Council elections, or European Elections, many constituencies or even throughout the country as a whole, the majority do not vote for the winning candidate or party.  Indeed, in the case of council elections and European elections you do not even get a majority taking part at all.  By the logic of Dominic Raab MP all of these elections should be null and void.

It would make any government formed since the second World War wince, as no one has managed to get more than 50% of the votes cast let alone the majority of those eligible to vote!

It is a nonsense argument, made up by those with a vindictive nature, who wish to attack unions for the sake of it.

Many of the votes taken in recent times in union ballots for strikes have had an overwhelming majority voting for strike action.  If a large number did not vote who were eligible to, that is their choice.  I am sure if they felt strongly enough they most certainly would.

Unions are democratic institutions and should be respected in our society rather than simply used as a scapegoat, regardless of whether we agree with them or not.  Democracy needs to be upheld, it is more important than petty Tory MP’s trying to make a name for themselves.

NICK CLEGG FINDS A PART OF HIS BACK BONE: Taking the AV debate to the Prime Minister

Finally, Nick Clegg has taken the AV debate direct to David Cameron’s door by accusing the NO campaign of being a right wing clique.  The narrow section of society that is opposed to AV is obvious to see with the only political parties to oppose the change in our voting system being the Conservative Party, BNP and the Communist Party. 

The gloves were finally taken off as Nick Clegg took the fight to the narrow interests of those who want to keep the stale political system in the hands of a two party state.  The old guard of the nay sayers in the Labour Party who seek only power for themselves along with the whole of the Conservative Party and the extremist parties.

Nick Clegg said “This nasty No campaign, I hope, will prove to be the death rattle of a right-wing elite, a right-wing clique who want to keep things the way they are. That’s why they are lashing out.”

It has been obvious that the no campaign has been stating complete untruths over their opposition to any change in the voting system and any other constitutional  change.  The extremist language used by high profile politicians in parliament and the House of Lords like Baroness Warsi has been disgraceful, yet the yes campaign has remained level headed in it’s approach.  But this approach is not working as recent polls have shown. 

It is about time the gloves came off, as the no campaign has got away with the most scurrilous  accusations and most of the time diverting the arguments away from the voting systems themselves to other issues of funding and costs which are a complete red herring.

The divisions in the coalition are widening as the true nature of the Tories takes hold and the Liberal Democrats realise the bed they have made for themselves.

David Cameron will come out fighting more and more as his political future depends on the no vote winning.  Many on the right of the Tory party will not forgive the deal done in coalition if AV is accepted by the public.  Likewise, the LibDems will feel they are not getting enough from the deal if they do not get the change.

There is already movement over House of Lords reform in the background if the No campaign wins to placate their LibDem partners.  But will this be enough?

The LibDems though are not in a position to break from the deal they have done as annihilation at any election in the short term is assured.

It is time for the YestoAV campaign to get it’s hands dirty and take it direct to the personalities who have been telling the untruths and spreading the fear of extremism which ironically is coming from the extremists themselves.

DAVID CAMERON EXTREMIST SHOCK: Conservative Party Aligns itself with BNP and Communists

The not so straight talking No to Av campaign has let the cat out of the bag.

As the dirt slinging continues from the NO campaign the reality of their campaign slightly belies their rhetoric.  As they scare monger over the system of AV somehow helping extremist parties, for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

It is now clear that the only political parties who fully endorse the out of date and undemocratic system of First Past the Post, are the CONSERVATIVE PARTY, BNP and the COMMUNIST PARTY.

Thats right the 2 extremist parties that David Cameron and the rest of the Conservative Party warn us about constantly, these evil extremists – reds under our beds and the ultra right wing BNP.

It is now clear that the Conservative party, in order to keep its grubby hands on power and to subject the British public to a 2 party state, has aligned itself to the extreme right and left in political opportunism that defies belief to anyone who genuinely believes in democracy.

Maybe we should shout out Heil Cameron in future!

This shows just exactly why we need AV, to get these dishonorable MPs to reach out to a wider electorate for their vote rather than sinking into the abyss and aligning themselves with extremists.

(Hope you like the Daily Mail/Sun like editorial:) )