Friday, 19 February 2010

Abolish Short Term Politics

Perhaps unintentionally, 'The Times', in its effort to promote the way forward for a Conservative Government, has highlighted the reason for the need to bring in proportional representation. On page 2 of today's paper, the commentary declares, 'The role of government is not to own and control, but to help to stabilise the economy. That means building surpluses in good economic times, so that there is scope for extra spending in a downturn.'

Precisely. Short term spending plans in the UK is the natural bi product of short term politics, which in turn is the natural consequence of a two party dominated first past the post electoral system.

Amusingly, The Times further reports on page 4 in a commentary about not legislating to punish aggressive marketers for sexualising children, the reporter notes that, 'psychologists have shown that punishment teaches only how to avoid the punishment. The best way to encourage others to do what you want is to reward them.'

So there you have it. Politicians do not learn from being voted out over the short term; they simply find a way not to get voted out the next time. In other words they find more clever and devious ways to carry on doing what they do but not get caught.

Now it is not true to say that this applies to every individual politician. The recent expenses scandal revealed that only 52% of politicians had their fingers in the till in some way or another. What is fundamentally wrong is that one political party holds so much power that it can railroad through legislation at the rate of knots, beat down all opposition simply through sheer weight of numbers and bend the country's economic future to its political whim regardless of the country's long term future.

The most sensible way to cool down the rapidly changing political landscape is to dismantle completely the first past the post system, by pass the politically popular but rather pointless AVS system and adopt a full blooded proportional representation system. It is argued that proportional representation would weaken government, slow down legislation and make political changes more difficult. Sounds good to me. And it should also be recognised that most other European countries already have a proportional representation system working quite happily thank you very much.

So how do we get there? certainly it won't be by 'rewarding' the main parties with our votes. We must put a tremendous dent in the main parties in order to make them understand that we want proper government and not political jiggery pokery, ping pong, negative slanging matches and a complete disregard for the little people; consider for example the Conservative MP, forced by changes to the expenses regime, who was outraged at having to stand on the train in economy class along with the rest of us little people. Why should he not share the experience that many of us face in our daily commute to work?

The UK will soon be asked to vote for a new Government. Considering that none of us will get anything from any government other than higher taxes, now might be as good a time as any to change our voting allegiances to who we really want. For now that might mean voting for anyone except the big three - unless, of course you enjoy this sort of perpetual crisis management.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

AVS: A Veritable Swindle

Gordon Brown spoke today about reforming the political theatre in favour of the people it is designed to serve. What a great idea but wasn’t that what the current political set up was designed to do as well? Some of his ideas sounded brilliant, however, we must never forget that these politicians are consummate survivalists who are currently bending over backwards to save their own necks.

Now don’t get me wrong; I have argued for change for quite a while now. Some of Mr Brown’s proposals sound appealing: An elected House of Lords, elected select committee members, basic guaranteed rights within public services, more power and control for local councils, a written constitution and at long last – a new voting system.

…except the new voting system is designed to keep all the votes within the old boys club, which is why the main political parties will want to back it.

AVS, Alternative Voting System, is designed to allow you to vote for your candidates in terms of preference. So if you want to vote Labour you pick them first. This bit is no different to the first past the post (FPP) system we have now. The new bit will be that you can choose, as a second preference, another candidate – lets say Conservative – who you would never have voted for in a month of Sundays before.

What the voting system changes is the possibility that in marginal seats, the current second place candidate could actually beat the FPP candidate winner by second preference voters because the majority of the constituents as a whole preferred the second candidate.

The illusion is that the majority voters have elected the AVS candidate either as a first or as a second choice. Does this sit right with you? I mean how many times have you heard a football fan say, “Which team do you support? Who would you support next?” Or how about “Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife? What about a bit on the side?” See my voting system by way of comparison (which incidentally I sent to the Society for Electoral Reform but they politely failed to respond; why? Because, I reckon, they have supported AVS for about 100 years).

I support a change in the voting system but I do not support AVS. I believe there should be a much broader choice of voting systems placed before the electorate and that we should allow them to choose. Is this not what Gordon Brown said about placing the power in the hand of the electorate, or is their interest only in the kind of power that the old boys clubs can still control?

Let the people decide the voting system Gordon. It doesn’t matter what you politicians prefer; it is what we the people prefer that count.

Now I know that my system only gives the voters a 99.6% first preference outcome – a mere 30% plus higher than any other voting system. It also keeps MPs within their constituencies, albeit that the constituency is bigger and it will be served by both first and second candidates. However, I know that many people will want to keep out candidates like the BNP, which my system will not guarantee. On the other hand, my system, unlike AVS will not exclude (as it is designed to do – just like FPP) the Green Party, English Heritage Party, UKIP and other grossly under represented parties.

AVS favours big political parties. It does not favour the will of the people. Yes we need electoral reform but AVS isn’t it.