Friday, May 07, 2010

Democracy and Principles in Proportional Representation

So the general election, the effects of which I still feel in too many muscles, has resulted in a hung parliament, so what now?

As some who for as long as I have been politically active and aware know that our current electoral system is anything but fair I have seen yet another example of just how unfair that system is. The difference is that this time many of the people in our country are also aware of just how unfair that has been too.

Also I'm someone who has long been a supporter of a single transferable vote electoral system to elect multiple members to constituency as the best way to get that imbalance between votes and seats resolved. With such a system comes the result that you are going to have parties that have to act together to get things done, that is the nature of the beast. Of course the people have spoken in a certain way about certain keys issues and cast their vote accordingly.

The issue that arises after a vote is what are the key principles that a party stands for that cannot be written off to work along side another party. In this election the Liberal Democrats have had those 4 key principles outlined clearly all along.
  • Fair taxes
  • Fair start for our children
  • Fair chance for our economy
  • Fair deal for politics
Also through this election, and again yesterday, Nick Clegg had always said that the party with the clear mandate from the people, should be allowed the chance to attempt to form the next government. Political commentators at times wanted him to define whether that meant votes or seats, he refused to speculate saying it would be clear at the time. Indeed it is as the Conservatives have both the lead in seats and votes.

So that does lead to the question of the four key principles and where the two parties are separated. On our children and economy we are closest, though with the economy there is a major difference on when it is prudent to start making cuts in government spending, although the majority of the population have back the Labour and Lib Dem notion that it should not be straight away.

On taxes the Conservatives were not looking to alleviate the burden on the poorest, indeed what they were aiming for was to further relieve tax on the richest with their inheritance tax proposals.

However, it is on fair politics that the biggest gulf exists, but it is the one point that the public are feeling most strongly about. They at the moment really want their vote to count. Turnout was actually up across the country this time, people wanted their voice to be heard. The Tories talk of electoral reform in the last 24 hours has been but a mere tinkering around the edges. David Cameron is merely offering a conference on electoral reform. Personally I think it is not enough, for a second election in a row one party has got 1 in 4 votes yet has only 1 in 10 seats, while a party with 36% of the vote has 49% of the seats.

We no longer live is a two party system, indeed we have two parties taking their first seats in Westminster the Greens and Alliance Party, and two more losing their places Respect and the Ulster Unionists. First past the post works where there are two parties but most seats in this election where contested by four or more parties, never mind candidates. There is a need for change in how we cast our vote and how that vote represents the views of the people. Also then how that view is reflected in Westminster itself.

There is a need for parties, the people and other influences to realise that the voice of the people is no longer clearly advocating one way to do things, but several. That parties will need to work together but they must represent the views of those who have voted.

For thirteen years the Labour party have kept electoral reform on the back burner, bringing it up again to the fore only as the election approached. Therefore David Cameron's statement yesterday to merely kick it into the long grass of another conference is not enough, it is only a way of dodging the fundamental issue of what is wrong with our political system. People are already saying that for the Liberal Democrats to forego our principle on this is not acceptable, that is true of those who have turned to us from elsewhere on this occasion as well as our long term support.

I think it is time to draw that line in the sand and not cross it.

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