Once the Royal Nuptials are out of the way (and the very best of luck with much good health and unending happiness to the Happy Couple; our Country is lucky to have them!) and we all get back to work after the longest Easter Break since the Schism, the Nation’s attention will turn to only the second Referendum (in England) ever. What is it to be? A Vote for Change or a Vote for “as you were”?
As a declared neutral when it comes to party politics (my constituency is clearly the socially-inclusive wealth creators of Business) I am saddened that the debate has become mired in the typical party tribal dogfight that so damages our 21st century politics. Indeed, hats off to David Cameron and John Reid ( two more party political opposites it would be hard to find!) for coming together to promote a cause they believe in. Can’t we as a Nation, just for once, get into a detailed debate and argue the pro’s and cons of something without reducing it all to “party rift”, “X calls Y a liar” and “how can they work together after this?”. Apparently, and sadly, not.
But it is interesting that those in favour of retaining the status quo and thus promoting a “No” vote in the Referendum on Electoral Reform, are doing so not in the national interest, not in the pursuit of fairness but on account of pure career-based self-interest. You want more Conservative or Labour MPs? Vote No. Simple.
And where is the fairness, where is the 21st century acknowledgement of a changed world in that?
Even in the present First Past the Post system, the Nation said last year that it didn’t want a straight “Either/Or” choice. We are told that you get coalition government and political policy deals with AV; …er…hello! Wake up at the back! That’s what the Nation wants; that what it voted for last year.
As I set out in my Book “Fixing Britain” ( I will allow you to leave this article right now and click over to Amazon and buy a copy. Great value at around a tenner!) whilst over 90% of those voting in General Elections in the fifties and sixties voted Tory or Labour, that figure has dropped to around 60% now; the Nation wants choice; it is aching for change. It wants issues-based politics, not party dogma. It wants elected representatives to be accountable to those who elected them & not just to the Party bosses who govern their lives & define success or failure at Westminster.
A young Labour or Conservative researcher gets adopted as the Prospective Party Candidate in a safe seat (where they weigh the vote for the dominant party, not count it!). He or she has never done anything outside politics; never taken a risk, never worked in the public sector, never hired anyone or fired anyone, has no experience of “the real world”. They get elected as the shoe-in the current “First past the Post” system guarantees, they are now assured (barring impropriety) of a job for life if they keep their party nose clean & do the bidding of the party managers and whips. The electorate? Ah yes…..we can worry about them nearer the next election. Best to keep in with the string-pullers in Westminster; therein lies career preferment…and even a ministerial post (with a driver and car built overseas thrown in).
And we as a Nation vote for this system! We, who stood alone and won through against overwhelming tyranny in living memory, we who set the democratic example to the rest of the World, we who stand for fairness in an unfair World, we have an electoral system that is outdated, out of touch and increasingly irrelevant.
More people actively voted against Thatcher and Blair with their thumping majorities than for them. More people voted for John Major in his crushing defeat of 1997 than voted for Tony Blair in his clear victory in 2005! Where is the sense or fairness in that? How on earth are we to engage the next generation in the democratic process if we don’t show each and every vote matters and counts. Vast swathes of our Country contain people whose votes are irrelevant and worthless because of the First Past the Post system. And we are a modern democracy are we? So I will be voting for change at the referendum. I will be putting my X in the Yes box. Too many suffragettes suffered or died; too many men and women died between 1939 and 1945 not to do so. I honour their memory, I want every vote of every person to count equally.
Is AV perfect? Certainly not. But it’s better than what we’ve got. It’s a step in the right direction. It will keep those currently disillusioned with our politics and politicians interested. It will make our elected representatives more, and more often, accountable to those who elected them rather than those who run the system and in whose vested interest the status quo needs to be maintained.
Making our elected representatives more accountable? more often? Now there’s a novelty! I, for one, won’t let my one chance of changing things pass me by.