Disclaimer: I am against the current campaign to bomb Syria #DontBombSyria & I am not a political expert ☺
Hello and welcome to my first main blog piece. The rather glib title makes up for the fact that this is quite a long waffle and much of it seems not to have much to do with Colchester, but give it time my fellow Colcestrians. Give it time…
I’ve been threatening to stick a blog down for ages but things in the personal and the wider world have been so hectic that it’s taken me until now.
What I’d like to talk about is government. Before you move your finger to whatever function closes this page, hear me out… Please!
Our political system is, in my opinion, broken and not fit for purpose. We like to call it a democracy because we all get to vote every five years. But that does not a democracy make.
Thanks to the First Past The Post system which the UK enjoys, we are living under such an unrepresentative government that the party with a majority in the House of Commons scraped together less than a quarter of potential votes in the recent election.
Here in Colchester it wasn’t much better with over 60% of voting Colcestrians getting an MP they didn’t vote for. And we had over 65% voter turnout.
I’m not knocking Mr Quince who managed to overturn old Bob Russell who had been MP since ’97, which was quite a feat. Mr Russell was and still is a popular figure with many in the town, and Colchester was a refreshing Orange in a sea of Blue, but things had changed. You all know what happened.
Now Sir Bob runs tours of the town he loves and has more time for gardening. He fell victim to FPTP. The self-same system which put him where he was.
The system which is not fit for purpose.
I am, of course, not the only one screaming that we need a different way to choose our government. I’m in the company of The Green Party and UKIP particularly, both of which were ‘done over’ by FPTP. Wander over to http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk to see a whole bunch of info on everything wrong with how we’re doing it right now.
According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, there are 45 countries using something like our system.
You would be forgiven for thinking however that this was the only way of doing things. It is, most likely what you’ve grown up with. All you know, after all.
Have a play with this and you’ll soon find it isn’t the only way…
If you’re thinking of setting up a democracy, you have all the tools right there to get your people voting. Syria beware… After we send you our bombs, we send you our administrators.
The other gigantic FPTP democracy you think of straight away is probably the US. It too has a broken system, with arcane Electoral Colleges and bizarre outdated weighting of votes which affect the results in such ways that those observing tune out and despair. You think you’re voting for a president? Think again!
No real change can be made with a FPTP system. It excludes the majority of the voting public and tends towards two party adversarial politics. Some say that gives us stability where otherwise we would have chaos. However, there are so many voting systems at work all over the world, suddenly those 45 FPTPs begin to look quite teeny.
And so it is that two political parties, and some would say two ideologies, have ruled over this country for the last century and arguably a lot longer. You tip from one to the other or you find that the parties become indistinguishable from each other as they both try and appeal to the same populace in their broken system.
Let’s look again at Colchester. We’ve had Conservative or Liberal since 1950. Back and forth. All the other parties have made up the majority of the voting public for most of those elections and yet they have no representation.
When you think of the “Anyone-But-The-Tories” coalition who make up Colchester Borough Council and compare, you can see the difference.
CBC is made up currently of 27 Conservatives, 20 Libdems, 9 Labour & 5 Independents. FPTP thinking would have given control to the Conservatives, but that’s not the way CBC runs. As many of those in it will bemoan…
It hasn’t been around forever, FPTP. We only adopted it in the late Victorian period, so we could chuck it out. Couldn’t we?
Ah, but we had that referendum a few years back didn’t we? The one where it was a really watered down version of proportional voting called the Alternative Vote which nobody understood and it was publicised in an excruciatingly poor manner so that not only did only 42% of people vote – they didn’t understand what it was they were voting about anyway.
Nobody that mattered wanted people to vote in favour of AV. It doesn’t suit the major parties, at least in their collective heads. Two party politics is threatened – the status quo is messed with. Neither Mr Cameron, nor Mr Miliband were interested in promoting it and to be honest neither was Mr Clegg who had been given it as part of the coalition and told to like it or lump it.
We can all recall how popular Mr Clegg was after forming the coalition and voting to keep FPTP was sold as a way of punishing Naughty Nick.
In the long run it would have been better for everybody in my opinion. Not perfect, but better than this.
Well, I’ve told you at length what I don’t like. I’ve hinted at what is slightly better, but what do I favour best. Well, here is where we get to the rub. I would want to shake the whole thing up. I think it is rotten from the core and all ills will persist while our system of government is in its current form.
These videos are pretty good for summing up voting and they’re fun!
Politics in the Animal Kingdom: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7679C7ACE93A5638
The Electoral College: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9936C719FF689E7D
So…Here is what I would do if I was PM right now…
I would do away with MPs. Yes, you heard me. Or, read me I guess. The way we double vote for our council in one geographical area and then our MP in another is nonsense. Goodbye MPs.
We should vote for a local council more or less as we do now but with a proportional system of choosing per ward. This should ensure the fairest representation and make up of the council. Make it a two yearly election so they have enough time to bed in.
We then send a delegation of our town council up to a central government – doesn’t have to be Westminster, and in fact should probably not be. Change its use to a museum and make parliament more central and make it a boring municipal building, like a conference centre and cheap to run.
This delegation would be a rotating selection of town elders effectively. Cronyism could be avoided by a constantly refreshed group of people, consistent in representing their town or area.
I would then do away with PM and have a policy driven voting system by committee. Delegations from all around the country, each representing their respective areas would vote on policies or have the right to use local referendums to gain wishes of their voters.
I’m not against a First Minister or a figure head of some sort to stand for our country on the ‘world stage’ but see no reason why this couldn’t be a rotating post, such as chair of the G8, etc.
Keeping things hyper local, but giving local representation on a national level would keep everything grounded.
Think of the current Syria crisis. Do we go and join bombing in a far away land with missiles already being used by Saudi Arabia in a very complicated civil war of faction against faction, with terrible dictator involvement and terrorism in the mix?
Is this being discussed openly by committee or is it being bounced around like a partisan pass the parcel, while the music playing is the people of Raqqa?
Politics needs to be more boring. Transparent yes, Punch and Judy no, intellectual and philosophical yes, Flashman antics and whipping no.
It’s beneath us. We have so much technology we could utilise. We could make voting for council members/policies compulsory, like taxes, to engage every voter 16 and up.
There are so many things we could do. If we were to design a new system of government today, do you think it would include people in wigs, whacking doors with sticks, shouting at each other, bills etched on vellum, Lords and Ladies clothed in ermine, searching the cellars for Guy Fawkes…?
I think we can do better.
I am just positing my idea. I know it won’t happen and I’m sure you have a better idea, but there it is.
Thanks for reading my 1500 words!
All the best