Fair Votes – I am devastated by the referendum result

I have always believed in electoral reform, indeed it was one of the big reasons I got involved in politics in 1980 when I joined the old Liberal Party.

My strong view is that our present electoral system is corrupt in that it does not represent the will the people at the ballot box. The fair votes referendum was the chance for us to go some way to righting that very big wrong. It was never the whole answer as  the Single Transferable Vote (STV) is the only voting system that delivers what electors want as it puts voters in charge not political parties. So obviously I would have much preferred a vote on STV as opposed to AV. Having said that AV is a much improved system when compared to the corrupt First Past the Post that we presently use.

However, ridiculous scare tactics won the day and anyone reading the Daily Mail lead of Thursday could only conclude that if you voted for fair votes you would be murdered in your bed! Quite ludicrous scares were put about and I began to wonder whether Baroness Warsi was suffering some form of illness as she got more and more ridiculous in her misrepresentations of fair votes as part of the ‘NO’ campaign.

We all know that the vast majority of Tories don’t like electoral reform so surely that is the signal to the rest of us that it is necessary! Tories have stood against virtually all social voting reforms over the centuries. Women would not have gained the vote if Tories had their way! Old style Labour also oppose electoral reform as their jobs for life paid for by the public purse would be at risk in inner city seats so unsurprisingly they like the Tories like First Part the Post.

Sadly, the forces of progress lost the referendum and it falls again to Liberals and enlightened socialists to fight for electoral reform. On balance the vote was at the wrong time (too rushed) and should have been held say 3 years into the Coalition Government’s 5 year term. The national economic crisis obviously was the main issue in the elections this year and I think the referendum was rushed into (for all the right reasons) when time should have been taken to set the scene first.

I suppose that at 52 I will never now see electoral reform in the UK and that thought must be the biggest political disappointment that I will ever have. I hope I am wrong though as a fair voting system in this Country is urgently required to tackle vested interests and Rotten Boroughs.

Results and what they mean

Today in Sefton we Lib Dems seemed to do better than in many other parts of the UK. We lost 5 seats, Labour gained 5 seats and the Tories stayed the same. This makes Labour the largest party on the balanced Council despite them behaving quite irresponsibly before the election over the Council’s finances.

If you recall their voting on the budget would have ended up with a 29% increase in hated Council tax this year if we had not voted for a 0% increase. They also went ahead and borrowed £8m that the Council could not afford to borrow and has had to make more Council workers redundant to pay for. Sadly, this latter issue had the Tories in support of Labour. However, my point is that their irresponsible financial activities have been rewarded by more seats on the Council! I must admit that with money being so tight these days I felt that the Council could not sensibly put up the Council tax yet the results of the elections seem to indicate that a significant part of the voting population agreed with a 29% Council tax increase that Labour would have brought in. Strange times indeed!

In Maghull the Town Council (a large Parish Council) is now 13 Labour seats and 3 Lib Dem but most of the Labour members don’t even live in Maghull! The question is why do many electors in Maghull seemingly want their Parish Councillors to live elsewhere? They could have voted for Maghull residents but chose to pick councillors from other communities such as Bootle, Crosby and Aintree to run Maghull’s affairs. Bearing in mind that the taxes raised by Maghull Town Council will not be paid by those councillors who live outside of Maghull, is this not a odd state of affairs?

I can only assume that the national political situation was the deciding factor for most people who went to vote Labour. Why I can almost see some electors saying ‘give me that 29% in Council tax, I really do like paying tax after all’ or ‘to hell with the Council borrowing money it can’t afford; Labour did it when in Government so the Council should do so as well’ or ‘we hate Clegg and Cameron so much we will gladly pay a 29% Council tax increase and approve more borrowing even though more Council workers will get the chop’.

Seriously, my thanks to all who fought under the Lib Dem flag; times are tough for the only national political party that really does believe in gaining power only to give it away to the communities that we represent. Clearly, 2011 has been a step backwards for the Lib Dems and the community based politics that we stand for but Liberals have been through tough times before and come through. Tories and Labour will always stand for vested interests as they always have done; we will continue to fight against vested interests.

Motor Bikes and kids & another motorised encounter!

Today I was driving along the A59 through Maghull and at a major set of traffic lights (Dover Road/Liverpool Road South) a couple of kids on one of those mini-motor bikes came straight onto this duel carriageway weaving around the traffic. They survived this encounter with a lot of traffic more by luck than anything else. Of course the bike did not have plates or I presume any form of insurance.

Tonight, having returned from a Maghull Town Council meeting, I got a call from Cllr. Andrew Blackburn who in turn had been speaking to a Hall Lane resident in Maghull. Hall Lane is the next set of traffics back from the one I mentioned. And what was the call about? A youngster on a motor bike who had been on Old Hall Park, along the Leeds Liverpool canal tow path and straight onto Hall Lane where he had been knocked over by a car.

I would not be at all surprised if the kid in the accident was the same one I encountered earlier! Why on earth do parents let their kids drive these death traps?

Speaking of Andrew, I was out campaigning with him for the elections this morning and he came back with an odd story. He had come across an old chap in one of those motorised buggies that the elderly often use to get about. Trouble is this one had run out of battery power so Andrew had pushed the old chap home. What some people will do for a vote!

Burscough Curves debated in Parliament

I was delighted to see that John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport gained a debate in Parliament a few days ago about small rail infrastructure projects, such as the Burscough Curves, that if reconnected could produce significantly improved public transport options.

As I have blogged before, I am a member of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association) as indeed is Maghull Town Council as a corporate member. If we can get the Ormskirk/Preston and Southport/Wigan lines (which cross over each other at Burscough) reconnected then East Parishes residents would be able to get to Southport by train without having to go via Sandhills. What’s more the Southport tourist economy would benefit as well.

Trouble is that the campaign to get these two lines reconnected has been going on for 30 years or more! Getting rail projects up and running seems to be incredibly difficult and complicated and that was the thrust of John Pugh’s message to Parliament.

Will John’s efforts take us any further? I don’t really know but John is not one to give up so let’s hope that he and OPSTA can eventually win this battle.

This is Ormskirk Station with a train from Preston just arriving

Canvassing – You really do meet all sorts of folks

One of the really interesting parts about being involved in politics is door-knocking as you never know what will be the reaction every single time you stand on a doorstep.

You meet some kind and wonderful people who are glad you called, you also meet folks who are not interested, apathetic or who are even going to vote for other parties. The vast majority of folk are polite and it really is rare to meet an angry or abusive person.

My worst experience of an abusive person in many years of canvassing was during the 2010 General Election campaign and it was at a large well to do house in Maghull. I don’t think I have every come across a more rude or ignorant person or ever will again. He hated everyone and everything and after his tirade I told him that he was rude and ignorant and that he should be utterly ashamed of his behaviour. We parted on that note.

But as I say such behaviour is rare and most folk are very nice. You do meet some odd people though; they say things like ‘I had no idea there was a election on’ or ‘can you send the Labour/Tory man around I want to give them a piece of my mind’ or ‘ can you come back tomorrow I am just bathing the dog’  etc. etc.

Some people seem to be waiting for you though as they give you a long list of things they want addressing from pot-holes to low flying aircraft. It makes you wonder what they would have done with their concerns if you had not called.

But my best canvassing story involved a chap who is quite elderly now but during retirement had joined our party and got heavilly involved. You have to picture a very proper gentleman who had retired from a senior professional occupation and who always wore a suite and tie. Off he went canvassing locally with our team and he was quite a hit on the doorsteps. However, at one door which was opened by a young lady things went wrong. The lady had a towel around her and as our canvasser was talking to her the towel fell down enough to be an embarrassment. But our gentleman carried on as though nothing had happened!

Let’s hear it for worker owned companies

It has been a busy day campaigning for the local elections and Fair Votes referendum earlier and then dealing with some family matters this afternoon and evening. Having got to my PC at gone 10.00pm I happened upon the blog of Iain Brodie-Brown and I was immediately reminded of one of the big reasons that a joined the old Liberal Party back in 1980.

Iain is a good friend of mine and has recently posted (see my Birkdale Focus link) about worker owned companies under the heading ‘About time there was more Lib Dem input…….’

Having been an active trade unionist (IRSF, PTC and now PCS) since 1975 and an elected lay official from 1978 to 2011, I have long wondered why worker owned companies have not become a big campaigning issue for British trade unions. You see I don’t want workers to be subject to being managed, I want to see workers taking a real stake in the companies they work for and where possible/appropriate becoming the owners of companies. I have never thought that the British ‘us and them’ model of industrial relations was taking us anywhere, indeed it simply reinforces the roles of workers and managers as though they were always meant to be at odds with each other instead of jointly pursuing the development of their company.

Well done Iain a tiring day has ended with me feeling refreshed because you have resurrected a most important Liberal policy matter which has, as you state, slipped from the mainstream Lib Dem agenda in recent times.