Local Elections – Are Rotten Borough’s creeping back into out creaking democracy?

The Electoral Reform Society has an illuminating and worrying article on it’s website – see link below:-

www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Election-Cancelled-Uncontested-Seats-Breifing-April-19-ERS-EMBARGOED.pdf

Quote from the ERS article – ‘Since moving to a proportional voting system (STV) for local elections in 2007, the scourge of uncontested seats has almost vanished in Scotland.’

The article is sobering indeed because of the number of seats where a single candidate is unopposed and where the electorate for the wards where this happens is denied a vote because there is no election – they get the only nominated person whether they like it or not.

Of course those of us who have been campaigning for electoral reform for generations know what the solution is – proportional representation via the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in multi-member seats, be that for Council, Westminster or EU elections. Presently in England we only have a vaguely proportional system (where the number of seats a party gets is near to the % of votes that party receives) for EU elections.

My thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting

How our elections are bought – when just maybe you thought they were fair?

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/12/britain-country-elections-can-be-bought-first-past-the-post

If you are a democrat, which I hope you are if you are reading this blog site (if not please read elsewhere), then this piece by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian should be very sobering indeed.

Our political system is to put it bluntly corrupt.

With thanks to Bob for the lead to this posting

Knowsley – And you wanted evidence that our warped ‘first past the post’ electoral system does not work!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/how-elected-without-winning-single-11266602

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

If this story does not show why our warped electoral system is failing people I don’t know what does.

What’s the point of standing against Labour in some Knowsley wards – the result is a foregone conclusion so candidates have stopped even putting up against Labour. This places our democracy under threat as voters end up with no choice because they don’t have an election through which to make a choice. Labour will get re-elected in some Knowsley wards no matter what local people think of them.

Credit to the Liverpool Echo for exposing this important issue and thanks to my spotter Keith.

Proportional Representation? Well Electoral reform of some kind seems to be on more people’s cards than before

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cross-party-alliance-draws-up-plan-to-secure-proportional-representation-by-2021-a6853811.html

The Independent has the story – see link above

I must admit that I felt that electoral reform had been killed off for at least a generation when in the 2011 referendum British voters voted 2 to 1 to keep our wholly unrepresentative first past the post voting system. Indeed, I thought the referendum itself was a bad move as the result, at that time, was always a forgone conclusion. Sadly, this was another misjudgement from Nick Clegg who could not get his head around the fact that once he U-turned over Tuition Fees nothing else he headed up (in this case electoral reform) stood a chance of ever being approved by UK electors.

But then the 2015 election threw up one of the most unrepresentative results in living memory with a Tory Government that over 63% of the electorate voted against. All of a sudden other parties found the electoral system was rather unrepresentative! I wonder how many of their members voted against electoral reform or ignored the referendum in 2011 but now want to see it happen?

Labour have always been against electoral reform although to give him his due their last leader, Ed Miliband, does support it. Labour’s problem is that in inner city seats our warped first past the post system always gets Labour MP’s elected just like it helps get Tories elected in the leafy suburbs and countryside seats. However, Labour can’t now win a majority of seats without taking many of those areas where the Tories usually win; even more so now the Tories are gerrymandered the system in their favour for the 2020 election and beyond. So what will Labour do? Oppose electoral reform and settle back to be an opposition party for at least 2 generations or smell the coffee and embrace fair votes?

Vested interests in the Tory and Labour parties will oppose electoral reform until their last breath so it’s a tough ask indeed. Or look at it this way can you imagine the Bootle Labour Party backing electoral reform before hell freezes over?

The Left – Every sect thinks it’s tribal way is the right way hence the Tories are in power more often than not

The left of British politics has always been factionalised with numerous socialist parties coming and going, the Labour Party often engaged in vicious internal warfare (as they are at present) and the Lib Dems, in recent years, having been pulled towards economic rather than social liberalism. Of course looking back a while the SDP also failed to ‘break the mould’ as it became split by the ‘Owen’ factor amongst other things.

The lack of unity on the left has always been a problem and our warped first past the post electoral system has also helped to put many Tory Governments in power who have nothing like majority popular support; just like the present one.

What beggars belief therefore is why when Labour have grabbed power for the odd short period they have not pursued electoral reform and a fair voting system. I suppose the last Labour government was too arrogant and thought their ‘New Labour’ guise would last and be popular for generations. Well it wasn’t so Labour went further to the right in opposition, even openly bashing the poor along the way. But as they became labeled Red Tories the electorate said stuff that we may as well have proper Tories.

The Lib Dems also discredited themselves by lying about Tuition Fees in 2010. Nick Clegg thought the electorate would forgive him. They didn’t. Indeed, because many of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 thought he was a straight forward chap whom they could trust his backing out of a clear promise caused them to drop him and his party like a stone. They expected other parties to tell porkies but having been persuaded the Lib Dems were trustworthy they turned against them big time. Rebuilding that lack of trust in the Lib Dems is probably Tim Farron’s biggest challenge.

The Greens tried lurching to left after 2010 and were the most socialist of the mainstream parties at the last general election but of course this move set their traditional environmentalist sect against an upstart socialist sect. Socialism and environmentalism have never sat comfortably together in my experience. Socialists on Merseyside that I have come across have always seemed to be very much disinterested in environmental issues.

But within the left there is at the heart of so many of its difficulties one major factor that causes the disunity which the Tories always benefit from. Many left wing sects think they are absolutely right and all other left wing sects are utterly wrong. Such tribalism then sets these sects against each other and the Tories win again whilst the left debates, often viciously, who is right and who is wrong. In differing ways I think that the emergence of the SDP and the rise of Tony Blair were reactions to the self destructive nature of the left.

The SDP failed and despite huge initial success Blair’s New Labour failed because he wandered to far right, got involved in the appalling Iraq war and probably laid the foundations for Labour to be cat called ‘Red Tories’.

The real danger that the left faces now is that we could have a seriously right wing Tory Party in power for a generation with UKIP effectively pulling their levers. Is this not enough of a nightmare to sober up the left of British politics?

Liberalism – What’s it like being a Liberal?

This short piece on Liberalism was prompted by a question from an acquaintance who asked me this very question:-

Liberals by their very nature are people with inquiring minds who want to know as many facts as possible about whatever it is we are considering.

You will rarely see a Liberal reading say the Daily Mail or Daily Mirror because they are little more than propaganda sheets to us. We don’t like our news filtered, we want clear information (not biased opinions) so that we can make up our own minds as free thinking individuals. We try not to jump to conclusions without the necessary information to form a reasonable view.

Liberals are environmentalists by instinct; we are seekers out of corruption, fighters against vested interests and are invariably suspicious of those in authority.

We know that global warming is probably the greatest threat that mankind has ever faced and if we don’t seriously tackle our wasteful ways and our unclean energy use future generations will be left to pick up the mess that we have selfishly left them.

We believe in electoral reform because it will lead to better and more representative government and the devolution of power from Whitehall so to empower people and communities.

We believe in co-operatives and mutual companies and worker participation in running companies.

We understand that a decent welfare system has to help those in need and that the NHS needs to be properly funded.

Many of us will be pro-abortion – supporting a woman’s right to choose, pro-right to die – supporting the right to decide how and when your own life should end.

Many Liberals will be involved in opposing nuclear weapons, objecting to the selling of any weapons to counties that do not respect human rights and we will often be peace activists looking for diplomatic solutions to conflict.

We are internationalist in our outlook because we realise that being inward looking nationalists is the road to ruin not the route to prosperity. Of course we are pro-Europe but we do want the institutions of the EU fundamentally overhauled to make them more representative of the peoples of Europe.

Being a Liberal is fundamentally about freedom to choose so long as the choices we make do not knowingly have an adverse impact on others or the environment that supports us all.