Sunday, 23 May 2010

First Past the Proportional Post Anyone?

At some point in the future we are promised a vote on changing the electoral system from the current First Past the Post system to an AV (Alternative Vote) system - such as was used to elect the London Mayor.

This is something that the Liberal Democrats get very excited about. They have for years and years lamented the fact that their share of the vote in parliamentary elections only translates into a relatively smaller number of seats in Parliament. And whilst AV would not create proportional representation they generally feel it would be 'a step in the right direction' before going to full PR.. I am not sure it necessarily follows but they seem convinced.

It's not difficult to appreciate the frustration that the Lib-Dems feel. It's the same kind of frustration that anyone would feel if they kept running races and wound up almost always coming second or third, and hardly ever winning.. it's just a bit demoralising. In fact it's so demoralising that they seem to have half given up the possibility of ever winning much more so they instead want to change the rules so that the losers get more credit - perhaps they should just concentrate on winning races?

I think this is a component of a wider confusion in the current Lib Dem approach.

The Lib Dems should be the champions of 'democracy' - it's even in the name! And they should be all about accountability but we know that they are very pro-Europe, which we all know is not very democratic or accountable.

The impact that the current PR system that we use for electing Members of the European Parliament has on the electorate is significant. It's partly responsible for the general lack of interest in Europe. Because when we vote in European elections, we vote for a party and then the people who get elected are taken from a party list in proportion to the number of votes their party gets.. so no-one focusses on individual MEPs and therefore no-one really makes any kind of personal decision about who they want to be represented by. Which is partly why turnout in European elections is so low. The who am I voting for? and why am I voting for them? questions are difficult to ask - let alone answer.

Until Dan Hannan started beating Gordon Brown up in Europe and Nigel Farage started abusing johnny foreigner and crashing light aircraft most people never knew what an MEP looked like - or cared.

So why does this party with it's great traditions and achievements (albeit limited recently) not just focus itself on the achieving what is now within it's grasp.

The 2010 General Election has handed the Liberal Democrats a huge opportunity to change the way the electorate vote.

If they can do two things right then there is no reason why they can't start regularly winning races:

1) Prove they are capable of governing - by achieving results.

2) Exposing the failure, deceit and incompetence of Labour and it's betrayal of it's supporters.

I hope the Lib-Dems start developing a bit more ambition. They should cast aside thoughts of trying to change the system to suit their inability to win and instead just do what is necessary to win.

Which simply means again becoming the second great party of British politics and beating back Labour into third place and, in the fullness of time, into oblivion.

There's no logical reason why, in historical terms, the Labour party should be remembered as anything other than a force in 20th century politics, that fizzled out when it's ideologies were finally proved to be fatally flawed and corrupt.


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