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Still Political. 
10th-May-2010 04:13 pm
Lib Dem
If this general election has shown us anything conclusively, it's that the electoral system is broken. And it's broken in more than the obvious ways.

Democracy takes time.

When Obama was elected, he wasn't supposed to have a working Government until two and a half months later.
When Sarkozy was elected, heassumed office after ten days.
Kevin Rudd had nine days.

Our Dead Tree Press, stock market and twitterverse are collectively having what can only be described as a screaming hissy fit because we didn't have a working, functional government nine hours after the polls closed.

Fuck that, say I. Take your time, I say. I'd rather have a Government put together with talks and deliberation than hurriedly by two or three middle aged white guys over a pint.

We need a proper grace period between elections and the transfer of power. This is ridiculous.

Not to mention I'm pretty sure it's illegal to lay people off their jobs with this little notice.

Meanwhile, at the moment of writing this, Nick Clegg and his Libdemmers are in continuing talks with the Labservatives about who, if anyone, to form a coalition with in order to proceed. And people are acting surprised that the Liberal DEMOCRAT party keep asking their members what THEY want on the table. It's like we should be surprised when a party that's built on democracy, talking and dialogue actually wants to use these talks in actual politics. I have absolutely no idea how Labour and Tories decide on their policies and action, but I've been more than pleased to hear about the involvment Lib Dem members have enjoyed in this process.

Democracy means we all get a vote.

There is an investigation by the Electoral Commision going on, but this deserves repeated so people realise it - is the hundreds and hundreds of voters who didn't get to vote. Who were turned away from the polling station after queuing for hours. Not becasue they turned up too late, but because the polling stations weren't prepared for people to actually want to vote, and the staff manning those stations decided it was more important to close on time than to let people vote.

I can't say this without using capslock, because it can't be said without capslock.


The one thing that we like to pretend democracy is built on: a vote for everyone and everyone gets to vote, was denied for beaurocracy's sake.

Something went horribly horribly wrong, and that's got to be fixed.

Proportional Representation

It should surprise no one the Liberal Democrat membershiip generally consider this a dealbreaker because that's what the Lib Dems have been talking about for years. Hopefully the Single Transferrable Vote system. Wikipedia, being occasionally brilliant, has a pretty good example of how this works. If you, as a voter, vote as your first choice for a party at either end of the majority/minority spectrum, your second and third choice votes have a say, and the parties are elected according to the ir absolute popularity.

Obviously this would mean more power to the Lib Dems, but that's without the point. It's just a more democratic system, and honestly the only reason not to rbing it in is that you're happy with power swinging between Labour and Conservatives based on the policies of "the last lot were rubbish" – the core of the winning campaigns for both Blair and Cameron were this, with no actual substance, it seems. So yes, PR would reduce the power of the Conservatives, but they don't have a strong majority anyway. And frankly, it's not about which party would benefit. It's about what best represents the votes cast by the electorate.

53% of the electorate last Thursday voted for a candidate who didn't win

The last efforts of the Labservative campaign team was to tell us that a vote for the Lib Dems or any minority party, would be a 'wasted' vote, and the general rhetoric concurs with this. In a democracy, no vote should be wasted.

I think I've used a lot of words saying nothing interesting or new, but I do need to add that anyone who argues against Proportional Representation by using either "That'll give the BNP seats in Westminster!" or "That's how the Nazis got into power!" is talking out of the wrong orifice.

Firstly, let me vote directly from the STV Action FAQ

As Enid Lakeman wrote in How Democracies Vote, "Once public opinion had turned to the Nazis, an election under a majority system [e.g.First Past The Post], would have resulted in a landslide in their favour. Under proportional representation, the party never won a majority in the Reichstag in a free election."

Secondly, if the BNP have enough proportional support that they could claim seats under a decent democracy, than that is a sign that racism isrife in our society and we need to fix it. And y'know what? If extremist anti-immigration parties are gaining support, maybe MAYBE it's because the whole rhetoric about immigration in this country (and probably other places) is divisive, harmful and geared towards xenophobia and racism and in the views of a lot of people who don't think foreigners are inherently criminal, the rhetoric has to be changed.

Disclaimer: both Andrew Hickey, who wrote that post, and myself are in relationships with foreigners. This may or may not hide from us the evident-to-everyone-else fact that Foreigners are All Criminals.

Anyway, so the general consensus is that the Lib Dems lost a lot of support because of the things the Dead Tree Scrolls were saying about the Lib Dem's immigration policies, taking the following line from the Lib Dem Manifesto:

We would allow people who have been in Britain for 10 years, speak English, have a clean record and want to live here long-term to earn citizenship. That way, immigration officers can spend all their time deporting dangerous people and checking up on employers to stop illegal working" ...and spinning it into the scary scary idea that the Liberals were going to offer a complete amnesty for hardened criminals, instead of just an idea to focus time and resources on actual threats to the country.

Somehow the rhetoric surrounding immigration has reached the point that wishing to live in the place you've lived for over a decade is considered an unforgiveable defence. I kid you not – I even heard someone comparing this to an amnesty on murder.

If enough people are hateful and bitter enough that the BNP has enough support for seats, I say again, than it is our responsibility to figure out where the hate is coming from, not to silence the haters . If we're fostering an environment hate can grow in, then we need to work out how to not foster that environment.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd say not equating immigration to murder would be a good start.

Oh, and go read what Millenium Dome has to say about it all.

FEAR, as the thousand-year-old Fozzie Bear once said, is the path to the DARK SIDE. FEAR leads to HATE, HATE leads to ANGER, ANGER leads to thirteen years of police powers and terrorism acts. Wokka wokka wokka, he added.

What we've seen this last weekend is that people CAN behave like GROWN-UPs when they HAVE to. Wouldn't it be nice if they have to behave like grown-ups ALL THE TIME?

(Deleted comment)
10th-May-2010 03:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah but you married a dirty foreigner!

Seriously, thank you IB; you are awesome.
10th-May-2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
the staff manning those stations decided it was more important to close on time than to let people vote

I totally agree with most of what you've said here, and especially share your horror at people who had turned up at polling stations to vote being sent away. But in all fairness, on the one particular point I've pasted in above, I do think that these staff made the right decision. It was laid down in the rule books they were following, and quite rightly so, because at 10pm on election day, the exit polls which had been taken over the course of the day were made public. That means that anyone voting after that time could reasonably have found out what those polls said (e.g. via mobile phones), and have changed their decision about how to vote on the basis of what they heard. This would mean that they would have been casting their votes in different circumstances to the other people who had voted earlier in the day, which would not have been fair on anybody. Obviously what happened was totally unacceptable, but I see the decision to stick to the rules and close on time as being made on fair and reasonable grounds, not just for the sake of bureaucracy.
10th-May-2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
Point taken. It wasn't for the sake of bureaucracy, nor was it the fault of the people mannng the stations. This I'm prepared to take back.

It's still unacceptable and if by the rules, I think the rules should change.

Edited at 2010-05-10 15:30 (UTC)
10th-May-2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
Amen on all of that and I will add one thing on the subject of the BNP getting seats in parliament and it's exactly the same thing I said when the BBC allowed Nick Griffin on... was it Question Time? a few months ago:

People voting for them gives them legitimacy and that gives them a right to be heard. That includes a right to be be heard in parliament if they have enough support to warrant it. We might not like it but in a democratic society we do have to live with it.

And personally? I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now if we could just get people to stop voting for them we'd be golden.
10th-May-2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
Israel has something along the lines of proportional representation. And it's a mess, at best. The little parties hold the big parties hostage for their support. The big parties, in exchange for three or four votes, give the little parties money and cabinet posts. And a lot of the time, people ill suited for the cabinet posts take the jobs and pursue their very narrow interests. And the money goes to line the pockets of the little parties and their supporters' pet projects.

There are legitimate arguments for and against proportional representation as a way of governance. But having seen a version of it in action for years, with vast amounts of corruption and abuse accompanying it in a place that I care about, I would suggest that anyone think twice before implementing it.
10th-May-2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
The version Israel uses, to be fair, is the D'Hondt, which is not only significantly different fromn our proposed STV, but also despised by better versed than me PR proponents. Apples and oranges.
10th-May-2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
The problem is that PR is fundamentally undemocratic. In the UK, we vote for local delegates to represent our interests in Parliament, not for a party, and not for a Prime Minister. Or at least we’re supposed to. PR simply destroys that principle in one fell swoop. Looking at the 2 examples above, and applying them to the shenanigans of the past few days, it is obvious that either would have left the situation even more chaotic and intractable than it is now, because a stronger 3rd party would simply hold out for even more concessions, and there is nothing extra to encourage consensus. To improve the situation in the UK, electoral reform MUST be accompanied by parliamentary reform, eg abolition of the whip system, a separate election for PM, etc.

(Deleted comment)
11th-May-2010 09:36 am (UTC)
OK. Having looked at the article on STV, it’s apparent that:

1. It rewards mediocrity. Why is 60% of the popular vote’s 2nd choice intrinsically more democratic or representative than 40% of their first choice?
2. What is to stop people simply voting for their first choice only? There would be no alternatives to transfer then.
3. What is to stop parties from putting up as many candidates as there are seats on offer?
4. How could it possibly impact the whip system for the better? At best (worst?), it simply returns a more varied pack of party lobby fodder, which would encourage, not discourage, the whips to keep order.

Certainly, none of the proposed electoral ‘reforms’, from the proportional candidate systems like STV all the way to full PR (which is what the LibDems really want), would have made the current situation significantly different, and it will ensure the same thing happens again in perpetuity. It is pseudo-democracy, abrogating responsibility and power to a small party leadership elite.

There is a better method:

You continue to have a single vote only, but each constituency returns the first two, not the first one, past the post. That would ensure the most popular candidates, not the most popular parties, get elected, which is what the system is supposed to do.

11th-May-2010 11:53 am (UTC)
The "better" method is Single Non-Transferable Vote, which is the system that used to be used in Birmingham in the 1880s and results in even more tactical voting than FPTP.

For example, in a strong Tory area, the Tories have to decide whether to run two candidates, split the vote equally between them and try to get two MPs or just settle for one. If they don't quite get enough votes, they could split the vote equally and lose both MPs, of course.

For instance, in a strong Tory area where the Tories are only running one candidate, Tory-inclined voters can either vote for that Tory, who is almost certain to win, or vote for the Lib Dem (in third in the previous election) to beat Labour for the second seat.


It fixes none of the problems with tactical voting and so on.

And as for "full PR (which is what the LibDems really want)" STV is PR - but we don't want lists, which is your so-called Full PR.

It is pseudo-democracy, abrogating responsibility and power to a small party leadership elite.

Are you seriously arguing that Britain and France are the only democracies in Europe, and that Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, etc aren't democratic?

If you want to have a presidential system instead of a parliamentary one, then that's fine, but don't try to fix the voting system to get a presidential PM out of a parliament. Have a direct election for a president if you insist, but I like parliamentary government and the compromises it means; Britain has moved away from parliament governing and I want to use PR to push it back in that direction.
10th-May-2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
It is not as fundamentally undemocratic as FPTP, though. your objections aren't about the PR vs FPTP systems per se, but the fact that we lack a direct prime ministerial election, and the fact that many people forget what they're voting for.

You're right though - an abolition of the whip system and a direct PM election would make me happier.
11th-May-2010 12:06 am (UTC)
a direct PM election would make me happier

No. no no no no no. No. With a bit more no.

One of the biggest strengths of a parliamentary system is that governance is collegiate and not reliant on one person. In addition, Parliament, or the Cabinet, can sack the PM if they turn out to be incompetent.

Locally, there are people pushing for an elected mayor who've been using the "success" of the new mayor of Doncaster as an example. Until his complete incompetence and unfitness-for-office became apparent. They've shut up about him now.

But the people of Doncaster have to put up with him for another 3 years, unless he resigns.

Directly elected executives are fundamentally flawed, encourage a two party duopoly (which we're trying to get away from), are unaccountable outside of election time and have a tendency to push towards majoritarianism.

London's been lucky to have Mayors of the calibre of Livingstone and Johnson. Seriously. Boris is an example of competence compared to many.

Blair was eventually sacked. Thatcher eventually sacked. Brown's been forced out by his Cabinet. None of these events would've been possible if they'd had their own mandates, and that's a bad thing.
11th-May-2010 09:24 am (UTC)
I understand what you're saying, but how would you deal with the admittedly hypothetical dilemma of wanting a party Government but not supporting that patry's local PPC? Or maybe even worse, liking a local PPC enough to vote but not wanting to support that party's attempts at formin a Government?
11th-May-2010 10:41 am (UTC)
With a preferential system where a party has more than one candidate. That way you can vote for a different one if you don't like one of them.

The liking a person but not the party is a problem in any system; there's no way of avoiding that (apart from split-voting in AMS, but that doesn't actually help)

And can we please get away from this PPC thing. They (well, we) are only PPCs when there isn't an election. Once the election starts we become candidates.
11th-May-2010 10:45 am (UTC)
D'Oh. Should have figured that. I KNOW what the first P mstands for, after all.

Thanks for the reply!
11th-May-2010 12:38 pm (UTC)
STV. Simples. Vote candidate you like best first, other parties you prefer after. Probably ought to do an explanation of how transfers work when I'm back on the computer. But STV shows personal votes fairly clearly. Besides, a legislature at odds with an executive causes too many problems, as Obama is finding.
10th-May-2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
May I link to this on LJ and FB please?
10th-May-2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
May I link to this on LJ and FB please?
10th-May-2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Of course.
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