The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘electoral reform’

The Biggest Irony Of Election Night

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 6, 2011 @ 09:06

A very misleading photo of some guy

One quick thought for you.

Labour, in Scotland, suffered a “shellacking” at the hands of the SNP.

That defeat was magnified to a very large extent by none other than the First Past The Post electoral system.

You know, that system most of them came out and backed.

But wait!

Scotland doesn’t have just FPTP. It has the joyous Additional Member System, allowing additional MPs to be distributed in accordance with the PROPORTIONAL preference of the electorate. And, even better, taking into account seats already won under FPTP, thus correcting for its distortion.

Hmm.

To recap. Labour, facing meltdown at the hands of the First Past The Post electoral system in Scotland, are rescued from utter disaster by a fair voting system, enshrined in proportional representation.

“Lord” Reid, your boys took a hell of a beating.

How do you like them apples, Iain?

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Cleggy Takes On The House

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 6, 2010 @ 09:30

It still seems weird...

If there’s one thing that makes me reasonably happy about the coaltion, it’s days like Monday when Nick Clegg takes to the floor of the House as Deputy Prime Minister and delivers yet another good performance on the issue of political reform.

Yesterday the topic was a rather convenient bundling of the issues of the Alternative Vote referendum with the concept of equal-sized constituencies. Being the rather sad individual that I am, I watched the whole thing from start to finish. Long live BBC iPlayer!

It was an excellent debate, and Clegg was confident and competent in handling difficult questions from all sides. I am fully in support of both plans, and I look forward to the referendum. Though I have argued in the past that AV is potentially a disaster, I am, nonetheless, going to support it, in the hope that it might encourage a little reforming zeal in the British public, and that it at least brings us to the threshold of good quality proportional representation with STV.

But enough about that…

What makes Nick Clegg so effective in the Commons, at least at the moment, is that he is blessed with the legacy he has been granted. As something of an “outsider” commanding a portfolio that is encouraging “outsider” thinking, he is in his element. He is able to position himself as the man taking over at a time when the political reform agenda had stagnated, contrasting his radicalism with the conservatism that set in in the dying days of the Labour administration.

Furthermore, Labour are playing right into his hands. Their sudden newfound love of opposition, and opposition for the sake of it, is granting Nick Clegg the opportunity to attack Labour relentlessly for their remarkable shift from progressive radicals to conservative pragmatists. Yes, Labour MPs are right to scrutinise the government, but a mere two months ago they were all elected on a pledge to back such a referendum on AV.

Now they look decidedly shifty, and are already preparing the groundwork for their very own u-turn. But, in doing so, they reinforce the very point Nick Clegg enjoys making, that the 13 years in power have transformed Labour from their early days of constitutional remoulding to true friends of the establishment. That’s not a good place to be when the country is feeling so… bold… about what it would like to do to its political system.

The worry I have about Clegg and Parliament is simple. In time, he too will become an establishment figure. In time he will no longer be able to blame the Labour legacy. Indeed, if he gets his way, and likes what he sees, he will become the most conservative person of all, defending the new status quo.

That won’t be good for his reputation, or the reputation of the Liberal Democrats.

But at least it’s a dilemma of power and influence that we’re actually able to have…

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Come The Revol… Referendum

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 3, 2010 @ 09:34

Stolen from the Electoral Reform Society's website. Not that it's anything interesting to look at...

For us young un’s, especially if we’re English, we’re not used to being consulted on things. Sure, we vote in local and general elections, but they’re about a huge ball of issues, entangled, intertwined, whatever. More often than not we base our votes on silly little things that don’t matter, like whether so-and-so “looks like a Prime Minister”. Wot?!

So with the good news that we’re going to be consulted on one very specific issue – voting reform – it makes me kind of excited. But then, I am a political nerd. Then again, perhaps you are too. You wouldn’t be here otherwise. Admit it.

The last, and first, all UK referendum was in 1975. Given that you had to be 18 to vote in it, that means that everyone born since 1958 has never once been consulted in a British referendum. Have there really been no issues of major national importance in all that time?

Of course, the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been slightly luckier, getting referendums for their new Parliaments and Assemblies. And more are on the horizon. London got one too, and though it was asking 6m people, it was still a “local” issue, regarding a mayor that has barely any powers to speak of.

Politicians generally don’t like referendums, because they don’t really want to have to get the backing of the public again after all that general election fuss. Opponents say they are only ever used when government or opposition is divided. There is some truth in that in Britain, but the worldwide story is far more mixed.

But this referendum is going to be very different. Yes, the government is divided, but so what? Once more we’re going to get, from the coalition, a remarkable demonstration of grown-up politics. People agreeing to disagree, and instead of bitching about it in Cabinet or in the corridors of Westminster, they’re going to take the argument to the public for a decision that will shut both sides up for at least a generation.

That idea is revolutionary for British politics. It worked over Europe for Harold Wilson (though maybe it’s time we were consulted again) and there’s no reason why it won’t work again.

And, in the worst nightmares of all strident anti-referendumistas, once you pop, the fun don’t stop.

It’s too long between elections anyway, and it’ll only get worse if we get five year fixed terms.

But maybe it’ll stem the endless legitimacy drain from a government if there are national referendums at least once a parliament.

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What Price Democracy?

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 8, 2010 @ 09:42

Elections have consequences.

The consequence of this one seems to be that there will be a new government.

But at what cost?

The Lib Dems are right to take David Cameron’s offer extremely seriously. It is right to think carefully about both a) what are the must haves; and b) what are the can’t haves.

Because that’s what post-election discussions are all about. Clearly, any programme for government has got to pass both Lib Dem and Conservative muster. There will be some dilution as the process of consensus moves forward, but broadly the policies will survive.

But – with this in mind – I actually think that there is only must have.

I’m sorry to all of those Liberal Democrats hungry for power, but we cannot accept the tainted result of an illegitimate system as any kind of mandate for the Tories, or worse Labour, to proceed into government.

I’ve grown increasingly strident about this since a discussion I had with friends last night. The result was a disaster for the Lib Dems, yes, but only because we were shafted by a system that, once again, delivered a nonsense that makes a mockery of our democracy.

I like to make unreasonable demands of politicians, but I believe that Nick Clegg’s efforts so far to mobilise the anti-FPTP agenda have been poor. He made reference to it in his speech yesterday morning, but after that point no one else has done it. Groups like Take Back Parliament have emerged, and have a smattering of supporters, but this needs to go national.

One can understand, in these delicate times, that maybe it doesn’t look very professional to be trying to dominate the airwaves.

But Lib Dems, through their surrogates and sympathisers in the media, need to be putting the following at numbers 1, 2 and 3 in their must have list.

  1. Electoral reform
  2. Electoral reform
  3. Electoral reform

We need to start generating a campaign and serious momentum that, really, coalition or any agreement must come with a huge price tag. Nothing less than a big, open and comprehensive referendum on major electoral reform, to coin a phrase.

I know Labour will offer it. The Tories won’t. But that’s what negotiations are all about.

And if we can start creating an impression that the public are with us, all so much the better.

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Post-Election Day

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 7, 2010 @ 08:50

And so the fun continues into day two. After a mere 90 minutes sleep, I cannot sleep any more. So off we go…

1455 – regardless of what happens, I think all three leaders have been extremely dignified today. They look a bit humbled given the lack of ringing endorsement to any of them. “Chastened” is, perhaps, the right word. Have the public achieved exactly what they wanted?

1451 – how can Cameron tacitly admit that the electoral system is flawed and then say he doesn’t want to change it?

1444 – Is David Camron’s “Big, Open and Comprehensive Offer” a trap for the Lib Dems? Or is it the stuff that transforms a country truly in the national interest?

1440 – Cameron rewriting decades of political tradition here…

1417 – it’s truly remarkable that Clegg’s statement this morning has set a new constitutional precedent. Gordon Brown has acknowledged that Clegg has every right to look to work with the vote and seat winner of the election. That is very good. The constitutional position of the sitting prime minister getting first go, regardless of the circumstances, was ridiculous and unfair. Now Brown has accepted it, it sets a new precedent. And precedents, if they keep going, become part of the constitution. Until someone breaks them, like Clegg.

What a non-conformist!

1248 – these results need very details analysis. That will come in the days ahead. There are some remarkable regional differences underneath the general swing to the Tories. But what’s amazing is that if you draw a line from the Severn to the Wash, and exclude London, there are but a handful of Labour MPs. A rump regional party?

1235 – I can’t believe it sounds like the Tories are in open revolt.

1233 – fair point from Fraser Nelson about how difficult this is going to be for the Tories to get through a great deal of difficult parliamentary business if they choose to govern as a minority.

1149 – What are the options looking like from here?

Most likely: Cameron forms a minority administration with Lib Dem blessing.

Second most likely: Brown resigns, Lsbour seek to govern with Lib Dem support and new Prime Minister.

Third most likely, quite unlikely though: Lib Dems agree to a Labour programme of government, with Gordon Brown as PM.

Fourth most likely, very unlikely: Clegg refuses offer of programme for government from the Tories, group of MPs defect to the Tories to grant them a majority.

Not going to happen: any form of coalition government involving seats at Cabinet. Forget it.

1147 – I can’t wait to see what the new list of Lib Dem targets looks like. It seemed to me that there were a huge number of seats that were extremely close.

1130 – I think it’s time the media realised that The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland are a sister party to the Liberal Democrats. Jeremy Vine has just claimed “she is more likely to join Labour”.

1122 – Labour making it up as they gone along now. Lab+LD > Tories does not mean they have a right to govern if they are way short of a majority.

1113 – I predicted that things would move quite quickly today. It looks like that might be the case. Cameron to make a statement at 1430.

1058 – another election within a couple of years? I think so. The only question is whether there will be a referendum on voting reform in the meantime. My instinct says no.

1045 – Nick Clegg’s positional is constitutionally incorrect, but morally right. Labour should not have first chance to govern.

1043 – Clegg looking impressive in his statement, but he should have put the bit on electoral reform first. Someone show him the fucking numbers about the disgrace that has just transpired.

1032 – no, it didn’t. And no one has still answered the question: how can the Lib Dems possibly go into coalition with Labour when the parliamentary arthmetic is still against them?

1008 – time for breakfast. Will chocolate Ready Brek cheer me up?

0954 – Julia Hartley-Bitch talking utter shit about electoral reform on BBC News.

0951 – can the LDs scrape home in Brent Central? Oh, I hope so. Please. It’s been a cruel night, I feel it may now continue into the day after…

0934 – How on Earth did Scotland go through an election, five years after the last one, and produce the exact same result? What a load of bores. Do none of them change their minds?

0918 – can we please lose all these pundits telling us how sad the fucking markets are? This is POLITICS. Did Belgium collapse while they spent nine months forming a government? The people come first. We shouldn’t be letting our decision making be forced or clouded by the right-wing forces of economics.

0856 – fancy some more?

857k = 0 MPs
530k = 0 MPs

Mandelson has got one thing right. FPTP is on its last legs. But will the Tories put it out of its misery? Of course not.

0849 – 168k votes = 8 MPs
261k votes = 1 MP
6.3m votes = 51 MPs

Just another day in the life of First Past The Post.

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A Lib Dem Vote Is A Wasted Vote

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 5, 2010 @ 09:51

… if you think the country needs a Strong Conservative™ government, elected by just 35% of the electorate, representing no more than 20% of the population, and awarded 100% of the power because of a totally flawed system that no one has ever voted for.

In my eyes, the First Past The Post electoral system has no legitimacy whatsoever. Tomorrow, I, like millions of other people, will cast yet another in a long list of ballots which have had no impact on the result, in a futile attempt to pretend that somehow I am doing my bit for the country.

But we let it go on.

One day I dream that I will be able to see my vote count towards something. One day I dream that I won’t need to consider spoiling my ballot paper because there is not an appropriate option for me. One day I dream that political parties won’t spend all their time only focusing on a handful of people in a smattering of middle-class areas that have little relation to what goes on in the majority of the country.

But we let it go on.

This is once in a lifetime chance to change that. Just this once, share with me a hope that a decent Liberal Democrat performance will finally put to bed generations of a cozy, corrupt two-party consensus that has seen the concept of Buggins’ Turn being turned into a principle for governing a major economic power. That’s not democracy. That’s a sham.

But we let it go on.

It may be another 30 years before this opportunity arrives again. Don’t for a second believe a Labour Party whose deathbed conversion to fake-PR is fleeting, skin deep, and designed to ensnare Liberal Democrat sympathisers into thinking they’ve seen the light. They lie. They do not support the principle of fairness. They might have once, but when the party sold its soul to the Blairite elite, it betrayed its working class roots so deeply that it should never be trusted again.

There is only one way to secure the political reform that this country needs, and that is to send the biggest number of Liberal Democrat MPs to Parliament in a century. Only the Liberal Democrats genuinely believe in the political reforms needed to bring this country into the modern age. Fair votes. Equal democracy. Transparency. Fixed-term parliaments. Real devolution of power.

We’ve had the same old, same old now since The Second World War War. The same, tired old politics of division, of fear, of patronage, of secrecy, of deceit, of complicity in illegal wars and torture, of authoritarian, statist solutions to everything, of wasted years, squandering away our unique economic and cultural position in the world for all the wrong reasons.

We’ve let it go on for too long.

Don’t let it go on this time.

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Labour’s Death Throes

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 4, 2010 @ 10:11

Unless they can't win. In fact, just don't vote for them at all.

This story is actually incredible.

To me it shows a few things.

First, Labour is admitting defeat. It is clearly a sign that Labour know they cannot possibly win a majority, and that in order to leave them in with a chance of staying in power, they need to ensure that the road ahead for the Conservatives is as bumpy as possible.

In some ways, though, Labour are only telling people to take the sensible option given our voting system. Take a LD-Con marginal like Eastleigh. It makes no sense for Labour voters to vote Labour there if their most hated candidate in the race is the Conservative. They could vote Lib Dem and at least make sure the Tory loses.

Nevertheless, no major party has ever been explicit that this is what the electorate should do. Usually it’s all about “getting the maximum vote for our party”. Changing the record now with just two days to go is a sign of desperation, no doubt about it.

The second point is that it is the biggest admission by the Lab-Con axis that the electoral system is totally flawed. By acknowledging the fact that millions of people across the country are going to be casting “wasted votes” unless they vote tactically, it is a potentially significant development. How can Labour, including Peter “Back Door” Hain, possibly get away with not supporting electoral reform after this revelation?

Finally, it is the clearest sign yet that Labour are prepared to work with Liberal Democrats on constitutional reform. After all, Labour have been the biggest tinkerers of the constitution in generations. They’re not averse to the option, and if it’s all they have to do to keep power…

Though it’s all coded, and all very subtle, it’s becoming very apparent that Labour both know they won’t win outright, and know their only hope is of a coalition or other deal which supports Lib Dem policies in return for a Lib Dem backing of a Labour Queen’s Speech.

In advance of the election, the Lib Dems are right to reject Labour’s advances. It is not good to admit at any point that you are weak and in danger of being propped up. Especially for the Lib Dems, where even if they don’t secure many more seats, a large number of votes will make the case for reform of its own accord.

That Labour would enter into such a strange game, one that damages its own message of how the Lib Dems cannot be trusted because of their inexperience, speaks volumes as to how worried they must be in the Bunker.

Now is the time for Lib Dems to strike a blow against Labour. There will never be another chance for the Labour Party to be replaced as the true party of the centre-left, of the progressive axis in British politics.

Labour is weakened. Labour is dying.

But can the Lib Dems take advantage, in spite of the electoral mountain that faces them?

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Cameron Senses The Danger

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 27, 2010 @ 09:00

I've always been a bit suspicious about those wet liberals, to be honest. Now I know why.

Isn’t it funny how the Conservatives have been put on the run by the Lib Dems, of all people…

The Lib Dems, their most hated enemy. And yet, there was Cameron all those years ago calling himself a liberal Conservative. Oh no, that was the other day. And then there was the guff of libdems4cameron.com which soon got forgotten and turned into a link to their normal website.

All it took was just one little debate.

But the Tories aren’t stupid. They hastily rewrote and re-shot last week’s Party Election Broadcast. Then there was the second debate, in which all of his fire was largely directed at the Lib Dems (not Nick in particular though, and why would you attack someone with a net +50% approval rating?). And now a whole day of coverage about how the choice is between a Tory majority and a hung parliament.

Cameron’s argument that we should choose a majority for him because “the pound will fall” is hardly going to set the world alight. Apart from it being economically illiterate (the pound has already fallen, providing a huge boost to UK exports) it is utterly tedious and seems to imply that our votes should only be motivated by utterly dry numbers that are meaningless to the everyday lives of the electorate.

He’s also, if the polls are to be believed, fighting a losing battle. Not that people can actually vote for a hung parliament, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that people like the idea. Whether it’s Lib Dems who have dreamed of nothing other than it, or Labour voters sensing their only chance of rescuing this one out of the fire, or other and nonpartisan voters who just want to see something different, there is a genuine desire to see a new political culture after the 2010 election.

And again, that’s why Cameron senses the danger. If the unthinkable happens, and the Lib Dems do manage to exact major political reform (electoral and other constitutional changes) it will permanently change British politics. Never again will a party enjoy untrammelled power, courtesy of landslide results on small proportions of voters.

The Tories would miss that dearly. Cameron and Osborne want that all to themselves. They would dearly love a 40% vote that gives them 100% of the power. That’s what Thatcher and Blair got. Why not them?

The irony of all this is that in the meantime, there is actually still a sitting Prime Minister and a Labour party that still could do serious damage if it’s ignored. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they don’t exist, but they still do…

Can Cameron battle effectively on two fronts? Clegg/Cable on one, Mandelson on the other…

I’ll bet that was never part of their electoral strategy.

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Constitutional Crisis Ahoy?

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 26, 2010 @ 09:24

I'm not sure that's the right metaphor, but hey, it's a picture isn't it?

People like me take great delight whenever we hear the words “constitional” and “crisis” in the same sentence. It’s probably because one day I’d love to see the joke that is the British mostly uncodified constitution unravel before our very eyes, because it makes no allowances for certain provisions.

Clearly, one of those provisions would be if the sitting Prime Minister got significantly fewer votes than everyone else, and still remained the largest party in a hung parliament.

The more cerebral reason why I’d like such an eventuality to occur is that I think it would finally demonstrate to everyone just how stupid our system is. Based upon the blatant fraud that is First Past The Post, and involving ridiculous conventions involving a supposedly neutral head of state who has zero mandate and zero legitimacy, and yet potentially exercising the enormous privilege of asking someone to form a government.

The revolutionary in me would heartily enjoy the head-scratching and conjecture drawn up by civil service mandarins and academic “experts” on the so-called constitution. A few days, or even a few hours, of grave and severe turmoil might finally encourage the British people to demand that, at long last, we get all of our constitution down into a formal document so we can cover these eventualities.

But I’m not at all optimistic about that. First of all, pushing Labour into third place in a General Election will be a mammoth struggle. If the Lib Dems could do it, it would be a remarkable achievement, almost a century after being replaced by the Labour party as the new opposition to the Conservatives. One of the world’s greatest, and longest, fightbacks.

The main obstacle to it, however, is the British people. We’ve had silly election results before from our system, and nobody took a blind bit of notice. Or if they did, the establishment remained resolute that change would not be in our interests. By which they mean, not in their interests. After all, who wants to share power with another party when you can have power all to yourself? Better still, power completely disproportional to the share of the vote you got.

Constitutional crises only occur when there is a dispute over which way we should turn. And they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, this kind of one would be very good for us.

It would be appropriate, then, that this country, which is so battered and bruised by recession and 13 years of Labour failure, and in such a quandary over what party to elect, should take a moment just to pause and reflect. Let that ambivalence and uncertainty be represented in the election result.

Deliver the politicians a real dilemma. And a real opportunity.

A once in a lifetime  opportunity.

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The Arrogance Of FPTP

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 19, 2010 @ 11:58

If only it was...

David Cameron is sounding the alarm bells!

David Cameron has warned a vote for Nick Clegg could leave Britain “stuck” with Labour and said only the Tories can bring “real change”.

He said people were “fed up with the status quo” but without a decisive Tory win “fudge and division” was risked.

In other words, Mr Cameron would like power all to himself, thank you very much, because that’s what everyone’s been saying he was going to get for the past few years, and it’d be awfully mean of you to spoil his plans.

I find it breathtakingly arrogant that David Cameron has the gall to imply that only his party, not the Liberal Democrats, can do something about the status quo.

But wait a minute. Haven’t Labour been warning for years that a vote for the Lib Dems is “a wasted vote”? Andrew Adonis was only calling upon all Lib Dems to unite against David Cameron’s conservatism in a show of progressive unity only a week or so ago. And all that was before the debate had even happened.

First Past the Post denies voters the freedom to choose. It forces us to make a ridiculous judgement in a two-horse race. It ensures that the main two parties always get to make up stories about the bogeymen and women waiting in the third, fourth and various other parties.

Remember 2005? There was this man called Peter Hain, apparently, and he went around the country telling everyone that we really shouldn’t vote Lib Dem because it might let the Tories in “through the back door”. I even wrote about it.

So which is it? Are we letting the Tories in, or are we voting Clegg, getting Brown? Of course, it was bullshit then, and it’s bullshit now. Yes, certain seats, where Lib Dems are a distant third, may indeed produce an unsatisfying party switch. But in the rest, if people switch in sufficient numbers, a Lib Dem vote will deliver a Lib Dem MP.

The truth is neither of these stories are credible. They are designed to scare the electorate into old habits, and perpetuate this rotten paralysis of the two-party, choice free, state.

The real story, however, is much more exciting, but not for the old two parties. The truth could turn the country on its head, and might bring in some very pleasant surprises for all of us. Even non Lib Dems. And, you know, there might not even have to be coalition governments.

Tomorrow I’ll do a little crystal ball gazing. Three posts about three possibilities that could happen if the Lib Dem vote surge continues. I don’t think you should miss them.

In the meantime, please remember to Go Yellow on May 6!

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