Friday, 14 May 2010

Constitution Reform (and communicating this)

Well, now that people are out on the streets demonstrating for constitutional reform and fair votes, it will take all our intelligence and resources to put the case for a system of proportional representation. It hasn't got off to a good start.

There is so much serious mis-understanding about what's been proposed relating to the dissolution of Parliament, it's hard to know where to begin. But here's a few facts and some ventured opinion:

  • We do not have a Constitution, written or otherwise, in the UK
  • A Vote of No Confidence is not the same as a call for the dissolution of Parliament
  • A vote of No Confidence would be won if a majority of MPs  ie 50% + one MP voted that way
  • Currently, only the Prime Minister may call on our Monarch to dissolve Parliament and at a time of his/her choosing
  • The agreement between the Tories and LibDems to go for a fixed, 5-year Parliament necessitates the need for a change in how Parliament may be dissolved
  • The proposed rule change puts more power, not less, in the hands of the executive (MPs)
  • Opposition parties may form their own coalition following a Vote of No Confidence in the existing administration and if so, it would run for the remainder of the term. If they were unable to reach a coalition, there would be, de facto, a general election.
  • The AV system of voting is not proportional (but is a move in the right direction (IMHO)
  • The depth and scale of our economic plight will not be properly dealt with if we do not commit to give it a decent and long-term go
  • We need a written Constitution with a built-in system of PR for voters
But how to get this across to the electorate? Rallies? Use of Digital media? Education of journalists and  perhaps particularly The Guardian's Vikram Dodd. (Do make sure you read the comments his readers have posted, and especially those of John Morrison). 

Most importantly, we need to put the facts and argue our case logically in front of the electorate.  Sadly, we don't seem to be doing so well at this, despite a campaign which has been running for the last 126 years. We know that print media will largely continue to misrepresent and distort. Traditional broadcast media isn't much better. We have to appeal to a new generation and use our digital skills and expertise. Oh yes, and we still need to get out onto the streets!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Coalition Day!

Well, didn't see this coming ...
 Coalition partners! Let's hope that five years in power will bring about a real and fundamental change to our electoral system, a step at a time ...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

A rock and a hard place

Day 5 and tortuous negotiations between the LibDems, Conservatives and the Labour Party continue with little prospect of a satisfactory outcome - either for the country (National Interest) or for those of us that feel passionately about electoral reform. On offer, a Tory deal guaranteeing a referendum on AV (a system that is not proportionately representative, but may turn out to be the least worst option); or the Labour Party's offer to legislate without a referendum and which may not be deliverable anyway (aside from any criticism that such a move would create an unsustainable and unstable government (the maths simply don't add up).

In both of the main parties, the dogs are being unleashed (Dr John Reid, David Blunkett, Dr Liam Fox to name but three). Also ranged against the case for reform Nick Robinson of the BBC (who is being particularly partisan in this matter) and virtually all the national media in the UK which, no doubt, would have a field day slamming any such deal.

Whichever way the LibDems go, the traps will be sprung:
a) supporting a coalition of 'losers' (Lib-Lab)
b) creating a hugely unstable 'rainbow/progressive' coalition which is certain to lead to another General Election in the near future
b) supporting a minority government (Lib-Conservative), not given a mandate to govern by the British Electorate and whose policies on Europe, immigration, dealing with the national debt etc etc are anathema to all LibDem voters.

But the LibDems must stay firm in their call for a better electoral system or the country will continually be faced with a make-up of MPs that do not reflect the wishes of the people. And it is under our current system of electing MPs that we are in this position.

It is necessary to de-construct the arguments now being put forward against a reform of the system a reform of the system

A further demonstration is planned for Saturday 15th in Central London. And whatever the eventual outcome, the momentum for reform is growing and must be maintained if we are ever going to extricate ourselves from the current stupid First-Past-the-Post system.

In the National Interest, the deal that must be done is the one that most closely paves the way realistically to a system of PR.

Friday, 7 May 2010

People Power & voting for change

In 1884 a man called Sir John Lubbock, Liberal MP for Maidstone under Gladstone, "threw himself with tremendous enthusiasm" into a campaign for proportional representation and co-founded the Proportional Representation Society, (much) later to become the Electoral Reform Society.

Today, Friday 7th May 2010, we have a hung parliament for the first time since 1974 and the leader of the Liberal Democrats,  Nick Clegg occupies a position that enables him to bring about change to our voting system forever. He must not abandon or compromise his Liberal principles.

The City (and the Conservative Party) are running scared and their friends in the media mostly collude to deny the electorate the fundamental right to have each vote cast count. Cameron offers the prospect of talks about talks and committees while the non-elected Gordon Brown becomes a latter-day convert to electoral reform (in theory anyway)and a referendum on PR, promised by his party in 1997 has yet to materialise.

The Labour Party's commitment and record on reform is both fickle and feeble, but the electorate has spoken, and voted (where they have been able to ... in Hackney and numerous other polling stations up and down the country, voters have been disenfranchised through incompetence, but that's another story).

I have a book with the rather un-catchy title:  Science, Politics and Business in the Work of Sir John Lubbock - A Man of Universal Mind This illustrates how such a system might work and gets to the heart of how and why the first-past-the-post system (FPTP) cheats the voters. See also

For this cause, John Lubbock held extensive roadshows in 1884 and 1885 and as a "Twitterer" of his day, promoted the idea of PR at amazingly well-attendied public rallies - "Suffolk on 15th December, Machester 17th December, Leicester on 13th January, Nottingham 14th, Greenwich 20th, Lambeth 23rd, Islington 27th, St Pancras 29th, Liverpool 5th February ..." a brief respite for the birth of his new baby daughter, before resuming in Tower Hamlets, Norwich and Oxford.

Today, we have Flashmobs and the internet to perform that function; to rally and mobilise. The electorate is asking today what a select few with the vote then were asking for way back in 1884. Clegg has both opportunity and risk. He will be accused of trying to fiddle with the voting system for self-not-National-interest while Britain descends even further into a black financial abyss. But such change is desirable, inevitable and essential and Clegg must negotiate forcefully to get proportional representation in place before we have yet another farce of a General Election. And there may be one soon, so not a moment to waste.

It seems such opportunities only come round once every century. Funny how you wait for a bus then two come at once. So the Big Question is who will Nick get into bed with and who is most likely to deliver on a promise of electoral reform? It is in the National Interest to ensure that our chosen political representatives reflect the wishes of the electorate. Clearly, under our present system of First-Past-thePost (FPTP), the system has broken down and is in urgent need of repair and renewal, fit-for-purpose and the 21st century. The system we have now serves only to protect vested interests and is an affront to democracy.

If Nick Clegg achieves the legacy of PR he will be in a good company. As well as his campaigning for PR, John Lubbock's legacy includes the creation of Bank holidays (once known as St Lubbock's Day, public libraries, the ability to write a cheque and the protection of public monuments.