Sunday, May 31, 2009
Two Observations About the Current State of British Politics
Two things occur to me today to include in my post, the first associated with BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, and the second former Home Secretary tipped for a possible return after the June reshuffle,David Blunkett.
Nick Robinson reported yesterday on a Radio 4 news bulletin from the constituency of one of the accused MPs and put it to some voters that the offences of their MP- I think they were mostly minor but had received publicity- were less reprehensible than those who had taken the taxpayer for many thousands as Cameron has done for mortgage interest payments, for example. But, as he explains on his blog, it's not really the amount involved, it's the appalling lapses in judgement involved in claiming for a bathplug, porn video or whatever. These transgressions paint an all too accessibly negative picture of the person involved. It used to be said that Dennis Skinner was so scrupulous regarding accepting favours that he would even refuse a free cup of tea. Over the top, maybe, but perhaps he had a point.
Blunkett and Peter Hain yesterday both sounded off about voting reform, with the former claiming:
"PR is a recipe for weak government, born out of the understandable moment." And he warns that an AV system that also involves "topping up the Commons with members elected from a party list" would be a "dual disaster"
There are argumnets on both sides of course: Labour has tended to favour FPTP because the present system is so heavily skewed to their advantage; Conservatives oppose it because they fear the anti-Tory majority in the UK might form an allaince thereby which might marginalise them for power indefinitely. But if it PR is so disempowering, how come:
1. All our EU partners have adopted it? The admittedly extreme case of Israel which has a 'pure' PR system and too many minority parties in the Knesset, could be cured by setting a threshold -usually 5% of votes- required before a party can win a seat.
2. If PR is so bad why have we have progressively given a form of PR-an amended Additional Member System- to the new Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the London Assembly, not to mention STV for Northern Ireland elections and even Scottish local government? In addition we have PR for the EU elections. To exclude the most important election from such a method seems illogical in the extreme, especially when PR actually 'empowers' voters by allowing them a say in the election of every candidate.
Nothing would cleanse the system more effectively than the adoption of the Jenkins AV+ system as urged in his 1998 report and left mouldering in the long grass ever since. Sadly it won't happen, or not yet a -whiles, even though voters are, for once, actually calling out for radical change. Anyone who doubts the merits of this excellent system should read this article.
2. Devolution was inherently undemocratic. A minority of voters in two small regions of the country, manipulated by a party whose members stood to personally profit, changed the constitution that have existed for centuries. It should hardly be a model as we move past Labour.
The truth is PR and all its bastardized forms are unacceptable. The British don't want to become another basket case country like Italy. It empowers PARTIES, not people, at a time when the mainstream parties have disgraced themselves in the eyes of the world.
Am out of the country, but am stunned that Blunkett is mooted for a return. I would have thought no amount of desperation would merit this. Talk about the blind leading the (half) blind...
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