How many people in the General Election on December 12 will actually vote for the Party they believe in? That, to some, may seem a daft question, but according to some polls up to a third of people when they cast their vote will do so to stop another Party getting in for the constituency, they live in. The likely voting pattern is even more complicated than that! Brexit is an issue which has affected left and right alike. Some right-wingers will vote against their ‘normal’ Party because of the issue and some left-wingers will as well.
Why does this happen? Because our voting system is basically corrupt. Our ‘first past the post’ system exaggerates movements in voting intention by transforming what is, in theory, a national poll into 650 local polls. We can see how this could happen in a theoretical result. Suppose Party A got 51% of the votes nationally and Party B got 49% of the votes. If that vote were evenly distributed Party A would get 100% of the seats and Party B would get none. It would mean that the ‘right’ party won. If you have 51% of the vote you should form the government but it would mean that this Government would be unchallenged.
Obviously, this is a very extreme supposition which will never happen but we have an electoral system which is unfair to all Parties in different parts of the Country. It is always unfair to smaller Parties. Despite being a nationally recognised Party the Greens will probably take about 5% of the vote and are still only likely to get 1 MP. Lib Dems have never had their fair share of seats. In 1974 we got 26% of the vote and only 23 seats.
The system discriminates against Tory and Labour Parties as well. For one Parliament the Tories did not have a single seat in Parliament from Scotland. The Labour Party regularly get derisory numbers of MPs in the East and South Eastern regions despite getting up to 30% of the vote.
The Parliament which we are inordinately proud of then is never representative and Parties have got stonking overall majorities with less than 40% of the vote.
Then, however, it gets worse. Our Parliamentary system is predicated upon a Government and an opposition. In fact, in both the Commons and the Lords people sit 2 sword lengths apart! The Prime Minister is Leader of Her Majesty’s Government. The Leader of the second biggest Party is Leader of her Majesty’s Opposition. We have a system where the Commons Chamber becomes an echo chamber and not a reflective chamber. Prime Minster’s Question Time is the worst example but not the only one.
There are few genuine debates in either Chamber although the House of Lords is much better than the Commons. Point scoring is more important than consensus building. Jousting for the short term is more important than working together for the long term. One Party introduces and another has to undo.
That lack of consensus wastes vast amounts of taxpayer’s money. Most issues last longer than one Parliament and a huge number have to be played out over decades. A house now will need to last 200 years at the current rate of replacement. We need to have a consensus about the proportion of homes needed in both the public and private sectors. We have to ensure that land and other resources are allocated to both commensurate with the need.
A particular bugbear of mine is the continued failure of Parliament to address the needs of the growing number of elderly people within our community. This is not exactly something that has crept up on us. We have known since about 1960 that longevity is rising but that health outcomes and outputs were not rising as fast. That means more ill, elderly people. We have known that medical advances have given ever lengthy life styles to people who would have died at birth or might last for just a few years. Now they can have almost normal life times.
In both these cases we need a consensus about how to plan and prepare for these issues and how to pay for it. We have been waiting for a Green Paper on this use since July 2017. For those who do not follow the parliamentary system a Green Paper is simply a discussion Paper which leads to a White Paper which is an advanced consultation which leads to legislation and then finally it leads to the legislation itself. We are not even at the first step but people have been dying in poor conditions because of the incompetence of our parliamentary system. We need a consensus to plan for the way forward. Individuals, families, councils, the NHS and providers, including pension and insurance providers need to put in place long-term plans and cannot do so with short term bickering.
So my solutions are a fundamental reform of the voting system and not the half-hearted nonsense about the Alternative Vote system which was the subject of the 2012 referendum. We need a single transferable vote system in which every vote counts.
It would be to reform Parliament and reduce the power of the Whips to enforce a Party view rather than the MPs voting on the principles that they hold dear.
It is to strip the Westminster Parliament and the Whitehall mandarins of much of their power by taking real decision making, including financial powers to the regions and the Councils of the 4 United Kingdom nations.
Only the Liberal Democrats are in favour of such fundamental change at this election. With this as in all but one issue I stand four square behind my Party on the subjects of reform and change.
Find out more about me and my views on this issue at https://www.facebook.com/LiverLibDems/videos/940830013078189/