Term-time…

14 05 2010

Backlash Over Election Vote Rules” ran the BBC’s headline. Thinking back to the farcical scenes a week ago where numerous voters were turned away from polling stations, I assumed this story would be about the implications of this problem. Of course, it wasn’t. It is, instead, about the newly formed coalition government trying to protect its own skin by changing the 50% plus 1 rule in votes of no-confidence against the government.

The government are playing here with the weakness of the numbers in their favour. 55%, is of course, a number which can only be reached by the coalition pulling together. Which, therefore means that the opposition parties cannot pull together a no-confidence vote without the support of dissenting Tories or Lib Dems. Add to this the idea of fixed terms (a five year period under the proposals), and it is clear that the Tories are doing everything in their power to protect the vulnerable coalition.

I don’t agree with it though. I’m not sure I like the idea of a fixed term parliament for two reasons. The first is that  it seems to be the next logical step on the road to making Britain more like America. The second reason is that it seems to remove the power from the people to the politicians. By which I mean that, if a government fails, and continues to fail, the clamour for the removal of the party in power grows, eventually to a point where it is too big to ignore any longer. MP’s then respond, and a vote of no-confidence is taken. The government falls, and another election is called. If the term is set to five years (about a year too long if you are going to set a limit), then this means that the vote of no-confidence is a pointless task, unless something drastic goes wrong. There is also part of me that says that the fixed term removes the fun from the politics, there would be no talk of snap-elections, or short campaigns. It would become very regimented. Which is a bad thing.

Of course the underlining problem with fixed terms is the problem of the no-confidence vote. If this gets changed so that 55% is needed to secure the vote, then this is a huge cop-out from the government. The point is that, as it stands, once you lose 50% plus 1 you’ve lost the majority of support in the house. You therefore are governing with half the Commons standing against you, which is not a particularly healthy position to be in. 55% is just further evidence that you have lost the house, and should listen to the vote against you. For the opposing party, whoever it may be, not to have any power over voting against the government seems to me to be very undemocratic.

So the situation could be simple in two or three years. The coalition has lost the majority of support in the house (say 52%), but gets to limp on until the end of its five year term, unopposed, potentially further exacerbating the problems which have caused them to lose the house in the first place. Right. Sounds like a great plan to me.

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One Vote…

6 05 2010

Over the past few weeks, I have been subjected to various facebook updates from people telling me who to vote for today. Most of these I have read, and subsequently ignored. However, that’s changed today. Not because I read an update which convinced me to vote one way or the other, but because I read an update which really got me worked up.

It was a negative update, meaning it wasn’t a ‘vote for them’, but instead was a ‘don’t vote for them’ update. Of which I must have seen about a million in recent times. However the message, paraphrased, was ‘think of the rest of society and don’t vote for them’. This angered me.

Voting should be a distinctly personal thing. You vote for the person who you think will do the best job for you. There should be little more to it than that. If the system works then the result is what society wants. You should not feel pressurised into voting for a party because it is for the good of a society, large (the entire population) or small (your local sports club). You should vote for the person who identifies with the issues that you have, who seems to have at least some of the solutions, and who appeals to you (bearing in mind, of course, you are not voting for the party leader – unless you live in their constituency – you are voting for an MP to represent you at parliament). This means, therefore, that all the talk of tactical voting which has been had in recent days has been, effectively, about removing power from the electorate, and letting the parties (in this case the Labour party) make the decision for you. I reiterate the point, if the system works then it should be a clear indication of what the significant percentage of the population want as a government. You cannot, and should not consider the rest of society when voting. You should vote for who you want to vote for, free from peer pressure, social pressure, or any other forms of pressure. There is a reason, after all, you are placed in an individual booth to vote. If we let society dictate how we should vote then the damage has already been done. You need not have individual voting booths, as show of hands at a town hall would suffice instead.

It really annoys me that people should feel pressured into voting a certain way. The vote, a decision you should reach based on what you have heard, read or seen, should be yours to do with what you wish. Of course there are electoral problems with the British system, the Independent has been fighting this reform battle for years, and the outcome of Brown getting in with the most MP’s, but the fewest votes would serve to further highlight the systems failures. I remain unconvinced that a proportional representation system would or could work, but it is clear that recent boundary changes made by the Labour government have worked towards making the outcome mentioned above a possibility. The solution is to better redefine the boundaries so there is a more even spread of votes per constituency. Of course, how you do this whilst simultaneously reducing the number of MP’s as suggested by Cameron will prove much harder.

Whatever the result, the key thing is that politics doesn’t win with tactical voting. The voters, so very disillusioned with MP’s in recent times, should be free to have their say, without the feeling of pressure from anywhere. They should, and I hope, will vote for whoever they want to vote for based upon the grounds that matter to them. There is, and should be, nothing more to it than that.