Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 23 November 2009

John Redwood's high handed arrogance

Following yesterday's poll which suggested the Conservatives might only have a 6% lead over Labour, there is a lot of talk about hung parliaments.

John Redwood has blogged about this today. He starts his post with some very sensible comments about this showing that the Conservatives cannot take victory for granted and emphasising the size of the task that faces them.

However towards the end of his piece he demonstrates the sort of arrogance that I sometimes see from members of the parties (Conservatives and Labour) that benefit hugely from our rotten First Past the Post system. He had already mentioned that UKIP and the Greens were on 3% each in the poll. He then says:

What these polls also show is that UKIP and the Greens are unlikely to win any seats. Their prospective voters can back their chosen cause, or they can vote for either Labour or the Conservatives to help choose the government. If they do the former they will have to accept whatever others decide to do.

Now I like reading John Redwood's blog. He is a very thoughtful and thought provoking commentator. I don't always agree with what he says of course but he is very capable of making compelling arguments and is very well informed on numerous issues including the economy. These comments I have quoted from him however are arrogant and beneath him. There is no attempt to address the underlying unfairness that the fact that a party may get 3% of the vote and 0% of the seats, just an attempt to get these supporters to vote for one of the two main parties. That approach is completely disenfranchising and the worst sort of "vote for the least worst option of the two main parties rather than who you actually agree with" tactics.

In the European elections a few months ago, UKIP got 16.5% of the votes and came second both in terms of vote share and number of seats. This is the sort of thing that happens when there is a system that allows a fairer share of seats allocated for the votes. One of the main reason that many of the voters who vote for UKIP in the European elections do not at national elections is because they know they cannot win! The First Past the Post system has such a high barrier to entry that even a party which has demonstrated very strong breadth and depth of support at national level, coming second in a national election cannot get a single seat in a Westminster election. And John Redwood thinks that all this tells us is that people should vote for either Labour or the Conservatives. Not that our electoral system is utterly broken.

If people want to vote for UKIP or the Greens at the next election they should damn well vote for them and ignore the overtures of people like Mr Redwood.


Brian E. said...

I've just posted the following on John's site:
I’m sorry, but I cannot agree with your position. Politically, at this time, my overwhelming desire is to get out of the EU and I am simply not prepared to support any party which is prepared to continue with the present arrangements, albeit with some minor changes, if they can be negotiated.
There seems a good possibility of a hung parliament, and if UKIP manages to get a good vote, even if they don’t get any seats, the Tories will then seriously need to reconsider their position before any subsequent general election. Potential UKIP voters will then have seen that maybe there is a chance of some seats, and the Tories will have noticed that they are haemorrhaging votes to UKIP.
So in effect, I’m looking forward to the election after next as it is unlikely that a hung parliament will hast more than a year or so.

Simon Fawthrop said...

You need to change your record, not only is it tedious but you are putting the cart before the horse and you sound like whingeing children in the playground crying "its not fair".

The problem isn't the voting system, per se, but the way our representative democracy has been broken. And remember, we send representatives, not delegates, to parliament.

In the days when all power wasn't centralised in a few hands and party machines didn't have an iron grip on the selection of prospective MP's and then MP's, we used to have independent minded people representing us, yes they would be from a party but this was as much to signal their philosophy as to be slaves to that party. They knew that their role was to represent their constituency and not a small minority of party activists who could be relied upon by the party to deselect MP's who bucked the party by showing independence.

It is this system that is broken and we have to decide whether it is desirable to try and fix it, in which case the current voting system is acceptable. If it can't be fixed, or it doesn't meet what we want as a representative democracy, then we should decide how we want to be represented and then select the voting system that best meets those needs.

Without wanting to build a straw man, I suspect that what you are really saying is that you don't think that we can, or even should, fix the current system and we need a new system; fair enough but lets not confuse this with talk about voting systems. If this is the case I tend to agree with you but any reform needs to be root and branch and aimed at reducing the power of the EU and central government and a return to more local responsibility and power.

Mark Thompson said...

The points you make are valid and I am not saying that electoral reform is the only reform that is needed but a lot of our problems are to some extent caused by or in some cases exacerbated by our current electoral system. I don't see it as the sort of situation where we we can try and introduce other reforms whilst the elephant in the room remains untouched.

The fact that a senior and long serving MP like John Redwood can with a straight face insist that UKIP and Green voters should stop messing around with their "causes" as he describes them and vote for either Labour or Conservative as those other parties won't win any seats shows how utterly undemocratic our system is. It is from a bygone era when there really were only two parties rather than the plurality we now have.

I'll change my record when we change the rotten electoral system.

David Weber said...

"The problem isn't the voting system, per se, but the way our representative democracy has been broken."

It hasn't been broken. It functions in much the same way it has for decades.

People have merely found out a few unpleasant truths about it.