Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Independent on Sunday - safe seats and expenses scandal correlation - 2 mentions

The only papers we get delivered here are the Independent on Saturday and Sunday (I read the rest online).

Having gone through the IOS this morning I was very pleasantly surprised to see two references to the correlation I seemed to have uncovered between the safety of an MP's seat and the likelihood of having been involved in the expenses scandal which I detailed here.

The first is in a piece entitled "Politics: The only way is up" where thay have asked various of the great and the good to give their views on what needs to change. One of the questions asked is "Would electoral reform improve perceptions of MPs' probity?" and Vernon Bogdanor, the constitutional expert and Professor of Government at Oxford replied:

Yes. Many of the worst abuses have been committed by MPs in safe seats. Primary elections would ensure that MPs were chosen by a wider group than the small unrepresentative cliques who often now act as an electoral college. In the long run, the single transferable vote method of PR would give every elector the chance to combine a vote in a general election with a vote in a primary election.

He is clearly referring to my apparent findings at the start of his answer and using it as part of an argument for moving to Single Transferable Vote exactly as I did.

The second reference is in regular commentator John Rentoul's comment piece entitled "If Esther's the answer, the question is wrong". In it he argues that having lots of independent MP's in parliament after the next election would not solve the problems and investigates other potential ways to improve things. A paragraph towards the end says:

Some of these ideas are good. Some of them even appear to be connected to the expenses issue. It would seem, for example, that MPs in safe seats have been more likely to make questionable claims than those in marginals. But is electoral reform the answer? It is claimed that voters in multi-member constituencies can choose between candidates of their preferred party. So they can, but has that made Irish politics spotless? And if we had fewer MPs, that would just mean The Daily Telegraph ran the story for 14 days instead of 16.

So he uses my apparent findings but then questions if electoral reform is the answer. I think the answer is yes but at least the debate is happening now! As I already blogged, Ben Bradshaw quoted my research in an answer on BBC Question Time on Thursday.

This proper debate is exactly what I had hoped for and it is nice to see my work contributing to it in some small way. I will certainly keep blogging about reform and I hope others will too, both for and against. It is the first time I can remember proper reform being debated so widely. My findings are still preliminary but I think they speak to a wider feeling that there is something very wrong with our current system and things need to change radically if politics is to once again properly engage people in this country.


Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

Sorry, wrong link. I was saying inspired by your piece I looked at all MPs, expenses, and majority but didn't come to any firm conclusions.