Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Tories want democracy....ish
The Tories are now up in arms about the threat of another unelected prime minister if and when Gordon Brown resigns and the Lib Dems decide to go for the rainbow alliance option.
It is so refreshing to have the Tories banging on about democracy is it not? Considering their staunch support for those less than democratic organs of the British state, the Monarchy and the House of Lords. Also their total resistance to allowing the British people a referendum (can’t get more democratic than that can you?) on proper PR. Any future leader of the Labour party will have been elected in the same way that John Major was when he became Tory PM in 1990. They were bounced into offering a referendum on the alternative vote and I have just seen George Osborne saying “let the people decide” on the news. Fair enough considering their new desire for all things democratic, so why not include STV as well and let the people decide?
The Alternative Vote, which uses the same constituency boundaries and voters, would elect one person to represent them in parliament, just as we do now. However, rather than marking an 'X' against their preferred candidate, each voter would rank their candidates in an order of preference, putting '1' next to their favourite, a '2' by their second choice and so on. If a candidate received a majority of first place votes, he or she would be elected just as under the present system. However if no single candidate got more than 50% of the vote, the second choices for the candidate at the bottom would be redistributed. The process would be repeated until one candidate got an absolute majority. The Alternative Vote is not actually a proportional system, but a majoritarian system as there is only one member for one seat and in addition votes not cast for the winner are still wasted.
They don’t really want any change to the system of First Past the Post which sees a tiny minority of marginal constituencies determine the complexion of the government while the vast majority never change hands. This means that the majority of MPs (currently Tory ones in England) never actually have to face a proper democratic election. In reality they have jobs for life. This means that a vote for anyone other than the sitting MP in these constituencies is totally wasted.
Is that democratic?
The same, of course, holds true for Labour MPs in Scotland, where the vast majority of seats never change hands. So we have the weird situation where the Labour MPs in England are keen on PR while those in Scotland are not. Not a cynical ploy to continue the lazy practice of not really having to fight an election is it?