Saturday, May 08, 2010

Don't do it Nick!

Don't do it Nick. You and your party have nothing in common with the likes of Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne or the reactionary Mr Grayling. Do you really want to go down in history as the man who surrendered Britain's future to Cameron’s Tories? Have you forgotten how the public sector experienced massive, near-fatal under-investment during 18 years of Tory rule in the 1980s and 1990s? In your heart you know that the advent of a Tory government will inevitably see the return of a two-tier system in terms of public services with, for example, the ‘best’ schools being either private or in the most affluent areas and access to the best healthcare determined not by need but by wealth. Let me remind you that under the Tories the highest crime areas were in the lowest-income neighbourhoods; public transport was most deficient in serving the most deprived housing estates. Should he gain office it is likely that in Cameron’s Britain the affluent and the well educated will be given the choice to buy their way out of failing or inadequate provision and universal services will be replaced by services for the poor which will inevitably result in poor services. Is this the 'fairness' that you want to see? No, of course it isn't.If you really want to place Britain on the road to becoming a fairer and more equal society then pick up the phone and talk to Gordon. Here are two things that you might talk about:

1. How best can Labour and the Lib Dems set about establishing a coalition government of national unity that can offer a stable and strong government that is focused primarily on securing the recovery and restoring trust in the body politic?

2. What concrete proposals can we put into the Queen's speech on May 25th regarding the holding of a national referendum on electoral reform in the autumn of 2010.

The sooner you place that call the better.


Julian said...

I think you underestimate what a huge job it will be to change the voting system. Firstly, the possible options need to be decided and refined into a form that would work in the UK. It's only fair that all the parties have input to this as it will affect them all. It would be fair too to solicit input from the public also before the matter is put to a referendum. Difficult questions need to be addressed (and solved) such as the extent to which it is fair for minor parties to win seats in proportion to their votes (e.g. the BNP) and the West Lothian question. It would be completely unacceptable to allow the unfairness of Scottish votes to be carried across into a new system that's being introduced to make things fairer.

Once the options are agreed, a referendum needs to be scheduled. I think there would need to be a significant amount of time for campaigning and explaining so that the voters understand what they're being asked and the implications.

Once the referendum is decided, constituencies need to be agreed. How the Commons will be arranged needs to be agreed. Election officials need to be trained. Ballot papers need to be designed. A counting mechanism needs to be specified. Dry runs need to be held and any problems ironed out - we can't take the risk of queues outside polling stations because everyone is taking longer to vote than expected, especially after what happened on Thursday. With a lengthier voting process, more polling stations may need to be identified. This will all cost millions and millions. Teams will need to be recruited. Local government employees will need to be replaced by temporary staff while they prepare. All of this is bad enough, never mind introducing an electronic voting system - that would take years.

Before an election is called, there will need to be a huge exercise of mass education. It seems to me at least as complicated from that point of view as decimalisation, for those who remember the advertisments and leaflets going on for months. And that was just to replace shilings and pence with new pence. The voters don't just need to be told to cast a number of votes or put candidates in order. It's only right that they understand, if they wish to, exactly how the whole system works from beginning to end and the implications for how they vote.

I cannot see this being achieved in less than two or three years. The thought that this will be the main focus for our politicians (rather than addressing the economic problems) for all this time doesn't fill me with hope.

Jill said...

yes, it's complicated. yes it will take a lot of working out. Two points: one is that a fair system is more comprehensible and therefore easier to teach than an unfair one - I overheard two woment talking in a playground in East Oxford this afternoon. One offered the other an excellent summary of how the current system works and the ways in which it doesn't make sense. The listener had had no clue about any of it. Neither had voted last week.

The second point is that the economy and the voting system don't have to be worked out by the same individuals - there's a lot to be done, but we have a huge number of clever people to do it. A parliament can multi-task precisely because it is not just one person.

You cannot see this being achieved in less than two or three years - OK. But surely it will be worth taking time and trouble over, to get it right. How long did the present system take to evolve, after all?