Electoral Reform

Having written yesterday on the problem of democracy, the solution is perhaps some form of electoral reform. It is difficult to find ways for the people to ensure good, responsible government.

In U.K. elections we still use first past the post (FPTP). This supports a two party system, which by itself is democratically bad, . It also generally produces single party majority government, which is also generally democratically bad.

Single party government, is effectively dictatorship. The debate about policy is taken away from the democratic body to within a political party for the entire period of government. The effect of this is that whilst the party may have some good ideas, the implementation of those ideas is often terrible. Terrible, because the implementation is bias by the ideology of the party or to appeal to the minority of the people that vote for them. During my lifetime, until 2010-2015, the U.K. only had majority governments. I have always felt that this was wrong. Minority or coalition governments at least have to debate with advocates of the rest of the population, to enable finding ways to implement policy that is fair to the majority of the population, to correct ideological bias and make solutions workable.

On the other hand it is occasionally useful for a single party to have a mandate for single party government, when there is a clear will and argument for a manifesto of changes and the power to implement them. For example 1979 Conservative government to tackle the trade union issue and the Labour government of 1997, to re-balance the political landscape. Every other government in my lifetime, I feel should not have a single party in power. Consensual, pragmatic government is generally better at preventing, extremist solutions, when they are not good for the economy. This suggests some form of Proportional Representation, but not purely proportional government.

For the Welsh government elections there is a system which should work fairly well, the ‘Additional Member System’. 2/3 of members are elected by FPTP, giving constituents a local representative. The remaining third of representatives are are elected proportionally, for each region, thus ensuring that no regions dominant party can gain control. This ensures that minority parties at least gain representation and no single party forms the government, usually. However, in practice, as Labour have been the dominant party historically in Welsh politics in my lifetime, they have usually formed a single party majority,  with >40% of the popular vote, that seems unrepresentative for the majority who vote otherwise.

Really the problem with whatever democratic system is that is plays into parties hands, parties learn how to manipulate the voting system. How a country votes is often not reflective of the popular will of the people. Very few people who vote for a party generally agree with their entire proposed programme. Polls, such as general elections give a distorted view, only through listening and talking to a range of people does one develop an idea of what people want and see as the main problems in society.

In Mid-Wales, for local elections at least, we have a better system. Generally, there is a distrust of the big parties. There is a preference for candidates who are genuinely local, who run as independents (even though local people know where their heart lies on the left-right spectrum) people who have established a good reputation locally; though running a respected business and contributing to local charities. Really, if elected officials represented their people, if they disagree with a party line, they should be free to support an alternative, rather than follow the dictats of the party machines. Better legislation is enacted this way.

The recent elections have divided the people and  countries of the U.K. I would argue that party factionalism contributes to the divide, the us and them, making politics into a cartoon series of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, turning elections into a conflict between the factions, to the detriment of democracy and a strong economy. Ultimatly, power should reside with the people, with decision being taken at as local a level as possible.

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