Broken politics. Change needed. No more ideology.
The sentiments of 11 MPs and a couple of local councillors, at the time of writing. These are the backbench MPs who have abandoned their parties- first Labour, then Conservative- to create a new type of politics. I will not explain much more- if you have not heard of The Independent Group (or TIG as they have been abbreviated to) then I am amazed that you have found this blog.
On the surface, one can only feel sorry for the Liberal Democrats, the centrist party with the same number of MPs as The Independent Group. Both are anti-Brexit, both have little chance of success in winning many seats and certainly no chance of becoming the government any time soon, and both are, how do you say, slightly less than an established, electable party.
But here’s another similarity that The Independent Group has a chance to fix, whilst it has already besmirched the Lib Dems. Both have no clear policy.
Something about legalising cannabis, something about opposing Brexit and something about homosexuals being sinful (but that was not quite party policy, was it Mr Farron?) Neither group have a clear set of goals aside from opposing Brexit or at least limiting the damage it does to the country.
For all its talk of fixing politics, straightening the break and pursuing policies that are ‘evidence-based’, The Independent Group have very little actual detail in terms of what they stand for.
We refuse to accept that Britain will always be saddled with the same old, tired politics. When politics has failed before, the British people have demanded better. The time has come to renew our politics once again. Join us to #ChangePolitics https://t.co/NFfm59nkIY
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) February 22, 2019
So before this lack of direction sully’s their good name, let me throw my hat in the ring. Let me suggest a policy.
Something that truly is broken with our politics is our electoral system. The system used for our general elections does not represent the views of those who vote, nor does it encourage bipartisan government.
Why is it that the Liberal Democrats have done so badly recently? Well, many reasons but one problem is that under our current system, first-past-the-post (FPTP), it is not the number of votes you get as such, but where you get the votes.
Get thousands of votes but they are all in one constituency? Too bad, you might as well have got just one vote more than your opposition. Or alternatively, be the party that is just one vote less in say, 50 constituencies? Well, good news, under our current system, you get nothing. Might as well not have run. It does not matter that you got thousands of votes, they all count for nothing. Zilch.
Our current system keeps small parties out and misrepresents the share of the votes a party gets. It does not have to be this way.
The Liberal Democrats ran on the promise to hold a referendum on our electoral system in 2010 and the idea was popular, perhaps even popular enough to hoist them into government. Unfortunately, the same system that the Lib Dems were hoping to change meant that they were hoisted into government with a gun against their heads. Sure, they were in government, but now they had to compromise on many different policies, including electoral reform.
Unsurprisingly, the Conservative Party, which does quite well under first-past-the-post (at least until Theresa May came in) did not want to change the electoral system.
So, rather than offering a proportional system as an alternative, a system that meant every vote counts and one that has a lot more democratic legitimacy, the Conservative-Lib Dem government asked the public whether they wanted to maintain the status-quo or vote for a horrible messy compromise, that would please no one. Rather than offering proportional representation as an alternative, they offered AV, which is not proportional but equally, not FPTP either.
And to that end, as it was not June 2016, the public did not vote to do itself damage, instead choosing to maintain the status quo. So, after the AV referendum of 2011, electoral reform was buried.
Time to bring it back.
If The Independent Group are serious about changing politics and about ensuring that every voice is heard, they should ensure that every vote counts- and that means replacing FPTP with a truly proportional electoral system.
There are many different versions, but all proportional systems ensure that if you vote for a party, that vote will be represented when the Parliamentary representatives take their seat after the election. Broadly speaking, if a party receives two-thirds of the electorate’s vote, two-thirds of the elected representatives will be from that party.
This does not happen under our current system.
In the 2015 general election, one minority party won nearly four million votes. It’s reward for winning a thumping 12.6% of the vote? One MP, or rather, 0.15% of the representatives elected.
How can we consider this fair representation of public sentiment?
On The Independent Group’s website, the first line states that they wish to ‘put the best interests of our constituents and our country first’. How about committing to represent the true views of those constituents by campaigning to introduce a fairer, more representative electoral system?
The Independent Group may list eleven broadly-democratic principles on their website and state a desire to pursue policies that are ‘not led by ideology’, but they have none yet.
Reforming the electoral system, seriously- not a watered down attempt as the Lib Dem’s did – is an evidence based, non-ideological reform that would give the ‘group’ something to stand for, something to distinguish themselves from the murk of centrist, anti-Brexit parties and would actually lead to TIP potentially having a real say in the governance of the country, in future elections.
If The Independent Group do not want to become just another has-been as the Lib Dems have become, then this is a solid, democratic and serious policy to put on their manifesto.
It is time The Independent Group fixed our ‘broken’ politics by supporting electoral reform and ending decades of unrepresentative democracy.
Featured image: Unsplash/ Elliot Stallion
Like // Share // Comment