Voting For Change
Hello everyone, today I’m talking politics. If you live in the UK right now, its likely you’re aware that our political system is rather fucked.
The government and opposition parties appear to put the needs of the few (i.e theirselves) above anything else. Thus leaving large percentages of the population feeling unrepresented. This has led to many discussions with my friends in recent weeks about what could be done to improve the state of UK politics. People seem to be in agreement that two things need to change.
The first is to introduce compulsory voting
This is probably the most obvious change that can be made.
There are 22 countries in the world who currently use compulsory voting.
11 countries, including Australia enforce voting by fineing people who don’t vote.
The other 11 countries including Greece don’t enforce it.
Those in favour of compulsory voting say it’s a civic duty. They cite the struggles of men and women throughout history for the right to vote. Such as the Chartists of the Victorian era who fought for votes for working men and the Suffragettes who extended that fight to include womens votes.
Compulsory voting ensures governments are legitimate and have a genuine mandate to govern. This leads to more stable governments.
Those who disagree with mandatory voting argue voting is a civic right, similar to the freedom of speach. And thus people shouldn’t be forced to vote.
They also believe that should people be forced to vote, the votes of people who are uninformed, undecided or who simply don’t care could skew results
These days the right to vote is not properly appreciated in the Uk.
In the Brexit referendum 32% of people didn’t vote. So although Leave gained 52% of the votes, only a third of British adults voted to leave. Had the other 32% of the adult population voted the results may have been different. Or if the result stayed the same, it would have been a true reflection of the will of the country.
I’m therefore very much in favour of compulsory voting. The argument for not forcing people to vote because they are uninformed doesn’t hold water, as plenty of uninformed people do currently vote.
Likewise if someone can’t decide or really doesn’t give a toss who wins, they can spoil their paper or return an empty ballot. Either way it would show the voter didn’t want any of the candidates.
The second thing is intorduce proportional Representation
During the recent European elections, the good folk of Britain got to vote for their EU representatives using proportional represetation. Each region of the UK the was allocated a number of MEP places. When the votes have been counted the places for each region are divided up to the different parties according to number of votes each recieved.
In the UK general elections this system obviously wouldn’t work as there’s only one place for each constituency. We currently use the first past the post (FPTP) system. Meaning the person with the most votes wins, although they rarely get close to 50% of the votes.
However FPTP isn’t the only available option. In 2011 there was a referendum for an alternative voting (AV) system.
AV would require voters to rank candidates they liked order of preference. So for example if my constituency had a Conservative, Brexit, Labour, Lib Deb and Green candidate I would have put 1 in the box for Lib Dem, 2 in the box for Green and 3 in the box for Labour.
In the first round of vote counting just the first choice votes would be counted (in my case lib dems). If this resulted in one candidate getting over 50% of the vote they would win. If not the candidate with the least votes would be excluded. Then the second choice votes would be counted and that total added to the first. If a candidate recieved 50 % of the votes after the second round they will win. If not thr process would continue with 3rd and 4th place votes untill a clear winner was picked.
The result of the 2011 referendum was a definite rejection of AV. Only 33 % of voters in favour. However it has subsequently been stated that infighting in the government at the time effected the result. A majority of MPs preferred the FPTP, so AV was much maligned.
As such it wasn’t clearly exlpained to the voting public prior to the vote.
I believe its crazy that we can be governed by a party who only recieved 30-40% of the votes on a general election. For that reason I voted for AV. And I still believe any system that gives a result more closely representing the actual voting results has to be a good thing.
Is there anything else that should be changed?
I believe there’s a third way British politics could be improved. This doesn’t involve any other change to the voting system. Instead I would abolish the whip system in parliment.
Often in political news we hear party whips or the whip system mentioned. For example the Tory MP Michael Heseltine just had the tory whip removed because he voted lib dems in the EU elections. This means he’s been kicked out of the tory party. However the whip system is never really explained in the news.
Each political party has members called whips who’s role is to ensure their MPs vote in line with party policy. In any vote they will issue a memo to their mps called a whip. A one line whip means members are asked to attend the vote and are asked to follow the party line. A 2 line whip means members are asked to attend the vote and must follow the parth line if they vote. A 3 line whip meams members must attend the vote and must follow party lines.
So far this all seems a bit obvious, if you’re a member of the gang you have to follow the gang’s rules right? Well no, I disagree. When you vote in a general election, the theory is you’re voting for a person to represent you in your constituency. This has been most clearly demonstrated with the recent desertion of MPs like Umma Chukra and Anna Sourbry from their resepctive parties. They still represent their constituents even though they are no longer of the party the constituents voted for.
However in practice the idea of mps representing their constituents is pants, because if they vote against party whip they can be punished.
I would like to see the voting in line with party policies part of the whip system removed. This could allow MPs to get to know and vote more in line with the views of their constituents.
Politics is a complicated subject so I thank you if you’ve stayed with me to the end of this post.
Do you think UK political system needs an overhaul? Would you introduce different ideas than those I have mentioned?
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