Saturday, 8 May 2010

A wasted voter speaks

With all this debate about our electoral system, the one question I'm sure has been resonating up and down the nation is: 'what does the Trooper say?' Well, my dear people...

It is important to remember why we have a 'first past the post' (FPTP) system. It was not designed to be unfair, but has become so, because of the rise of party politics. It is the predominance of party politics that has undermined the concept of selecting the best individual from a particular place, because MPs no longer represent their constituents, but rather follow a party line. Sure, there are still a handful of 'mavericks', and others will occasionally go against the whip if the question concerns a factory in their own backyard shutting down or some such event, or if the issue is of such controversy that they manage to locate their cojones, but if they know what's good for their career, they'll do what they're told.

Some people want to keep alive the old principle of constituency MPs, but it's largely gone. The local branches of the political parties have very little power. When an MP decides to stand down, they will often do so at the last minute, to allow Central Office to parachute one of their pals into a safe seat. We cannot expect the electoral system to compensate for the lack of local democracy in the political parties, and no party is going to surrender its prerogative powers over local branches.

If the aim is to make the House of Commons the most representative of the people of this country, then the best system would be based on party lists, so instead of an individual, you vote for a party. This would be resisted by those who value the access to an MP which is afforded by their role as representative of a particular constituency, but there would be nothing to stop political parties running local 'surgeries' as MPs currently do, and/or nominating particular MPs to cover particular geographic areas. Personally, the loss of a local representative would bother me not at all. My MP does not represent me in any way, and my constituency has no particular identity, it was just drawn on a map.

The trouble with any kind of reform is that it will be done by the main political parties, who will each want to ensure the best deal for themselves. Turkeys rarely vote for Christmas, and they will not want to put in place a system that favours the rise of new political forces. It's far more likely that they will use voter dissatisfaction as a pretext to destroy what's left of the House of Lords, whilst further entrenching themselves in the Commons.


Mark @ Israel said...

Of course, these political parties will always have their interests in mind and they would not allow anyone to grab the power they already hold. So whatever reform will be initiated will still be for the welfare of the political parties and not much for the people. And nothing good comes out of it.

Trooper Thompson said...

"And nothing good comes out of it"

Although the pessimistic view is generally correct, I don't want to abandon all hope!