Saturday, March 24, 2007

Shaking up politics

Friday: Well, that was the ironic subtitle of the session on democracy and localisation in which one, two, three, FOUR people fell asleep simultaneously... and snored! How the poor speakers coped with the gurgling, moaning sounds of the sleepers coupled with the rather childish giggling going on round the room I'll never know. Well done them.

It wasn't as if it was a particularly boring session or anything and both speakers from Make Votes Count gave strong, workmanlike talks, although, if I were to criticise them, they probably did speak for too long and not leave enough time for a good debate which I expect contributed to the soporific effects of the session.

I found the session particularly interesting, what with my interest in democratic systems, and the effects of the two tier system that they use in Wales and Scotland (a kind of partial PR) that lead to tensions between the First Past The Pot AMs and the list AMs seems to be something that rarely, if ever, discused.

What surprised me was that even the Tory Party in Wales now call for electoral reform of local government, obviously there experience of the Welsh Assembly has not been a bad as they had feared. Goodness, even dinosaurs can change.

Interestingly, parties like the Lib Dems who have a formal commitment to PR seem to forget this whenever they find themselves in a position of power due to FPTP elections, like in Cambridge, and you'll be hard pressed to find a Lib Dem advocate of local reform.

One of the things the sleep club could really have done with, which the lack of discussion probably contributed to was actual content to the political discussion. For instance the speakers mentioned the effect on turnout without discussing the context of three party consensus. Welsh Assembly elections may still have poor turn out but no matter what the system we're still voting for the same old grey parties.

One core argument against a more proportional system is that far right parties will make gains under this kind of system, but actually I think the reverse is true. Where have the BNP made the majority of their gains? In areas where the Labour Party has had an unassailable majority and so the voters have been taken for granted. Sometimes the BNP are the first party to be seen in an area for twenty years.

With a system that meant the parties actually had to have the support of the electorate everywhere perhaps large numbers would not feel so disenfranchised. Perhaps the main parties wuld also begin to pay a little more attention to working class people rather than their bosses. We live in hope.

This seems an important point to me anyway. Otherwise its just about statistics not the passion to fundamentally change society, making it more democratic, our institutions more representative and to shift away from the dirty and dangerous political system we have iin the UK at present - one that even the EU is investigating so disturbed are they by the way its currently operating.


Xhris said...

OK, I admit, I was one of the sniggerers in that fringe. Totally bizarre. I think I counted 5 sleepers at one stage.

A shame really, as that was one of the more interesting fringes I attended, and I know it had been arranged as a response to some members writing to them to ask "why are you at all the other party conferences but not ours?"

Jim Jay said...

Yes, it was a good fringe... I blame heavy lunches...