Reform of the voting system - making your vote matter

April 7, 2016 8:19 PM

Last night the Labour Party voted down a Liberal Democrat motion to support the MakeVotesMatter campaign - although a few of their Councillors broke ranks. Because debate was guillotined, Councillor Peter Breakey for the Liberal Democrats was unable to speak to his motion:

"Council notes that:

the voting system in the forthcoming May local elections will be the same, widely discredited, 'first-past-the post' system, which produced such an unfair result in the 2015 General Election.

Council also notes that:

  • under the current voting system, many thousands of Newcastle people who have voted in recent years for the Conservatives, the Green Party or UKIP have had no members on council who directly represented their views;
  • MakesVotesmatter together with Unlock Democracy and others will be staging a rally in London on May 7th , calling for all voters to be fairly represented in our Parliament and for the establishment of genuine democracy in the UK.

Council resolves to ask the Leader of Council to send a letter of support to MakeVotesmatter and Unlock Democracy, stating that the Council supports their campaign for a fairer voting system and urging them to extend their campaign to the voting system used in local government."

Councillor Peter Leggott would have said : It has long been our view that it is necessary to make a further change to the system to make it more democratic and more logical.

It is highly appropriate for us to discuss this here in the shadow of the monument to Earl Grey, the great Liberal Prime Minister and inspiration behind the so-called Great Reform Act of 1832. Since then we have seen many more extensions to the franchise as we moved towards universal suffrage. You could say that this has now been achieved although there is always scope for further development. There is a case for extending the vote to 16 year olds, but that is another story. What is definitely needed is further reform to ensure that all votes are equal, which is certainly not the case with our "first past the post" system which inevitably distorts the democratic decisions of the electorate.
It is a shame that the referendum after the 2010 general election did not lead to electoral reform although the system on offer, the Alternative Vote, was something of a compromise. But we must not let this be the end of the story. I can't guarantee that voting reform would, in itself, lead to better government but I do know that a system embracing some aspect of Proportional Representation will bring more fairness and greater democracy to the system as it will more clearly reflect the views of the electorate. Can this be a bad thing?"
Councillor Robin Ashby would have said : I'm pleased to be able to support the two Peters, both of whom are retiring at this election and both of whom show through this motion that they retain their Liberal instincts.

2015 in Scotland showed what happens with first past the post voting in a multi party democracy. With 50% of the votes, the SNP grabbed 56 out of 59 seats - 40 from Labour, 10 from the Lib Dems. One Labour, one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat represent half of everyone who voted. It also shows all too clearly what would happen if the SNP wins independence, perhaps after a LEAVE vote in the European referendum. Even without the coming boundary changes, the Tories' majority becomes nearly 70

Potentially Labour would never again be able to form a majority Government where English - and particularly southern English - votes predominate.

The European elections show the partial result of some sort of proportional representation. Greens and UKIP, with only one MP each in Westminster but many more in Brussels, Irish and Welsh parties, all have MEPs, as well of course as the 4 parties who cover the whole of Britain. You might not agree with their opinions - I don't - but enough people do to justify their inclusion.

In his analysis of Labour's 2010 defeat "Southern discomfort revisited" Giles Radice, the former MP for North West Durham opined that : "the public appreciate politicians who are prepared to work together in the national interest….. The referendum on the Alternative Vote for the House of Commons ought to be wholeheartedly supported by the party…... New ways must be found of doing politics differently."

I wish the two Peters well, extend the thanks hopefully of the whole Council to them for their service, and suggest that for once self interest and the national interest coincide, and so urge you to support the motion