Tag Archives: Green party

Forget Brexit. First, we need to stop the Tories and deliver Proportional Representation

More than anything right now we need to prevent the Tories negotiating our EU exit, and make sure every vote counts in future elections. A progressive alliance is the only way to deliver that

The great Brexit referendum indicated only one thing, and it definitely wasn’t that a well informed population overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU based on a considered examination of the evidence, the risks and opportunities, or on the opinion of experts. No, the only thing the referendum result really told us was that a large proportion of the public feel their vote doesn’t count – or at least that it doesn’t count in a normal general election.

The turnout in this referendum was 72.2%, higher than any general election since 1992, almost a quarter of a century ago. Clearly, with a nationwide yes/no vote, which didn’t respect arbitrary constituency or national boundaries, many people felt their vote actually counted this time and made the effort on a miserable day to get to the polling station and have their say.

On the flip side, we’ve seen substantial ‘regrexit‘ following the result – people who voted leave as a protest vote, because they didn’t think it would count and are now regretting it. These are people who have turned out to vote in the past, but it never seems to go their way, so voting is devalued in their mind.

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Both of these problems are caused because we have a First Past The Post electoral system for our general elections in the UK, which only 45 of 237 other countries use. This system means that in each constituency, the winner takes all, and that winner then heads off to parliament. The majority of MPs from a single party can then form a government, which seems to have almost complete control. The 2015 election was the most disproportionate in history, and the Electoral Reform Society produced an in-depth report into the problems with the system.

When you think about it, it’s clear to see why people feel their vote is wasted. With a winner takes all system, all votes for other parties count for nothing. Although that’s bad news for those who voted for the losers, it’s great for those who backed the winner, right? Well, not really. Once a candidate has more votes than anyone else, they win. It doesn’t matter if the winning candidate got a majority of 10,000 or 1, they still won, and those extra votes don’t count towards the national picture. These wasted votes accounted for 74.4% of all votes cast in the 2015 general election. It’s no surprise people feel their vote doesn’t count, when statistically three quarters of the time it really doesn’t.

So what’s the alternative? Proportional Representation is an electoral system where all votes count towards the national result. There are many different varieties of PR, and some alternatives that aren’t exactly proportional, but are pretty close.

One argument against PR is that it is not as likely to produce majority governments. However, coalitions work in other countries. Politicians have to work together, instead of brazenly steamrolling through policies. People like to see this, because they are sick and tired of the playground politics we see in Westminster. If you want to get things done under PR, you need to have an adult debate.

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Another problem with PR is that you don’t get to vote for a real person who works hard in your area and will represent your area locally. For this reason, the Green Party advocates Alternative Vote Plus, a system where you vote for a local candidate just like FPTP, but then the number of MPs from each region gets topped up to make the result more proportional. Although this system is easy to understand as the ballot paper doesn’t change, it may mean people don’t realise their vote always counts whoever they vote for. Substantial public education would be required to make them aware.

The problem has been that neither the Conservatives nor Labour want to support PR, as it means they will lose MPs. The two party system works quite well for them. However, what we have seen following Brexit is a major crisis in the establishment, and the potential breakup of both main parties – the Conservatives divided over Europe, and Labour divided over whether it wants to be a right or left wing party, and if left, who will lead it. This means that were there to be a snap general election – which surely is the only way Brexit can be negotiated in a democracy – then both parties are looking quite vulnerable.

The Conservatives however are a very top down, whipped party that sticks together through thick and thin because the leader knows best and divided they would lose. They won the general election, so they aren’t in such a vulnerable position. Labour, on the other hand, is. The ongoing coup is evidence of that. Its voter base is disillusioned and voters are heading to UKIP. And with First Past the Post, we’re not likely to see any other parties taking the lead as the opposition any time soon.

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The only way for left wing parties in this country to win, perhaps in the next decade, is to unite. The Green Party has today called on Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru to come together and form a progressive alliance. It’s possible this might also include the SNP. This would solidify the lead in many constituencies and leave the rest of the vote split between The Conservatives and UKIP. A progressive alliance with the combined support of all their party members would be very likely to win a majority in government.

What would that alliance look like, so it works for all parties? The most effective way to do it is only one party standing in each constituency, possibly rebranded under the ‘progressive alliance’, so long held loyalties and grievances would not be demonstrated so clearly in the polling booth.

Then, let’s start as we mean to go on – make it proportional. There are 632 seats in Scotland, England and Wales. Based on the last election, if the progressive alliance won all 632 seats, this is how many each of the potential member parties would have gained:

Party 2015 votes Percentage of ‘alliance’ votes Proportional number of seats
Labour 9347304 64.21% 406
Lib Dems 2415862 16.60% 105
SNP 1454436 9.99% 63
Greens 1157613 7.95% 50
Plaid Cymru 181704 1.25% 8

There will need to be some significant adjustments to this to keep everyone happy and make it realistic. Scotland is entirely held by SNP, so it might be a good idea to let them keep their seats to get them on board, because right now they don’t have much reason to be – FPTP is working well for them, and they want independence anyway. Plaid Cymru deserves a larger presence in Wales, currently they have three seats, and it might make sense to give them another. It’s unlikely that the Greens have enough support to win in 52 constituencies, but they did very well nationwide so it might be a good idea to give them all the seats where they came second – another three seats in addition to Brighton. The same might also be a good move for the Lib Dems. Careful decisions would need to be made about marginal constituencies, and more effort put into those areas. The details would take some time to be hashed out, but starting out by making it proportional would put us on a good footing.

It’s important that this is also sold to members and the general public. Local parties that have been fighting against each other for decades would need to campaign together in order to win. Labour would need to learn some humility and put its large member base to work behind other parties in some constituencies. It’s important to remember the bigger long term picture: this is the only way we can all stop the common enemies – the Conservatives and UKIP – from being in the driving seat of our EU negotiations, and deliver proportional representation, which means the progressive alliance won’t ever be needed again.

This is a vision for parties with roughly compatible ideologies working together to make elections fairer and undertake a truly inclusive EU negotiation (yes, UKIP and Conservatives too). That’s what politics in the 21st century should be about.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Number 10 via Flickr

Vote Leave signs: Bob Harvey via Geograph

House of Commons: UK Parliament via Flickr

Jeremy Corbyn: 70023venus2009 via Flickr

A democracy controlled by a minority

“This isn’t what we voted for” – this statement is perhaps more relevant now than when we made it our tagline last year. While we now have a majority Conservative government, one with free licence to carry out the regressive policies in its manifesto unimpeded, the vast majority of the population did not vote for this. Only 36.9% of the vote was for the Conservative party, equating to 24.4% of the population eligible to vote. Across all seats, approximately 63% of all votes were discarded, counting for nothing, thanks to our winner-takes-all ‘first past the post’ electoral system. Even worse, it is said that only about 200,000 votes in marginal constituencies swung it (you can even calculate the value of your vote). Continue reading

The biggest loser in this election? Our broken democracy

Watching the count results come in and listening to the speeches in the early hours of this morning, something quite odd happened – UKIP found common ground with the Green Party. As Douglas Carswell pointed out in his winning speech for UKIP’s only seat, almost 5 million people will have voted for either UKIP or the Green Party in this election, but that only translated into 2 MPs. Under a proportional representation system, that would instead result in many more MPs than SNP has achieved in Scotland.

That failure to translate those 5m votes into seats is less a translation of how my party or the Green party campaigned. Rather, it tells us how dysfunctional our political system has now become. Approximately four times more people voted either for the Greens or for Ukip than the SNP, yet the SNP is expected to get many more times the representation.

Douglas Carswell

As Andrew Marr pointed out, electoral reform has traditionally been a left-wing issue, but after tonight’s result it is set to become an issue for both sides of the political spectrum. While more UKIP MPs could be very negative for our political discourse, in the longer term a move towards a proportional representation system would undoubtedly be beneficial for our democracy, because the first past the post system is proving disastrous – voting to keep another party out, voting to maintain the union, voting to devolve from the union, an SNP landslide disregarding all ~50% votes for other parties, and the votes of the majority of the country being discarded in the name of a ‘strong government’ – a concept we are growing used to doing without.

Why voting for a small party is not a wasted vote

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen all the news outlets pick their sides. Many of the establishment rags have gone with the Conservatives, for obvious reasons. The Express has backed UKIP, failing to see the irony in donating £1.3m to the party while still declaring it a ‘people’s army’. Perhaps more interestingly are the typically ‘left-leaning’ or independent voices. The Guardian and Russell Brand have chosen to back Labour, the general view being that we are better fighting Labour to make them do the right thing than watch our country be ruined by those bloody blue ones. The Independent has made the mistake of not being independent, and published an editorial calling for a repeat of the Tory-Liberal coalition, much to the distaste of its readership (but it’s perhaps no surprise from a newspaper owned by one rich individual).

I could sympathise with the view that it’s better to vote for Labour to keep the Tories out if I had any faith that the Labour leadership would seek to reverse the damage done to our country already and introduce positive changes. The fact is, 2015 Labour is very similar to the Conservatives. While there are many individuals in the party who undoubtedly have the best interests of our country at heart, the party on the whole is entangled with industry and the establishment.

Continue reading

A new story

Adam Curtis’s documentary ‘Bitter Lake‘ was released on iPlayer on Sunday 25th Jan – some have questioned why it has only been released on the BBC’s online streaming service, suggesting it may be “too dangerous for TV”. The documentary explores the history of the Middle East in the last century, focusing on Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. It tells quite a different version of history than the one told to us by politicians and the media, where the West is ‘good’ and we have to fight the ‘bad guys’. The documentary, after spelling out how comprehensively we have inflamed the situation in Afghanistan by fighting everyone, concludes we need to find a different story now, because ‘good vs evil’ just isn’t cutting it.

I believe we are finding that story. Continue reading

The TTIP of the iceberg

Another great episode of the Trews from Brand with George Monbiot.  TTIP, or the ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’, is a trade agreement between the United States and European Union which could be finalised before the end of 2014.  It seeks to reduce regulation on corporations to a common set of regulations, and increases their power by creating a system of parallel courts run by trade lawyers which will sue governments for any action or regulation that limits their profitability.  These trade agreements put the corporation’s rights outside the control of the UK, outside the control of the EU, and with no accountability to the citizens of the countries involved.  Particularly concerning is the ‘harmonisation’ of food standards and health services with the US, which has much lower standards of both than the UK.  Oh, and once we have signed up, we can’t back out.

Sounds crazy right?!  That’s shamocracy.

Read/watch more

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html

Take action

Sign the petition, almost at its target of 1 million signatures

Contact your MP and MEP

Join/vote for the Green party who have been at the forefront of the fight against TTIP and are the only major UK party to have a clear stance against it

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Include the Green Party in the TV Leaders’ Debates

GPLogoWorldGreenForWebIt says something about the state of our media that this has to be petitioned for.  Why should the green party not be included in these debates?  The media coverage UKIP have enjoyed recently is very disproportionate; before October 2014 they never had an elected MP.  The Green Party has had
an MP since 2010.  It’s not surprising though when 52% of the press is owned by two right-wing billionaires and newspaper coverage is becoming increasingly partisan with 71% of the newspaper readership being told to vote conservative in the 2010 election.