Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Of Democracy, Fairness and Labour

Democracy...power from the people. It's a simple concept yet one that is interpreted in enough different ways that some are losing sight of what democracy actually means.

@Aaronk28: @Niaccurshi in true democracy people vote for who they want elected 2nd choice 3rd choice etc should be irrelevant #no2av

A true democracy can not be so simple, surely? Their first preference alone stating their wishes, and to hell with their fuller and more rounded opinion? If democracy is truly "of the people" then my feelings are FPTP falls at the first hurdle to achieving such a status. Just because people participate in a vote does not mean that they have bestowed power. In a majority of constituencies more than half of the voters participate but don't deliver more than that participation.

Be under no illusion, a "worthy" and "correct" winner in a single constituency system is the one that has the greatest overall support. This isn't the greatest initial support, nor is it the "least worst" candidate...it is the prospective MP that the largest number of people would like to see represent them. The truly most popular.

In this sense a "true democracy" is much closer to AV than to FPTP, where everyone's views are taken on balance, where even if you are a supporter of an MP outside the top two contenders, you still have the right to say who you would prefer out of those two remaining. This isn't "unfair" as some may say, nor is it people getting a second bite of the cherry (in fact everyone gets another bite at every round), this is true fairness.

After all, what is fair about MPs currently elected with less than 50% of the vote, when the constituency is more than 50% against them? I don't mean this in a simplistic "If the MP didn't get 50% then they are unpopular", the reality is that in the information-less system that is FPTP we don't know if they are the most popular overall or not. What I mean is that if that MP is a left wing MP, elected on say 40% of the vote, but the constituency is 60% right wing...then how is it fair that constituency has to be represented by a left wing MP? Or vice versa?

I support AV, despite preferring more proportional voting systems, because it gives every person in a constituency an equal voice, and a louder voice. I support it because it leads to more representative constituencies and therefore a more representative (though not necessarily proportional...no single member constituency system can be proportional) parliament. I support it regardless of whether it delivers landslide majorities for ANY party, or leads us to coalitions...because this is ACTUALLY democracy, getting what we have asked for.

But saying this...I have to look to reality and ask...what are the Labour No camp thinking? Do they prefer opposition? Would they rather remain out of government? Labour No seem to want to seal their fate as struggling back to power, if they can make it back there at all.

Look at the figures. A party (the Lib Dems) that was on high mid 20% shares leading up to the election are now slumped at ~10%, losing easily 50% of their support (for now) as a result of the more right wing nature of the government. As one of those 10% that would likely still vote Lib Dem I can still say that despite current situations I am hopeful of a return to the actual party policy which is fundamentally more left wing, should they have the opportunity to get away from the Tories. I would be amazed if I were in a minority in that view.

Under AV it feels like a guarantee that in many conservative constituencies Labour would clean up thanks to second preferences from Lib Dem supporters. In other Tory constituencies Lib Dems may end up taking the vote under AV from Labour second preferences...the net result is still more Labour seats, and less Tory ones. Labour No seem to want to throw this potential win away, as well as to leave the more left-leaning in this country potentially less well represented. It's just confusing!

As a Lib Dem voter last time around, and likely again in 2015, I hope that this country can be more representative, even if that means the Lib Dems lose seats...even if it meant a higher Tory share. I care about "true democracy" and "fairness" over and above any tribal political instincts, and that leads me to question (as I have been for a while) exactly what the motives are of those that intend to vote No in May. Tories I can at least understand, fearing that their (in my opinion) fake "majority" may fall if people are given a greater voice...Labour, less so.

Answers on a postcard?