“Fairness” is undoubtedly a key theme of this UK general election, but so far it’s been largely focused on issues of taxation – whether that be the LibDems’ proposals to raise tax allowances, so that no-one pays any tax on earnings below £10,000, or the arguments that have been raging over Labour’s proposed hike of National Insurance contributions (Labour argue it’s fairer to focus on a tax on people who are in work, rather than other forms of taxation that would hit pensioners too).
But when is all this talk of “fairness” going to be extended to the fundamental issue of electoral reform – the one issue that, more than any other, can address voter apathy and the general disillusionment with our politics by enhancing the feeling that every vote actually counts and results in a parliament that is actually a much fairer reflection of society’s political leanings?
Not that I set a great deal of store by these prime ministerial debates (overly dominated, as yesterday’s was by saccharine anecdotes, rather than any real policy content), but it’s interesting that the consensus view appears to be that Nick Clegg of the LibDems came out on top. Ditto his right-hand man, Vince Cable, in the earlier chancellors’ debate.Yet, despite a 2-and-0 record for the top two posts in government, no-one would believe for a second that the LibDems might form the next one.
In an election that both major parties are seeking to reduce to a simple binary choice – the Tories by making it a referendum on Gordon Brown’s leadership, Labour by painting Tory policies as an unacceptable risk to the recovery – the conventional wisdom remains that a vote for the LibDems is a wasted one. And, guess what – regardless of how people are naturally politically inclined, under our current first-past-the-post voting system, that tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What do I really want as a voter right now?
- I want to be able to register my vote freely, according to my beliefs, safe in the knowledge that my vote will count in deciding the overall make-up of the next parliament.
- I also want to ensure that my local MP is directly answerable to me, and to select my MP on the basis of how well I believe they’ll represent the views of their constituents.
- Ideally, I’d like to be able to completely disaggregate individual MPs from their parties’ political agenda, meaning that I can better achieve 2. without compromising 1.
Funnily enough, that’s exactly what Germany’s two-vote system achieves. The bitter irony? That this electoral system should have been influenced (at least in part) by the Brits and other allies following the Second World War, with their idea for the creation of the Grundgesetz (Basic Law).
Considering our current political malaise, the phrase “physician heal thyself” rather springs to mind!