Sunday, March 07, 2010

Democracy needs Proportional Representation, which needs inter-party cooperation

My decision to withdraw from the General election in Weston has been contentious, although a modest majority of the feedback I have received has been supportive. For me, and I am sure for the local party, it has been incredibly painful, especially the loss of the power to take part in the local electoral debate. Such as it is - three or four hustings, which would cost about £250 apiece for the privilege of participation, hardly a bargain.

There are some who would prefer quietly to bury this story, but this I cannot do. There is a debate to be had, about the iniquity of the archaic First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral scheme. FPTP forces people into tactical voting, and now, in my case, tactical withdrawal.

There is a fear within the Green Party that the LibDems will say to other GP candidates, "Why don't you do like Richard and stand down, to let us defeat the Tory?" The obvious answer to this is is, "No, it's your turn to pull a candidate to our advantage. That way we get a better probability of two MPs who support Proportional Representation (PR)".

If the LDs do try to spin my withdrawal, using it against the GP, I am prepared to reverse the decision. They know this, and so far I have not seen any reports of this. LibDem blogs have mainly just reproduced the Weston Mercury editorial (see the post below).

This decision, painful though it is, might raise the profile of PR in the election.

The "Safe Seat Argument" runs thus: "This is a safe seat, so you are free to use your vote to show support for the Green political principles, which are for Radical Reform of politics, economy and international affairs. It is a very powerful argument, though in the past it has carried a drawback, the corollary of what happens in marginal seats. This has stopped us using it before. Now though we have the above "Your Turn" argument which disposes of that problem.

There is a whole discussion to be had of party politics, and co-operation. We want PR: that necessarily involves inter-party co-operation in Government. It is difficult and dangerous, as we see in Germany and Ireland; so we may as well start practising now. Voters are fed up with party bickering; they should be interested in cooperation.

I am well aware of the deficiencies of LibDems, and their manifold shortcomings in local Government. Not to mention Michael Brown. They also have a list of apparently perverse votes by Green Councillors. We could go for a mudslinging battle? Or would the cooperation story be more positive?

Yes, the LDs are often obnoxious, particularly vicious around elections (is it a kind of PMT?) but that's politics. We chose to get into this game, we have to learn how to play it. Yes, they are growthist &c. We have big policy differences, but we also have common interests, notably PR. And it must be accepted that they are more environment-friendly that the LabCon axis.

There is a history to what happened in Weston. I was elected to Woodspring DC with an arrangement with the libDems. I withdrew from the Parliamentaries in 1997 in favour of the LibDem Brian Cotter, and he won with a margin of votes equivalent to what I used to get. Not all Green votes, but they helped.

Mike Bell the LD will have a tough job on his hands to get a 2% swing, but thngs are volatile, and the FPTP debate, when it opens up here, can help to swing it.  Who knows what damage the Ashcroft affair will do to the Tories? (not a lot, probably, due to the power of the Tory media to suppress information).

This posting may create wrath in some parts of the Green Party, for which I am duly regretful.
I'm going to invoke free speech here. The Green Party does not subscribe to the whip system, even less to the on-message control freakery of NuLabour.

As someone said in a comment, there is more to politics than party politics. Democracy transcends party interests, and let there be no doubt about it: FPTP is a travesty of democracy, and FPTP must go. And to get that, we need inter-party cooperation.  Either that or a General Pause.


Red Green Nick said...

I disagree with your decision, surely if you felt it was best to stand down you should have spoken first to your local party, so they would have the time to (if they disagreed with you)select another candidate. I'd be pleasantly surprised if the Lib Dems don't exploit this situation, I have heard that other Greens in the South West have had pressure to stand down following your withdrawl.

I'm not a purist on never standing down for other parties who are better placed than us in an area, I think Birmingham Greens were right not to stand against Salma Yacoob of Respect and concentrate on other parts of the city for example, there was a serious debate in Birmingham Green Party and they held a ballot to decide.

I'm waiting for conformation to be the first ever Green Party candidate for Kingswood, I will be standing against the very decent Labour MP Roger Berry who to his credit opposed the Iraq war etc...
Like you I'd rather the Tory candidate didn't beat him.

Lets hope they can change our rotten voting system, so nobody is ever put in your position again.

Best wishes


DocRichard said...

Hi Nick
You're right, of course. It came about because I submitted a text for the leaflet right up against the deadline, but decided that the text was inadequate, and phoned the next day to cancel, giving the reason for cancellation my decision to withdraw. I can plead a viral infection that was affecting my judgment, otherwise I could have just canceled the leaflet text and discussed the issue with the local party.

So far the LDs have not exploited, and if they do, we have the "Your Turn" argument, as above.

You say "Lets hope they can change our rotten voting system, so nobody is ever put in your position again." Amen to that. But "they" are not going to change it. MPs voted in by FPTP are bound to consider FPTP to be a brilliant system. "We" have to change it.
La lutte continua.