Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Past the Post has Got to Go!

Picture of how they do it in Iran. Couldn't happen here.

The ancient First Past the Post (FPTP)  system used by the UK and a rump of its ex-colonies is totally inadequate to serve the needs of a modern democracy, and it has got to go.

We the people cannot rely on Parliament to do the job for us, for the obvious reason that any Parliament elected by FPTP is going to regard it as a thoroughly sound and appropriate way of going about thing, don't y'know?

It is impossible to get political parties who agree that FPTP is a steaming heap of dingoes' kidneys  to collaborate or cooperate in helping each other, because political parties are obliged to compete against each other in absolute terms. By virtue of the fact that they are operating under FPTP. Duh.

Therefore electoral change must come about by extra-Parliamentary action. There are several civil society organisations already on the case. Here's 5 off the top of my head:
Make my Vote Count - the Campaign for Real Democracy.
Unlock Democracy.
The Electoral Reform Society. 
Power 2010
Vote for a Change
Please post any others you know about in the comments.
I am told they do talk to each other. Good. *

Some of these organisations have been around for a long time, which shows that MPs are adept at ignoring them. (see above). One of the problems is that the media, even those parts of it that have a remit to educate and inform, are not up to the job of educating and informing the public about electoral reform. Even though it can be done in 800 words.

So we, the people, have to do it ourselves. Here are the various options:
  1. Violent bloody revolution. Not good, this one always ends in tears.
  2. Non violent civil disobedience campaigns, such as a demonstration in Parliament Square that ends when the people's demands are met, rather when Big Ben says it is 5 p.m. and we all go for a nice cup of tea.

    Hey hey hey, ho ho ho!
    First Past the Post has got to go!

    Promising, but the popular motivation is not there yet. Still, we could get going with an ordinary demo and take it from there.

  3. A General Pause. The beauty of this is that it could be associated with all manner of causes, so that people who are against FPTP could exchange ideas with people who are against Global Warming, the Corporations, the Corporate Media, the Pesticide Industry and so on. This is promising, but it needs more adherents than the present number (two).

  4. Self-immolation. The media like this kind of thing, but the drawback is that it is rather painful, causes CO2 emissions, it requires an unusually high level of motivation. It is also a bit of a middle-class thing, since it requires enough money to purchase a can of petrol and a box of matches, which many working class people are unable to afford. Though they could steal the petrol and borrow a match, I suppose. The other drawback is that it can only be done once.

  5. Complain about FPTP when Casting your Vote. Now this one I do like. It does not require high levels of motivation, just the average sense of dissatisfaction felt by most people about most things. It costs nothing, is not illegal (afaik) and would be highly effective if enough people do it. In fact it is such a good idea (it came to me last night) that I am going to give it a blog all to itself. 

*[Update june 10th:
My thanks to the ever-reliable David Smith for this update on voting reform societies:
- Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has existed for over 100 years and is largely funded from the wholly owned subsidiary 'Ballot Services' (I forget its current official name) which conducts ballots for clients under any system.
-Make Votes Count is a coalition (currently inactive) was set up by and bankrolled by ERS to campaign for the Jenkins system AV+ .  Make Votes Count  though it has been bankrolled by ERS, which inter alia provided free office accommodation. i.e. it cannot function without ERS support.
-Vote for a Change was also set up by ERS and is being bankrolled by them
-Unlock Democracy is the successor organisation to Charter 88 which was very effective in the run up to the 1997 election, and the New Politics Network. Unlock Democracy seems not to be interested in cooperating with local campaigning groups like Fair Votes for Dorset. They don't return phone calls or emails."
- The Power 2010 campaign - funded mostly by Joseph Rowntree - initially the charitable trust and now the Reform trust has been BRILLIANT. It has got the public to define our favourite reforms (voting reform top) and has organised most of the demos in the run up to the election, using the colour purple. If any organisation has got people engaged both online and on the ground it is Power 2010. The funding has now been drastically reduced. Currently one or two of its staff are running the 'Take Back Parliament' (TBP) coalition which includes all of the above plus  a number of other organisations such as Greenpeace, FoE, Fawcett Society, Compass, New Economics Foundation... TBC continues to use the colour purple and should the first point of contact for anyone wishing to campaign. Serious campaigners should also join/engage with ERS.
One action that all campaigners should take in every public election from now on is to put their completed preference voting (AV) ballot paper in the ballot box along with the official ballot paper. Linda and I did it this time and it wasn't reported but if 1000 people did it in each constituency/local authority area?


    bsk said...

    Hi Doc, you said "I wonder if they talk to each other?". They most certainly do. I worked for Democratic Left, which eventually became UnlockDemocracy, at the time they set up Make My Votes Count with the ERS, Charter88 & others. It was, and still is, all very incestuous (in a good sense of the word).

    DocRichard said...

    Thanks for that encouraging information. I hope they are planning to hold a big pro-demcracy demonstration in the run-up to the General Election? In Parliament Square? Bring sleeping bags and Thermos?

    Mark said...

    What's really shameful is that, if I remember correctly, even Afghanistan has a better electoral system than us. (as in they don't use FPTP.)

    DocRichard said...

    Us, and 3 ex-colonies (which includes the USA). Doh.