Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Some thoughts on UK politics and electoral reform

This is in response to some comments posted yesterday by a friend on Twitter. She was moaning about how all the Greens seem to do is go on about PR though she did admit she likes Caroline Lucas. I pointed out the unfair situation with the First Past The Post voting system (FPTP) whereby in 2015 the SNP got 1.4m votes and 56 seats whereas The Green Party got 1.1m votes but only 1 seat in the House of Commons and this was her reply...

"UKIP changed the country with one seat. There's more to politics than seats."

Rather than continue on Twitter, with the limit on how much you can type, I decided to post my reply here...

And now UKIP has no seats in Westminster and they only have one council seat* so they have been reduced to little more than a one issue pressure group. But because of Brexit they still get alot of press coverage and are invited on to shows like Question Time on the BBC. So you are right - for UKIP, seats in Parliament don't matter as since the EU referendum they are still regularly in the news. But that's also because Brexit goes beyond party lines. There will have been voters from all parties who voted to leave the EU, not just Tories and UKippers.

While I am no fan of their policies the fact that UKIP got 600K votes at this year's General Election but have no seats in the House of Commons is bad for democracy. But it suits Labour and the Tories to have as few Green and UKIP MPs as possible and they achieve this by continuing to support FPTP.

But arguably it lost Labour the 2015 election. Why? Because in Scotland, despite the SNP only getting 50% of the vote, they won all the seats apart from three - one each to Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems. Corbyn needs those Scottish seats to win a General Election. The Greens are now pretty much a minor distraction in national elections. We had hoped to add to our one seat, or at least come a good second in a few constituencies, but that did not happen. But we have 40 council seats* and this is where we can make a difference and push councils to be greener.

Caroline Lucas does the best she can to push environmental issues in parliament but she is just one voice out of 650 seats. Most of the time she can be ignored with the main parties just paying lip service to green issues. But the environment should be central to our political system - it is the basis of life on earth. It is the air we breathe, the land we live on and grow food on, the water we need to survive but we use and abuse it putting profit above all else which is deeply depressing.

Of course, people of all political colours care about the environment especially here in Lancashire where there is great alarm especially among rural communities about the government pushing ahead with fracking. Even Tory politicians are speaking out against it here though that may be because they sense the public mood and fear they will lose votes if they are seen to support the shale gas industry.

Given the choice I would obviously prefer to see a Labour victory at the next election rather than more Tory-led austerity and I sincerely hope that if Corbyn is our next Prime Minister he stops fracking and adopts more environmentally-friendly policies.

The reason that was always given in the past for not changing from the First Part The Post voting system was that PR leads to hung parliaments. Well, we've had 2 hung parliaments out of the last 3 general elections. We need a new voting system, such as the one used in the Holyrood elections.

Colin Bertram

The above are my own personal views and not necessarily those of the Green Party of England and Wales of which I am a member.

* These were the figures after the seats contested in the 2017 local elections but the total number of councillors in the UK are UKIP - 438 and Green Party - 175 according to Wikipedia.

1 comment:

  1. I had an interesting discussion on Facebook yesterday about fracking with an SNP supporter (it started out as a bit of a tiff until he realised I was anti-Fracking... oh, and a Scot!)
    I told him that, if I was living in Scotland, I would be torn between SNP and Green. He said that he voted SNP and Green, as they get two votes.
    Seeing how well the Holyrood system works, surely it is time we had a change to our archaic fptp system?