I am not a Liberal Democrat who is going to apologise on the doorstep for the Coalition. I think it was the best situation that could have transpired.
The Conservatives are not the party they were in the 1980s; they have a leader who is clearly much more in the centre-ground of politics, and his and Nick’s personal chemistry certainly attest to a political dovetailing as well. You need look no further than the disquiet about Cameron and the coalition coming from the traditional right-wing elements of the party, and the brewing arguments over defence spending to see that Cameron’s Conservatives are a different breed.
Our parties share the same ideas about Localism and Civil Liberties, and I am sure that this Parliament will see new and revolutionary action being taken on these issues and that this will prove to be the major legacy of the next five years.
What I cannot understand about these modern Tories then, is their refusal to contemplate voting reform.
The facts speak for themselves : it’s time to change the system to combat apathy and make things fairer. At the previous election Tony Blair was elected on 36% of the vote, and the fact that this year’s election resulted in a Coalition tells sensible people that there is change in the air. Voters no longer necessarily want the traditional colour scheme of red and blue.
Baroness Warsi was on the Daily Politics show this week defending her interview to the New Statesman. In it she stated that there were three MPs sitting in the House that had got there as a result of electoral fraud.
She refused to go into any of the specifics, but instead stated repeatedly that trust needed to restored in the political system. Yet, of course, she stated her opposition to the AV system.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so grating if the ‘Big Society’ wasn’t as loudly trumpeted as it is by the Conservatives and by Baroness Warsi in particular. It is rank hypocrisy to shout on one hand that trust in politicians needs to be restored, that communities should be revived and people should be given power at a local level, and on the other to defend an archaic and indefensible voting system.
How will people be motivated to become politicised if they see that their votes are being wasted? If they know that they cannot get rid of the MP that has represented them for fifty years, and could go on for fifty years more if they managed to live that long.
Surely if you promote localism and decentralisation, and encourage people to take decisions at a local level, but don’t at the same time make Westminster politics more accessible and accountable there is the risk of isolating politicians still further from communities.
Its not just about making the system fairer, it is also about making politicians more accountable and involved. Liberal Democrat candidates and MPs are used to the campaign trail: used to fighting hard for their seats because of the electoral disadvantage that they are at, and have a record of being strong constituency representatives.
A truly ‘Big Society’ needs an open, accountable and honest political system. While Cameron lets the Conservative party adhere to its instinct to cling to first past the post, the image of remote MPs smoking cigars and swigging whisky in a Whitehall Gentleman’s club is not dead. But the Big Society will be.