Author Archives: Katie Ghose

The Independent View: Let’s make 2015 the last ever lottery election

Who could have predicted it? Who would have thought that four years after the Alternative Vote was firmly rejected by voters in a national referendum, we would be approaching the 2015 general election with First Past the Post at Westminster under serious scrutiny? Or that local electoral reform could be a realistic outcome of power-sharing talks between Liberal Democrats and one or other of the major parties (provided Lib Dems make it a ‘red-line’ issue)?

What are the game-changers? Firstly, FPTP’s supposed ability to deliver clear majority government was justification enough for many to put up with the obvious lack of proportionality.  That no longer applies. As The Economist says: “Unaccustomed and ill-adapted to multi-party politics, Britain is more likely to get weak, unstable governments. That will only fuel the dissatisfaction with career politicians in the main parties. And if the parliamentary system comes to be seen as both unfair and ineffectual, then it is in for a crisis of legitimacy.”

With FPTP stripped of its main justification, other arguments are also coming to the fore. In The Lottery Election, published last month by the Electoral Reform Society, Professor John Curtice argues that relatively small shifts in opinion could have massive effects at the Westminster level. Meanwhile, UKIP could come 6th in seats but 3rd in votes, and SNP could come 6th in votes but 3rd in seats. So far, so unfair.

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Tagged , and | 25 Comments

The Independent View: Direct democracy in Wales

The idea of recall caught Welsh media attention on Monday, when Kirsty Williams, Welsh Lib Dem leader, made the case for this form of direct democracy to apply to Assembly Members if 20% of local voters signed a petition.

Direct democratic methods such as recall, referendums and petitions are increasingly popular, especially among those who least trust politicians. For many of these citizens, taking control into their own hands is preferable to either creating more politicians (mayors; assemblies) or giving the existing crop more powers. So as Westminster continues to debate a (limited) form of recall, it makes sense for Wales to consider similar measures. After all, Wales suffers a similar disconnect from formal party politics as other parts of UK and actually has the lowest turnout in any devolved elections. Kirsty Williams’ model is an improvement on the current proposal before Westminster, which puts the recall trigger in politicians’ rather than citizens’ hands.

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The Independent View: Constitutional reform is back in fashion

ERS logoFor so long, those who care passionately about political reform have been told there are more important things to worry about – that tax, welfare and housing will always take precedence over the constitution and questions of process.

The Scottish independence referendum has almost put an end to that kind of talk. As the Liberal Democrats have always known, politics and the constitution fundamentally shape the collective decisions we make, and are therefore of the utmost importance. The referendum also undermined the old put-down that no one cares about constitutional reform. Try telling that to the 97% of Scots who registered to vote, or the 85% who went to the polls. When the stakes are high enough, people will get involved.

Posted in The Independent View | Tagged and | 3 Comments
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