Author Archives: Matt McLaren

We MUST stop using the language of votes “not counting” and “wasted votes”

As Liberal Democrats we all care about electoral reform. Nevertheless, we really don’t make a strong case for it by saying that people’s votes in safe seats “don’t count” or that we have untold “wasted votes“. That is of course one way to look at it, but completely ignores the reality that any electoral system will have people who vote for candidates or parties which aren’t then represented – even with Proportional Representation (PR), such as those voting for parties which achieve less than 5%.

More fundamentally, even under the current First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system every vote counts (and I’d be the first to take to the streets if it didn’t) since every vote is literally counted to see which candidate has the most (such an act is, of necessity, a comparison and involves weighing every pile of votes against every other). By talking about wasted votes we are conflating voting at all with voting for the winner – a specious argument since the very idea of electing someone (again, of necessity) means choosing between competing candidates and therefore having both winners and losers.

That is not to say that FPTP is a good system, it isn’t! Outside the United States (which is an exclusively two party polity in a way the UK hasn’t been for decades, a presidential system, and otherwise not a democracy we should wish to emulate for a whole host of reasons) almost no liberal democracy in the world still uses FPTP – certainly no other in Europe. But in making the case for reform we should rely on and encourage voters’ innate sense of fairness when presented with the facts of the result, rather than a present a questionable interpretation of their role in democracy as it stands.

As such, it would be far better to focus on the HUGE disparity between the numbers of votes cast for different parties and the MPs these actually elected (i.e. in 2019 ~26,000 for an SNP MP vs ~51,000 for a Labour MP and a staggering ~335,000 for a Lib Dem MP). Add this point to the threat to democracy manifested by any party which gains only a MINORITY of votes thereby acquiring absolute power by having a MAJORITY of MPs, with no checks on that power save a weak House of Lords (presenting examples such as Blair taking us to war in Iraq despite the public being overwhelmingly against it, or Thatcher introducing the poll tax, or Boris delivering a devastating no deal Brexit, if that goes on to happen) and you have a very powerful argument for reform.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Opinion: What’s going on in Brussels? Nominations to the European Commission

Charlemagne is back in EuropeFollowing on from my post last week on post-election developments in Brussels, here’s the second of two updates. Whilst yesterday’s focused on developments concerning the formation of political groups in the Parliament itself, today’s will address issues regarding nominations to the European Commission.

It now looks likely that at its meeting later this week (from 26th to 27th June), the European Council (made up of the Heads of Government from all 28 EU countries) will nominate the Parliament’s preferred candidate for the …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 26 Comments

Opinion: What’s going on in Brussels? Political groupings in the European Parliament

European Parliament chamber, StrasbourgFollowing on from my post last week on post-election developments in Brussels, here’s the first of two updates. Today’s will focus on developments concerning the formation of political groups in the Parliament itself whilst tomorrow’s will address issues regarding nominations to the European Commission.

Political parties have until tomorrow, June 24th to form their European Parliamentary groups. In order to qualify as a group, you not only need at least 25 MEPs but these must be drawn from at least 7 EU countries represented in the Parliament.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

What’s going on in the European Parliament this week?

European FlagDebates between the political parties in the European Parliament to form the all-important political groups, on which depends importance Committee places and speaking rights, continue in Brussels this week.

The Alliance of Liberals & Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group, in which the UK’s Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder sits, is continuing negotiations with liberal-minded parties either newly elected to the European Parliament or no longer content with their existing groups.

It is now unlikely that ALDE will remain the third largest group in Strasbourg-based Parliament as the European Conservatives

Posted in News | Tagged and | 14 Comments

The European Election – Fighting an Integrated Campaign

European Union flagIn a speech earlier this month Nick Clegg detailed just how crucial the European Union is for prospects of a stronger economy and a fairer society here in Britain (you can read the full text of his speech here).

The Liberal Democrats’ success in the European Election is thus hugely important in making sure the EU lives up to its potential in contributing to that combination of increased economic strength and greater social fairness that we are uniquely in a position to deliver. The election is also significant from a political perspective, with the party’s eventual performance being used as a yardstick for our relative success or decline by pundits and opponents alike.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 1 Comment

The European Election – Campaigning on the Issues

We are now just 30 weeks away from the next round of local elections. Crucially, these have been arranged to coincide with the EU-wide election for the European Parliament. Obviously who gets what seats in Brussels and Strasbourg seems far more removed from our ordinary lives than the running of the local Council, but it is still hugely important.

As a candidate in the European Election, I am very keen that we do not end up wasting time talking about Brussels obscurities. Instead, those of us selected to stand for the European Parliament are trying to talk …

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Opinion: we shouldn’t make the poor pay for the irresponsible: on why Theresa May is wrong (again!)

I am fully aware of the evils of alcohol: believe me, I’ve spent my fair share of nights out on the town (and now have the dubious privilege of living above a dodgy nightclub in an otherwise pleasant area), so I have seen first-hand what binge drinking looks (and sounds, and smells) like. It is not a pretty picture, and in addition to being a blight on neighbourhoods in town centres up and down the country, it is a huge health nightmare.

But how do you solve this problem? To quote from Yes, Minister, the Government’s response rather looks like a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Opinion: Debating AV with the Evening Standard

Last Wednesday saw one of the few debates on the issue of AV that are taking place in the run-up to the referendum. Vince Cable paired up with Ken Livingstone to speak for the Yes side, and for the No position Lord Michael Howard teamed up with Olympic Gold Medallist and prominent Labour supporter Martin Cross (with a very humorous Clive Anderson in the Chair).

After Vince opened the debate with a brief overview of the issue, Lord Howard made a good and impassioned speech. However, there seemed to be a contradiction in what he said which thankfully Clive Anderson picked …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 16 Comments
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