Opinion: the Tories should be supporting voting reform

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.

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27 Comments

  • David Morton 5th Oct '10 - 5:13pm

    I see the NO lead with the You Gov tracker was up to 5% in last nights poll. The recent changes have all been margin of error but the trend is clear. A very slow increase in the NO lead. Of course this is from a standing start of a resonable YES lead in the first coalition polling on the subject.

  • Peter Laubach 5th Oct '10 - 5:31pm

    Good to read this – INCLUDING your first three paragraphs!

  • Thanks Peter! You may even find that my confidence in the Coalition is vindicated…

  • “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.”

    Oh horrors. So there are Liberal Democrats out there who actually believe this guff and speak it with a straight face?

    Dr Liam Fox wants to hang and flog people. How “liberal” or “modern” is that?

    Michael Gove is a cheerleader for US foreign policy and an advocate of “traditional values”, who wants to force people to join the Army and is in favour of headmasters bullying their students outside school hours. Not exactly a civil libertarian, is he?

    As for Cameron, remember how he came to be Tory Leader. When Michael Howard stood down, David Davies had a big lead, both among MPs and party members. Until, that is, the Republican pollster and psychological manipulator, Frank Luntz, appeared on “Newsnight” with a phoney focus group that selected Cameron as the leadership candidate most likely to appeal to the electorate. Cameron is a puppet of the US military-industrial complex and billionaire families. That’s why he was promoted by Luntz, that’s why he is adored by Murdoch. His role is to facilitate the expansion of US global hegemony and further the interests of the ultra-rich. Liberal he sure aint, but modern he might be, given his penchant for rolling up his sleeves and removing his tie in public.

    The Tories don’t want fair votes because they don’t want to have to share power with anybody. AV isn’t PR. It was only offered by Cameron because it is likely to have the effect of fragmenting the opposition and making an outright Tory victory more likely. Now, STV in multi-member constituencies – that would be something worth fighting for!

  • You better be ready for plenty of backlash ,when you tap on doors
    How do you know the tories have changed ,OR ARE YOU TRYING TO EASE YOUR CONSCIENCE.
    Name one full policy youv,e had implemented .Or one proper cabinet job any of your mp,s got
    and what will you say to £10.000 student fees ,20 % vat and i could go on and on

    ps Germany the richest country in Europe just paid of its WW1 debt 2 days ago.It didn,t do there next generation any harm .
    LIB DEM sell outs

  • Paul McKeown 5th Oct '10 - 6:18pm

    Lauren,

    I would suggest that you written this on the wrong organ. You should write this for ConservativeHome, the Spectator, the Telegraph, the Mail or the Sun. You’re preaching to the converted.

    @Sesenco

    You may be interested to know that CAER (Tory group for electoral reform) held a fringe meeting, in which they proposed that STV, AMS and AV+ be added to the referendum. I understand that Douglas Carswell is to co-sponsor an amendment to that effect, with the highly effective, high profile Green MP, Caroline Lucas. Perhaps you might like to bombard your MP of whatever political persuasion (and any others you care to contact) with reasons for supporting the amendment. Given the choice, I would support reform to the electoral system, and would opt for STV before AMS or AV+ before AV. Without the choice, I will no recourse but to support the “miserable” AV. I shall be writing to my MP.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Oct '10 - 6:33pm

    “What I cannot understand about these modern Tories then, is their refusal to contemplate voting reform.”

    Yet ironically, it is a *Tory* MP (Douglas Carswell) who is attempting to expand the referendum to allow people to vote for PR. In this he is being supported by Caroline Lucas (Green).

    If a Tory MP is prepared to attempt such a thing, how come every single Lib Dem MP has meekly accepted the useless fudge that is the AV referendum?

  • Paul McKeown 5th Oct '10 - 6:39pm

    @Andrew

    Your sense of history fails you. For most years of the post Versailles period, Germany refused to pay anything. The amount was set in 1921 to 269 billion gold marks, in 1924 the Dawes Plan reduced the amount of reparations, in 1929 the Young Plan more than halved it to 112 billion gold marks. In 1933 Hitler refused to pay it further, with approximately one eighth having been paid until then, mostly by taking commercial loans from American banks, the loans subsequently being repudiated by the Third Reich. In 1953, in recognition of the partition of Germany, the Agreement on German International Debts agreed by international treaty that the Young Plan debts should not be serviced until Germany was reunified, and even then only for twenty years. West Germany serviced the commercial loans taken out by the Weimar government, approximately 20 billion 1919 gold marks. In 1990, after the reunification of Germany, the German government agreed to pay off the Young Plan debt for the next twenty years, which strangely enough ended this year. The total amount repaid was much less than agreed in 1929, and failed to take into account the enormous interest that could have been levied against the reparations amount.

    That is the real reason that the last reparations payment was made this year. It leaves your “Keynesian” defence of the idea that the British government should maintain its current deficit, with nothing behind the zip. Oh, and by the way, John Maynard Keynes, a Liberal, resigned from the Treasury in 1919, protesting the scale of the reparations demands. He subsequently wrote “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” in opposition to the reparations. He was a wise man, a Liberal, and it is shameful how so many clueless “lefties” abuse his legacy, mistakenly believing that he would have supported their utopian but impractical socialist demands that government should utterly ignore economic realities.

  • “So many posters on here are a constant succubus.”

    Warning! Sexist remark! Warning!

  • Paul McKeown 5th Oct '10 - 6:52pm

    @Andrew

    And by the way, Germany is far from being Europe’s richest nation. Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Andorra and Finland are all far, far wealthier on a per capita basis than Germany. Indeed, the UK was better off than Germany for some years, although after the current recession that must be in doubt.

    You ought to learn more about economic, historical and political facts, before posting total rubbish, when you really only had the intention of proclaiming that you don’t like Liberal Democrats. There have been many much better posts to that effect from others better informed.

  • An excellent piece, Lauren. Great to hear some echo my own sentiments about the Coalition, and about the Conservatives. Quite frankly, given Labour’s appalling record on civil liberties, I am much happier being in coalition with the Tories than I would have been propping up Labour.

  • Bellow is a graph for last 3 years ,looks like the Germans are the richest to me,
    gdp in $ billions

    # country 2007 2008 2009
    1 Germany 3,328 3,673 3,235
    2 France 2,598 2,867 2,635
    3 United Kingdom 2,800 2,680 2,198
    4 Italy 2,118 2,314 2,089
    5 Spain 1,443 1,602 1,466
    6 Russia 1,294 1,677 1,255
    7 Turkey 896 1.050 888

    And i said “Germany paid back ww1 DEBT 2 days ago ” AND WAS RIGHT

    And said” You don,t have a proper policy or proper mp in this Goverment.”

    You are right i dont like Lib Dems for the way they have jumped into bed with the tories,
    Vat posters ,No cuts ,Europe,Student Fees,Trident ,

    Get out now why you can ,im only trying to help you,your part will get wiped out
    andy edinburgh

  • @andrew

    Richest country to me implies that the citizens are the richest, not that the economy is the largest. China has a giant GDP but most of its citizens are dirt poor.

  • Justin Hinchcliffe 6th Oct '10 - 12:14am

    As a Conservative, I think the LDs should have insisted on a referendum to include PR. And I think David Cameron would have had no choice but to accept it. I’ll be voting NO to AV – there’s nothing proportional about AV!

  • A question to Paul McKeown.

    Is Douglas Carswell suggesting that there should be a referendum with several options on a FPTP basis or is he advocating preferential voting in the referendum? If the former, that would almost guarantee a win for FPTP as the reformers’ vote would be split.

  • @Paul McKeown

    You’re largely right about the economy, but the following is a little misleading:

    “And by the way, Germany is far from being Europe’s richest nation. Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Andorra and Finland are all far, far wealthier on a per capita basis than Germany. Indeed, the UK was better off than Germany for some years, although after the current recession that must be in doubt.”

    Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Andorra are low-tax microstates, and Luxembourg and Switzerland are rich for similar playboy reasons.

    The Nordic countries and the Netherlands are more worthwhile comparisons, but they still benefit from abundant resources and the protection of larger neighbours.

    Germany is really the richest because it is the economic backbone of the EU. Smaller states tend to be rather parasitic, but Germany has built its success on a balanced, productive economy.

    Anyway, horses for courses. I agree that Keynes is usually abused by the left, but this article by George Soros left me feeling rather fearful about Cameron and his chums: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/aug/19/crisis-euro/?page=1

  • Germany’s per capita income was dragged downwards by the incorporation of the Neue Lander in 1989/90. I bet you that Frankfurt and Munich are as wealthy as Surrey, and possibly more so – though the living environment in Surrey is very much better.

    Switzerland is a very peculiar country all round. We used to be more familiar with it, in the days when British people could afford to take their holidays there.

    Yes, I think we should discount the micro tax havens and look at the larger economies – like Germany, France and Italy.

  • Peter Laubach 6th Oct '10 - 2:13pm

    To Stuart at 9.41 pm – hear, hear! I am heartily sick of posters on LDV tearing into our decision to enter this Coalition. This is NOT what I get from people on the real world outside. I for one was appalled that we even talked at all to Labour before we entered the Coalition, given their horrendous behaviour over the previous thirteen years and their having clearly been rejected by the voters at large. However, if we had just endured thirteen years of a majority Conservative government I daresay I would have felt much the same about talking to them.

  • @Andrew: You are confusing debt with running a deficit.

    The Coalition is not promising to pay off ANY of our debt over this Parliament. Indeed, the Coalition will add hundreds of bilions of pounds of debt to our debt mountain because it will continue to run deficits over the next few years.

    Perhaps, like Germany, in 100 years or so we might be able to pay off the actual debt, rather than simply not adding further to it.

  • Lauren sorry got confused are you in the tory party?

  • Keith in Bristol 7th Oct '10 - 8:59am

    @Simon G – Douglas Carswell is putting forward an amendment that would result in a ballot with two questions on it, which can be summarised thusly:

    a) Shall we change the voting system?
    b) If we change it, shall we use AV or STV?

    Each question only has two answers, so preferential systems don’t apply.

    More here: http://www.talkcarswell.com/show.aspx?id=1561

  • karen mastoras 8th May '11 - 5:57pm

    i was impressed with lauren keith’s leaflet that arrived recently-she is the lib dem for the cambridge ward-southport-i hope she will do as promised and clean up local streets-i live on the promenade and would appreciate the railings and shelters being painted and would like to know when the king’s garden’s are being done up-i recently went for a walk and the area looks rather shabby-keep up the good work karen mastoras

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