Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A "major" pain

A good post over at Moridura. I agree with most of it, but I might just have made the following tiny but important amendment - quotation marks around the use of that old saw "major parties". The casual observer of politics is constantly told about "the major parties" - no wonder they so rarely vote for anyone else! After all, why vote for a "minor party" in a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system? What sort of stupid choice would that be?! Duh!

You can have any colour you like, as long as it's blue. Or red.

Only two valid choices for you, little voter,
The fate of us all in the hands of these floaters.
Labour or Tory, Tory or Labour?
Empty blue boaters, or reds rattling sabers?

Labour or Tory, long to reign over us!
Don't try to fight it, change is too onerous.
The "minor parties" must never win,
Little voter 'twas ever thus, just give in.

No prospect of change, no hope for the future,
Democracy stitched up with red and blue sutures.
Forty percent, a resounding majority!
(The sixty percent deprived of authority)

Labour the winners! Even if they lose,
Tories the winners! Even if they lose,
Give in little voter, snooze, snooze,
Don't bother to vote, you don't get to choose.
Snooze, snooze, snooze, snooze,
Snooze, snooze, snooze, snooze...

But enough cynicism! Why vote for a "minor party" at Westminster? Well, because change does happen, even if only occasionally under the anti-democracy of FPTP: sitting MPs, ministers and governments do get turfed out; Liberal parties reign supreme then wither away; Labour parties spring up; SDP's rise ("I feel a surge David!") and fall; and of course "minor parties" like the SNP and Plaid Cymru rise and impinge on the "natural parties of government".

Overuse of phrases such as "major parties" unthinkingly (and sometimes thinkingly!) serves to prevent these kind of changes, the very lifeblood of democracy, from happening. And by subtly denying the possibility of alternatives in this way, we are led to the current sorry state of affairs in which only a small gaggle of die-hards will actually be voting for the Labour or Tory parties. Most of the electorate will actually be voting against one or other of them: either "we can't let Labour continue, remember the last 13 years", or "we can't let the Tories back in, I remember the last lot". No wonder people are disillusioned with Westminster politics.

Fortunately the solution to this mess is simple. Contrast the vibrancy of elections to the Scottish parliament and the moribundity of the Westminster elections. The difference is proportional representation (PR). The difference is genuine competition for every vote, a genuine opportunity for different political viewpoints to be represented and a genuine chance for change. Genuine democracy you might say.

Neither of the "main parties" want to bring PR to Westminster, Turkeys voting for Christmas and all that. So if it's change you want, vote for a "minor party" committed to PR for Westminster. In a hung parliament the "minor parties" might not be so minor after all.

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