Friday, May 17, 2013

Proportional Representation

In the General Election of 2005 the Labour Party with 35.2% of the votes got 55% of the seats in Parliament.   Conservatives with 32.3% had 30.5% and the Liberal Democrats with 22.0% of the votes cast had 9.6% of the seats.   In other words it took 26,858 votes to elect each Labour MP, 44,241 votes each Conservative MP and a massive 98,484 votes to elect a Liberal Democrat MP.   The Labour Party’s 35.2% of the vote gave them a majority of 66 seats.   Only 22% of the electorate voted for the Labour Party.   In England the Tories got 50,000 more votes than the Labour Party but ended up with 193 seats against Labour’s 285.   With these results it cannot be said that Parliament is representative of the people.   18 million people who were entitled to vote did not vote in the 2005 General Election.
In recent elections we have seen the growth of smaller parties.   In the 2005 General Election parties and candidates other than the three main parties won more than 10% of the vote.   In comparison in 1979 the share of the vote was less than 6% and in 1955 less than 2%.
Political Parties know that General Elections conducted on a First Past the Post basis will be decided by what happens in marginal constituencies which are usually less than 10% of the total.   It is the “Swing” or “Floating” voters in those constituencies – generally less than 10%, who determine who will win the seat.   The election battle is therefore over less than 10% of the votes in less than 10% of the seats – less than 1% of the electorate.   It is more important to win 100 votes in a marginal seat than 5,000 votes in a safe seat under this system.   In the 2005 General Election the average number of telephone/doorstep contacts in “safe” seats was less than 18% of the average in the most marginal seats.
 With a proportional system every vote counts.   The Conservative elector in a Labour safe seat and the Labour supporter in a Conservative heartland both have an incentive to vote.   Supporters of small Parties have more reason for voting.
 A form of Proportional Representation (excluding the closed list system) should be used for all elections in the United Kingdom, whilst retaining the constituency/ward base.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Church of England should be disestablished

The establishment of the Church of England is upheld on the grounds that it is a national church, but it is a national church, at most, only in England.   It is a Church based on the gratification of King Henry VIII’s carnal lust.   It is entangled with the United Kingdom Parliament.   A Church Commissioner sits in the House of Commons.   Twenty-six of its bishops sit by right in the House of Lords.   The Prime Minister retains residual rights over appointing its bishops.   Its endowments and even its doctrine are nominally under the control of parliament.   Its status as a national church of only one of the four parts of the United Kingdom, even though it is by far the largest part, cannot justify these entanglements.   The entanglements between the Church of England and the state have endured for hundreds of years; they are at best anomalous, and at worst insulting to the people of the other three nations of the United Kingdom, as well as to many of the large non-Anglican population in England.
                The really extraordinary thing about the present constitutional establishment of the Church of England is not its absurdity but that nobody really believes it any longer.   The tight links between parliament and the Church’s general synod seem to both sides a mysterious encumbrance.   Parliament is no longer solely a Christian Parliament.   There is no reason for Parliament to be able to veto the synod’s legislation, as it presently can, and no reason why the Church of England should regulate its own affairs by legislation, as it presently must.   If the Church were no longer established, then those ties would quietly be seen as serving no practical purpose.   Neither the Monarch nor the Prime Minister would have a role in appointments.   Nor is it clear why bishops should sit in the House of Lords.   Breaking those constitutional links, which is what is usually meant by disestablishment, is a simple sensible reform.
                In 1988 Tony Benn tried to disestablish the Church of England.   Conservative MPs saved it, but for how much longer?
                The Church of England should be dis-established.