Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why BREXIT won!

The following article was posted on the unlockdemocracy web site on 27th October 2016

Take Back Control: The EU and Democracy
by John Strafford

In the referendum held on 23rd June to decide whether the United Kingdom should stay in, or leave the European Union 49% of those who voted to leave gave their main reason for doing so was to “take back control of our country.”   This was the number one reason for leaving.   Put another way – in spite of all the faults in our democracy - at a General Election you can vote for the person you wish to represent you in our legislature and by so doing determine who shall form our government. You cannot do this in the European Union.   Fundamentally the European Union is totally undemocratic and shows no indication of changing.
The Council of Ministers – part of the legislative process – meets in secret; the only legislative body in the world that meets behind closed doors, other than North Korea, and they are beginning to change.
The European Commission, which brings forward legislation is unelected by and unaccountable to the people.
The European Parliament, which is supposedly the democratic element of the European Union, has a number of serious flaws;
Each vote is not of equal value – a vote in Luxembourg is fifteen times the value of a vote in the United Kingdom.   The United Kingdom with an electorate of 44.5 million elects 73 MEPs. Luxembourg with an electorate 240,000 elects 6 MEPs.
The United Kingdom uses primarily the Closed List system of voting for the European Parliament. As a result, you cannot vote for the individual you wish to represent you in the parliament or indeed vote for someone to get rid of the individual who at present represents you.   Under the Closed List system you can only vote for a political party and it is the party which determines the order of the list.
Each country in the European Union can decide what electoral system to use to elect their MEPs. The United Kingdom in the same election for the same parliament uses two systems – the Closed List in England, Scotland and Wales and in Northern Ireland the Single Transferable Vote. No other parliament in the world has this kind of arrangement.
The age at which an elector can vote in elections to the European Parliament varies dependent upon the National Parliament’s criteria for voting.
The European wide turnout in the 2014 European Parliament Election was 42.54%. This was an all time low. The people of Europe are losing faith in the institution of its parliament. Without radical reform to make it a democratic organisation the electorates of other members of the Union will want to leave.   The lack of democracy is a fatal flaw in the institution.
This lack of democracy in the European Union was the main reason the people of the United Kingdom voted to “take back control of our country”.
Now that we are on track to tackle one of the democratic fault lines in our democracy we can concentrate our efforts on remedying the other fault lines – an unelected, ever expanding  House of Lords, the First Past the Post electoral system, party finance and other issues.   Let us get on with them so we can create a true and fair democracy in the United Kingdom. Perhaps the most important of these issues is a change in our electoral system to proportional representation, so what are the chances of this being achieved?
Having just won a General Election and having a substantial lead in the polls the Conservative Party are unlikely to support any change in the electoral system so any change to First Past The Post will require the support of a substantial number of Labour MPs.   At present it looks unlikely that the Labour Party can win the next General Election in 2020.   If this present condition persists in 2019 there could be a move to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Party.   It is possible that he remains Leader but a new position of Leader of the Parliamentary Party is created who would lead the Party into the General Election..
If the Scottish National Party maintain their stranglehold in Scotland and UKIP get their act together and attack Labour seats in the North of England we can envisage a situation where it looks impossible for the Labour Party to win a General Election with an overall majority.   In such circumstances proportional representation may be their only opportunity to participate in government.   It could then form part of their 2020 General Election manifesto.
All this is of course academic if the Conservative Party win an overall majority in the General Election, but can one be certain of this?   Between now and 2020 the BREXIT negotiations have to be completed. This will cause bitter arguments within the Party. The economy might be facing turbulence.   The Labour Party could have a million members and thus be capable of fighting a ground campaign across the board.   The Conservative Party with 150,000 members would not be able to fight such a ground campaign.   With an insurgent UKIP, targeting marginal seats would not be possible for the Tories because of the difficulty of deciding which seats are marginal. With these disadvantages the Conservatives could end up being the largest Party in parliament but not get an overall majority.   The only way the Conservatives could mitigate this position would be to make the Party more democratic in order to attract new members.   They show no sign of doing this.
If the Conservative Party does not get an overall majority in the General Election and the opposition parties combine together to push forward with Proportional Representation they could succeed in changing the electoral system.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of Unlock Democracy

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Great Reform Act and its aftermath - 1830 - 1860

Go to The Great Reform Act to see the latest update "Where were we on the road to democracy by 1865?"   (updated weekly - last updated 6th February 2017)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Alliance Buildng Conference 8th February 2016

Seven political parties came together to campaign for electoral reform by promoting proportional representation. See this great video on which I am the speaker.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Proportional Representation

The following is a speech I made at the PR Alliance Building Conference on 8th February:

Proportional Representation

Ladies and gentlemen today, we took a giant step along the road to creating a fair democracy in the United Kingdom.

 I am privileged to stand alongside all our political parties as we step down that road together.

Why, as a Conservative am I so sure we will reach our destination?

Ask your local Tory MP or candidate why they do not support a proportional representation and I imagine this is what they will say:

I am in politics to get things done.   In order to get things done I have to be in government.   To be in government I have to be in the Party that has a majority of MPs in the House of Commons.   So look at it like this, under First past the Post the Tories got 52% of the seats with only 37% of the votes.   Labour is in disarray. We have a big lead in the opinion polls. We are implementing the Boundaries Commission proposals which will give us an extra 20 seats in the General Election. We are passing legislation which will harm the Labour Party through its funding by the Trade Unions.   We are cutting the “Short” money to all the opposition parties.   We are increasing the amount the Government spends on Special Advisers.   We are going to be in Government for at least ten years. Now, tell me why we should change the electoral system?

Arrogant – yes.  Goes with the territory!.    Complacent – Yes!.  

Why complacent?

The Conservative Party is the only party which has not increased its membership since the General Election.   Membership is about 135,000.   Compare this with the Scottish National Party which has a membership of 110,000 and only fights 59 seats in the Westminster parliament.   To fight a ground campaign at a General Election on a National basis the Conservative Party would need 1,000,000 members.

Both Labour and Conservative parties have similar but for different reasons, major problems

In the EU referendum, whichever way the electorate vote there will be a substantial minority perhaps as many as 10 million who will be bitterly disappointed and who may have voted against their Party for the first time.   They will be deciding which political party to support in the future.    Which party will the disappointed turn to after the European referendum – one of the major parties or another party?

The kaleidoscope of party politics is being shaken.

Out of the turmoil there will be a great demand for change.   Either the two big parties recognize this and change or other parties will take their place.

This will provide us here today with a once in a life time opportunity.   Out of that opportunity comes hope.   Out of hope comes action.   Out of action comes success.

That is why I say, by working together we now have that opportunity to shape all our futures.  Arm in arm let us walk together down that road to create that fair democracy that this country so desperately needs.