If we are to tackle social exclusion, we need to tackle low voter turnout. As a first step in tackling this we need to improve our electoral system by moving to Proportional Representation - PR (open list PR is my favourite though any PR is better than first past the post - FPTP). There are of course other things we need to do as well. We need to free up our media from the stranglehold a few wealthy foreign owners have to push their own agenda of tax cuts and cuts in public services. And we need to restore and safeguard local democracy with a written constitution. If I was PM I would embed these changes in a constitution then retire safe in the knowledge that the majority would have to agree any future government. This is the best safeguard of all to stop political abuse of power.
These three simple changes could be done quickly. Indeed Labour have promised a referendum on electoral reform twice (and sadly reneged on it twice). The guidelines on impartiality in the broadcasting media seem to work quite well and could be extended to the press to curtail the media moguls worst excesses of bias. Finally local democracy worked well before the lack of a constitution allowed Thatcher to abolish it. All 3 major parties now say they are in favour of restoring local democracy, so let's have it.
Some of you might be asking what all this has to do with social exclusion. The answer is simple - improve the political influence and power of the poorer voters and not surprisingly you improve their access to opportunities and reduce inequality.
Of course these changes will not make a difference over night. Electoral systems can take several elections to bed down - for the electorate to realise their increased power. The hangover from FPTP can temporarily boost the far right when PR is initially introduced - (until voters scrutinise policy and see what a bunch of weirdos the BNP are, this scrutiny will happen under PR far more than it does under FPTP because minority viewpoints cannot be ignored). Under FPTP it makes sense for the rightwing press to promote the far right because the poorer voters who vote BNP might otherwise have voted Labour. Under PR this would not be beneficial to the Conservatives, unlike under FPTP where any splintering of the poorer vote benefits the Tories.
There is a lot of talk of an English Parliament amongst the Right at the moment. They cite the favoured stat that the Tories got 60,000 more votes than Labour but 93 less seats in England. What they conveniently fail to say, is that the Tories in England, only got 35.7% of the vote and yet received 36.7% of the seats, so they are actually OVER-REPRESENTED in England. If you are going to criticise FPTP for bias, you can't at the same time pretend the much larger bias against the Lib Dems and others is ok. What the Tories also fail to mention is how the English vote is not uniform. The Tories get 45% of the vote in the South East but only 19% in the North East and 28% in the North West. To say any one party can speak for the whole of England is absurd. Regional assemblies make much more sense, as obviously does a proportional system. Under FPTP, regions are dominated by one party that continually have a massive majority of the seats on a minority of the vote. This is bad for democracy and encourages corruption. In my opinion anybody who supports FPTP cannot be truly called a democrat.