26 May 2009

Referendum 2010?

Nothing demonstrates the duplicity of David Cameron, the Tories and the Right in general more than the issue of referenda.

Labour promised a referendum in their manifesto on the EU treaty and I agree that it is a betrayal of that promise not to provide one. Some would go further saying it is 'travesty of democracy'.

Yes, all well and good, yet, Labour also promised a referendum in their manifesto on proportional representation but the Tories categorically oppose this referendum.

It seems failure to honour a referendum is only a 'travesty of democracy' when the Tories...
(and their right-wing friends in the press) say so.

You have to hand it to Cameron, he knows how to spin a yarn. He presents high minded talk of 'giving power to the people', while actually carefully entrenching the status quo.

Fixed term parliaments are just window dresssing and impractical anyway. If a minority Tory government in a hung parliament won power, they would soon call a general election if the opportunity to strenghten their position arose. All this talk is just a figleaf to present as radical something that is not. Ditto a few independent MPs and one or two de-selections of near retirement Tory grandees - just window dressing. So far, 1 in 3 Tory MPs have been found to be on the fiddle, and 1 in 5 Labour MPs, how will more Tory MPs elected under the same system make any difference? Notice also how it took 5 days into the expenses revelations before the Torygraph mentioned any Tories and made out the £250,000 a year Cameron gets from the taxpayer for doing up his house and having nice holidays is all good and above board.

What of his reduction in the number of MPs, surely a good thing? Well putting aside Cameron is only doing it for partizan party political gain (it makes it easier to gerrymander the boundaries in the Tory favour) - less MPs would ironically only work well under a proportional system where an enlarged constituency could provide a number of MPs of various political stripes for constituents to consult (elected in proportion to what voters actually want). If Cameron really cared about strengthening the constituency link he would be making constituencies smaller and more coherent under our present system.

The so called 'constituency link' that is used to defend our present system is completely meaningless when constituencies are so large and prone to alteration. The Tories also propose to ignore administrative and geographical boundaries when drawing up constituencies for the general election after next. This is just pure and simple gerrymandering. How can you punish your MP, if you are likely to be in a different constituency by the time it comes to vote? How can you engage a community when it is split between several constituencies and combined with bits of communities from other areas?

What about open primaries? These could potentially make a difference is they really were open. So far the Tories have just used them as a money making racket, charging £2 a text to vote and allowing multiple votes just makes a mockery of our democracy. The Tories are just not serious about real democracy - which is why they oppose the one truly radical measure that would give power back the voters - proportional representation.

Which is why the thought of David Cameron being our next PM is so depressing.

Like Helena Kennedy, I still harbour delusions that this dying Labour government will go out doing something truly radical and honour its promise to give people a say on how we elect our MPs (I also realise the futility of leaving the party under our present system). Although the cabinet don't seem to be able to get ther head round it, only PR will get rid of rotten MPs sitting in safe seats for life. Gordon Brown clearly has no principles, but maybe an appeal to his legendary hopeless tactical accumen would persuade him. Otherwise he must be removed, if the Labour party is to be in any shape to put up a decent fight.

If we are denied a say once again, even though not 40, I might not live to see the realisation of the true dream of democracy. Just as rotten boroughs were swept away with votes for all, only equal votes for all will sweep away our rotten MPs, making EVERY VOTE COUNT no matter where you live.

*Finally I just want to add that Cameron's proposed changes to Commons procedures are just fiddling around the edges - as Alan Johnson put it - 'we need to change the engine not just the uphostery'. When MPs on the backbenchs have shown themselves to be thoroughly untrustworthy, a few powers over timetabling bills and on second readings won't help.

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