16 June 2009

Ken Livingstone On Electoral Reform

Quotes from Ken Livingstone’s LCER speech January 1994. Thought I would dig out this 1994 speech from Ken. It currently seems very relevant. As ever, Ken was ahead of his time.
“For those of us committed to democracy. Everyone's votes should have equal value. Wherever you live, you should be able to say that the vote you cast has exactly the same weight as any other individual's in that election. When you set these criteria the options for electoral reform narrow down.”

“People have been talking about multi-member seats and Single Transferable Vote (STV) for years. They can be fiddled by changing the number of MP's inside the boundaries. In 1983 the SDP and Liberal Alliance had proposals for change which would have reduced Labour's representation below the percentage they got nationally while increasing theirs. The city seats would have been huge and the rural seats would have had three MP's. Labour usually fell short of one third of the vote in rural areas and therefore would have no MP's but the SDP/Liberals could often have cobbled together one fifth of the votes in urban areas to get representation. Under STV in Ireland in the late 1960s, Labour's best years, Labour saw its votes at an all-time high, but because the boundaries benefited Fianna Fail, it lost seats.”

“A lot of people come on board for the wrong reason. I do not say we should change the voting system to get rid of the Tories That is not the right starting point. There must be a moral or principled case for improving the system. It is not an argument for getting rid of opponents. We have to say this is the system which the vast majority of the public can see is right and it will be accepted and be fixed and not subject to tinkering, manipulation and change. We should argue for what we believe in and then go out and persuade.”

“The David Butler studies have shown that increasingly people vote against a party, they don't vote positively. They vote to keep a party out of office. They ask; 'what's the lesser evil this time?' No one would go into a restaurant and ask which dish would make them least sick! We need to construct a system that lets people go out and vote positively for something.”

“There is not the slightest doubt that the German system, with slight modifications to make it more acceptable in Britain, comes closest to reflecting electors' positive choices. This was the conclusion I reached after the 1974 elections and after reading books and pamphlets. The Hansard Report strongly influenced my thinking.”

“The obvious and simple change to make is that the list side of this has got to be broken down on a regional basis in order to ensure regional balance. The most narrowly defeated candidates should be those who are selected for the regional lists.”

“Labour cannot govern by diktat. It can only win with popular support. In 1945 Labour had 48 per cent of the votes, but the policies it carried through had the support of 70 - 80 per cent of the electorate and that is why they endured for a generation. That is the way the Left should work. We are not just about redistributing wealth, we are about redistributing power. That is why the system has to be fair.”

"There is a feeling on the Front Bench of waiting for our turn in power. People think 'I'm a good person so my decisions are in the best interest of the nation, why can't other people see that?' Very few people go into politics saying 'I'm a crook and I can't wait to get my snout In the trough' Self deception is rampant in Parliament."

“Then there is the five per cent cut-off point. I want the Greens in to argue for an economic system to allow humankind to survive on the planet. For Socialism to be the dominant ideology of the next century it has to be totally democratized to put democracy at the forefront of what it is doing, and to take on the environmental agenda.”

“As for letting the fascists in, I would rather have the fascists in the democratic forum of society where they can be challenged and forced to debate. Enoch Powell never made his 'rivers of blood' speeches in Parliament, but only outside where he could control the audience. With a German system based on regions. It would not be like the Israeli national list system. The reality is that a party would need five or six per cent to get any representation. There should be no formal bar, otherwise it would give the fascists something to complain about.”

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