11 July 2009

Anthony Barnet Writes For Real Change.

This is my comment in reply to Anthony Barnet's (openDemocracy) post on Liberal Conspiracy.

"Realistically, nothing will change without BOTH the main parties agreeing - especially the incoming Tories.

Labour did have the legitimacy (and the manifesto promise) to bring in AV+, but it is far too late now.

A referendum (binding) would present the incoming Tories with a massive headache (if it was won). But can a referendum be won when it is pushed by such an unpopular government?

A citizen's convention would be great - but no way the political classes would relinquish power unless there were millions on the street campaigning for it, which is highly unlikely to happen with such an unemotive subject and virtually no publicity without the Tory press backing it - which hell would have to freeze over to get.

I am beginning the think that nothing is going to happen for another generation.

The Tories are committed to fiddling the boundaries of the present system (enlarging boundaries and changing the boundary commission remit so administrative and geographical considerations can be ignored) so they can win even bigger majorities on a diminishing vote - this could keep them in power for three or more terms on as little as 30% of the vote.

They are going to lift the impartiality requirements on the broadcast media - so Daily Mail TV and a British Fox news will dominate, just like they dominate the printed press - making public knowledge on this subject even more confused.

There are even hints that the Tories will reverse PR for London and the Euro elections, and maybe even the devolved Wales and Scotland, though they would have a real battle on their hands there.

Labour ignored the English regions when it devolved Scotland, Wales and London - so people are rightly angry about the West-Lothian question. What we need is powerful English regions elected by PR or even an English parliament elected by PR. Instead Labour's failure has enabled the Tories to propose excluding Scottish MPs from debates about England and Wales, which will strengthen their grip on power with a minority of the vote.

It all looks very grim, progress is going to be very slow. I think we just have to wait until BOTH the main parties cannot command 50% of the vote (like happened in the Euros under PR) - their lack of legitimacy will then be overwhelmingly obvious. As perpetual hung parliaments take hold - as has happened in Canada who have the same "Westminster' system of first-past-the-post as us.

The answer is to persuade the 40% of the electorate who have currently 'given up' not to sit on their hands and abstain from voting - but to vote for the minor parties - if we can persuade enough to do this, then PR and real change will inevitably follow".

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