This blog is by Reece Edmends.
It has been a long-established shibboleth in our party that the First Past the Post voting system is woefully inadequate, and needs to be replaced with something vaguely proportional, like the Single Transferable Vote (STV). We don’t think it’s acceptable for only 22% of the population to vote in the Government which rules us, as in 2005. We feel Parliament’s composition should be roughly indicative of the way we voted. After all, we’re Liberal Democrats: the clue’s in the name. Call us crazy.
And many do. The forces of reaction who oppose us tend to do so along several lines. Firstly, they reckon that the proles are too dashed obtuse to count to three in a polling booth. Secondly, they claim that FPTP produces ‘strong government’ (although surely government would be even stronger if you did away with the pesky idea of elections altogether). Thirdly, though, and most credibly, they argue that STV and its cousins weaken the ‘constituency link’ which voters have to their MP.
Many Lib Dems I know would respond to these arguments with a well-placed F-word (and I don’t mean ‘fatuous’). In reply to the third point, however, I would suggest another F-word: federalism.
Federalism, that is, in the sense of localism. The belief in a wholesale redistribution of power from the macro level to the micro, from an autocratic centralised monolith to local communities, from Whitehall to the people. Give local authorities greater powers to tax, to spend, or to organise health, education and policing, and I will guarantee you a spectacular renaissance in local government. Councils will be transformed, to use a Biblical metaphor, from moribund leonine corpses into bustling hives of communitarian democracy. Also, give people directly elected mayors, as in France, London and the United States. Then people will start taking an interest in local elections, there will be a plethora of local champions, and no-one need worry about the strength of an MP’s constituency link.
Granted, both these ideas- localism/federalism and proportional representation- are core tenets of liberal ideology. Yet it is quite rare, I think, for the two to be linked in quite such explicit a way. Let the former support the latter, being the wings which allow our PR policy to fly, and you will have a convincing argument which only one F-word can sum up: Fortissimo!
Reece Edmends is a Liberal Youth member in Staffordshire. He formerly studied at Newcastle-under-Lyme School and will be taking up a place at university in 2013. He enjoys politics, literature, history, music and golf.
This article is solely the view of the author and should not be taken as the views of Liberal Youth, the Liberal Democrats, nor the editorship of the Libertine.