Ditch “First Past The Post” now


How bloody ridiculous is this poster?  By using Nick Griffin as a Poster Boy for the NO TO AV campaign, the opposite side in the referendum are shooting themselves, and their reasonable argument, right in the foot.  AV will indeed make it more difficult for extremist parties to get elected, but will also go some way to make MP’s more accountable by reducing the number of “Safe Seats”.

Cards on the table; I want to end the First Past the Post method of electing Members of Parliament in the UK.  I would accept most alternatives, and the only one on offer is the Alternative Vote (AV).  AV is a very simple system, whereby voters select the candidates in order of preference, if they have any, or even just select the one person they want to vote for. First preference votes for the least popular candidates are discarded, but their subsequent preferences are counted until a successful candidate has over 50% of the votes cast.

My MP, Tom Harris (in a supremely safe Labour seat) makes a pretty persuasive (but flawed) argument on the NO to AV side, and for once gets into the detail of his stance, rather than the usual mud-slinging. http://goo.gl/kkhTn However, understanding his case has only confirmed my opinion that almost any move away from the current antiquated FPTP system (including to the AV on offer) has got to be a good thing.

The basic premise is this:
  1. In the UK, we get only get to vote for a person.  An individual, not a party, or a Prime Minister.
  2. As such, we hope that this person (with their declared party affiliation, and policy commitments) will represent our local constituency well.
  3. We also hope that he/she will endorse the person we would like to see as Prime Minister, and vote the way we would like in all parliamentary bills.
  4. We hope that the elected MP will represent the entire constituency, and not just the minority of it that voted for him/her.
  5. We all have only one MP, for the entire period of a parliament.

Now for me, there seems to be far too much taken on trust here, and way too much influence on the actions of MP’s by their political party, for whom we don’t vote, and their whips and political bosses (Ministers and the like).  MP’s have their hands tied at every turn, and are very unlikely to be able to stick to their principles in every case.

The central conundrum for any elected official, is whether they make all decisions based upon what the voters want, what their party wants or what their conscience tells them.

I believe the party system, in conjunction with FPTP, actively conspires against the freedom of MP’s to vote with their conscience and with the principles they stood for election on.  This results in party leaders choosing the MP’s for “safe seats” rather than the local party or indeed the electorate.  (Think about it; the leaders choose the MP’s, who in turn elect the leader). The result is often 25 year old MP’s who have neither the gumption nor the experience to indulge in personal political views and simply (blindly) do the bidding of their benefactors.

I believe the party system in the UK to be foul and corrupt, and what’s more it has a “corrupting” influence on those who go into politics.  In my view the current FPTP system greatly enables this to happen, and stifles any form of dissent and free political thought.

PS. See here http://goo.gl/qG5sY


Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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