Friday, 8 May 2015

The UK Voting System Is An Insult To Democracy.

I write this in the sweltering Bangkok heat, and I live in 2 worlds: the social media world, where the UK election is raging, and the world of Thailand, where the UK election doesn't exist.

It is 30 degrees C at 3am. This is normal in hot season.
Summary: Sign this petition to change the UK voting system and get ready to get angry.

The simple fact is this: the UK electoral system is barely "democracy", and we can't be proud of it while this historical relic is still destroying the will of the people.

I get back to the UK in 4 days - not to visit this time, but to live, after 7 years in NZ and Aus. I have so many draft blog posts to finish: the follow-up to living in Chiang Mai; the one about Macau and Hong Kong; the one about how I almost certainly got herpes last year and why we need to talk about herpes. You're going to enjoy that one.

But here and now while I sweat in my guesthouse and people vote and argue 6hrs behind in the UK, this is the post I have to write.

The media say "our system is broken", but our system was always broken.

"First Past The Post" (FPTP) works by local areas electing a representative MP to send to Parliament, apparently to represent them.

Well, apart from the bare fact that Parliament decides law for the whole country, and MPs can only influence their area by huffing "I'm the MP! I'm important!", here's the simple version of why this system is fucked:
  • 40% votes is roughly the votes each MP wins in their constituency
  • 60% MPs is considered a strong government which can pass laws without problem
  • So, 40% x 60% = 24% of votes cast elect the UK government.
To be legitimate this number should be 51% or more. To make laws for all the country, your government should represent a majority of the country. Real democracies understand this.

The media say, what is happening now shows our 2-party system (Labour vs Conservatives) has become fragmented. That it no longer works. FPTP is supposed to deliver strong governments, and 2 elections in a row is has failed.

But this is clearly a fucking lie. It has always been broken - we are only now, in a very visible way, seeing that brokenness.

The causes for revealing the failure are not even about the system itself. The media points to the rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland and United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in England, plus a strong rise for the Green Party. They show this as evidence our democracy is now "multi-party".

But the real drop in support of the two main parties is due to their failures to be convincing this election:
  • The Conservatives have governed over massive rises in food banks, inequality, welfare cuts - while the rich have gotten richer through the global recession. They d
  • Labour have failed to shoot the fish in the barrel, to provide clear policies that will protect people. After 5 years of failing in opposition, they have only looked convincing in these 4 weeks campaigning.
  • Both parties campaigned in a pathetically negative manner during the Scottish independence referendum, and both parties have failed to account for the white English working class who feel left behind and left out. Both are responsible for the rise of SNP and UKIP.
The third "main" party, the Liberal Democrats, also face losing half their seats because no-one believes anything they say after breaking their promises and supporting a rampant poor-hating Conservative party.

So here we are. Finally our voting system is revealed as the farce that it always was.

The media talks about the "national vote", the % of all votes each party wins, as if this matters.

It is a red herring.

Not only does it not decide who is in government, it is also highly misleading.
  • If the polls say 33% of all votes are for Labour, 
  • and 33% of all votes are for Conservatives, 
  • how many of those votes get thrown in the bin, because they are in losing constituencies?
Yes pundits and geeks will look at the stats, "Oh the Greens did well this time", "Oh look at UKIP's strong support", whatever.

The hard truth is that every vote that is not for a winning MP gets thrown in the trash.

So if Labour and Tories each win 43% seats (280 seats) that means 43% x 33% = 14%.

So the probable effective national vote of each major party - these are the big, dominating parties of UK politics - in 2015 will be 14%.


So we are supposed to ignore the fact Labour and Conservatives gain 19% of the "national vote", over half of all the votes they receive, in constituencies they lost.

We are supposed to pretend that it all kind of balances out, really, in the end, doesn't it, right?

What a fuck up.

Even New Zealand, a small poor country full of sheep and volcanoes and excellent beer, has a better system than the UK. It's called "Mixed Member Proportional" (MMP):
  • Each person gets a party vote and a constituency vote
  • So the constituency area is still represented in Parliament...
  • ...but each party in Parliament gets the same proportion of MPs as all the votes cast.
The superiority of the NZ Parliament over the UK Parliament is already clear. In an age where climate change is scientifically accepted, the New Zealand Green Party have 14 seats out of 120 (12%), while the UK Greens have 1 MP out of 650 (1.5%). The National Party's historic, monumental, landslide victory of 2014 saw them win 50% MPs and 47% of all votes.

So if you're an old buffer who believes proportional representation means removing constituency representation, go get fucked, because it doesn't.

While the UK bombs other countries for democracy, it is nice to finally see clearly our own system failing to deliver the representatives and the will of its own people.

Most hilarious of all, when our system "works" it swings like a pendulum: we go from strong Labour governments to strong Tory governments and back again - as if politics is either One World Outlook On All The Things or That Other World Outlook On All The Things.

The 2 big parties are supposed to sit opposite each other and shout at each other - that is how the House of Commons is designed! - instead of finding consensus and solutions which at least half the country would agree with.

The other parties sit at the end, like children sent to the children's table at Christmas dinner. You claim it's because there's no room but really it's because you're sick of the sight of them.

And let's not talk about the House Of Lords. We don't have to! They're not elected, so not actually part of democracy at all.

I don't have a problem with elected representatives. Constant referendums is a shoddy way to run democracy and it assumes too much of the public and the media.

I just wish our elected representatives actually represented the people who elected them.

I shouldn't have to feel fucking embarrassed when I explain to international people how my country's democracy does not work.

So. I'm sweating ALL OVER, and in 2 hours my alarm will go off - 6am Thailand time, midnight UK time. I will watch the results come in because politics is my football.

5 years ago I watched the 2010 UK election with international people in a sports bar in Wellington. I was despondent when it was clear we wouldn't get a result that day - or the next day, or even that week.

This incoming dog's dinner of results we will receive today will make 2010 look like a dance in a paddling pool.

People will be angry about why their votes aren't represented in MPs.

People will be angry that 2 parties who do not even have a majority of MPs OR votes, in a despicable system that favours them, will be shouting the word "LEGITIMACY" at each other in the press.

People will be angry that the top-hat wearing, poor-hating, student-hating, homeless-hating, jobless-hating, corporate tax-cut cretins we call "the Conservative Party" haven't been strung up by their austerity policies which every sane country has dumped in the bin.

With a little luck, and maybe Labour + Liberal Democrat + SNP courage, the media and the political establishment will focus on how to fix our constitutional shitbath before the next election delivers some kind of fascist military junta with a nuclear cat as Prime Minister and a shiny turd for Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I'm not betting on anything though.

Here is a petition to change our broken voting system. Nearly 100,000 people signed it before voting even finished. You should sign it too.

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