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STV and the Politics of Hope

November 24, 2012

At the recent Electoral Reform Society AGM, Dr Alan Renton reviewed the prospects for voting reform. He started by suggesting that there was little prospect in the foreseeable future of persuading any combination of political parties to agree that voting reform was to their advantage, and that therefore one had to work out how voting reform could be made a popular issue. Thus far I had to agree with him. However he then went on the say that he could think of no popular issue that could be used to generate popular support for STV. Maybe he could not, but we cannot afford to be limited by his failure of imagination and lack of depth of analysis. I started to make a suggestion but the Chair allowed the discussion to be choked off at that point. Maybe this was due to lack of time, but it was unfortunate.


Politics is in a very depressing place at present. The main parties in parliament have no answers. As far as they are concerned, there is no alternative to:

  • a program of austerity that causes hardship whilst not reducing the deficit.
  • an inefficient privatised health service which cannot for much longer be free at the point of use
  • public sector cuts.
  • rising unemployment – don’t believe the official figures; they are meaningless.
  • rising homelessness and allowing the homeless to die on the streets
  • demonising of the unfortunate
  • rising inequality
  • an ever increasing level of crippling PRIVATE debt


I am sure the Labour Party would dispute some of these points, but I do not see any practical policies.


There are plenty of creative ideas around, some well researched and certainly worth serious debate, but none seem to penetrate the Westminster bubble. Why is this? Is it corruption and revolving doors? Is it poor advice from an insulated and short sighted civil service? Is it that those MPs who have been taught economics have learned the neo-liberal economics that failed to predict the crash and which has more of the characteristics of a cargo cult than the social science it claims to be…? It is probably a mixture of all these.


I believe there are plenty of young people that start out in politics who are open to new ideas, but the system beats them down. Party discipline has much to answer for. STV is the only voting system that can help to weaken this discipline and let in new ideas.


How on earth to get this across to a popular audience? Should we take a leaf out of Bill Hicks’ book? Hicks was an American comedian who sadly died aged 31. In one sketch on ‘Politics in America’ Two puppets were featured. The key words were:

“I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs. I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking. Hey, wait a minute, … There’s one guy holding up both puppets!”


These puppets were I think glove puppets. We could make them marionettes. If further strings were tied to the ankles of the puppets they would represent ties to the people strengthened by STV.


I also think that it order to validate some of my claims above, ERS should engage with those heretics the New Economics Foundation – and why not the Occupy movement?

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