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Two Models of Politics

November 2, 2016

I compare two models of politics. The first is the current dysfunctional model that seems to be an inevitable consequence of the First Past the Post Voting system. The second is the model we must have in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

At present:

  • Winner takes all: the need for an effective opposition is given lip service only
  • Scum Rises to the Top: Only those MPs who put their own selfish interests above the public interest or the wishes of their constituents rise to ministerial office.
  • Power is an end in itself; glory in it! Forget the public good.
  • Do not question the current orthodoxy, however destructive; it works for the majority of MPs.
  • Most MPs don’t need evidence; they know what is right; they just have to shout it out loud enough and often enough.
  • The truth is only admissable when convenient to the government.
  • They do not care about people; just pretend to.
  • They can afford to ignore ordinary people most of the time; when they cannot they manipulate them.
  • Loyalty to party is all; they are happy for the whips to push them physically through the right lobby when they are confused.
  • Hubris is inevitable. Serious mistakes will be made.
  • Never apologise; it is a sign of weakness.

What We Need:

  • Executive power is granted by parliament only to the extent to which it is necessary.
  • Good legislation is the result of collaborative effort.
  • New ideas are essential; the current orthodoxy must always be challenged.
  • Evidence is key; it may be challenged but never ignored.
  • Disagreements should be openly acknowleged and used as a means of mutual learning.
  • Loyalty to those you represent should trump loyalty to party.
  • If you know you have got it wrong apologise.

A proportional voting system does not of itself bring about the necessary culture change, but it does make it possible.

The government’s handling of the EU in or out issue has been disastrous. It is very unlikely the the current mess could have arisen if a proportional voting system had been in operation.

When in 2013 Cameron committed himself to a referendum, he was not interested in the arguments for and against Brexit. he just ‘knew’ it was right to remain, and that he would win, thus getting the Brexiteers off his back. It did not occur to him to look at the extent of and reasons for support for UKIP as an indicator of the possible result. He did not anticipate the need to plan for a possible Brexit,  to define what Brexit might mean before formulating the referendum question, or to consider whether there should have been two referenda. This was the height of insanity, but noone challenged him. If we had had proportional voting system premature and rash commitments simply would not have been taken seriously.

But we have First Past the Post and so Mrs May was confronted with an impossible dilemma. Had she any democratic legitimacy, and had she publicly told Cameron in good time what an idiot he was, she could have roundly denounced Cameron and said the process was so flawed that it had to be repeated. But the Cameron government had been elected by First Past the Post on a minority of the popular vote, and the way that May emerged was hardly democratic, so she has been boxed into a corner. Politically she has to appease the Brexiteers. In so doing she has had to assume she can invoke Article 50 under the Royal Prerogative but now the high court has said she cannot!

First Past the Post by fostering a poisonous culture both within and outside parliament, has created deep divisions in society. Brexit has has worsened this. If the high court ruling is upheld it is unlikely that Brexit will happen, and Brexiteers will forever hate the the Remainers. If the ruling is overturned, then it is clear Britain can expect no mercy from Europeans, and will face Hard Brexit. The economy will suffer and those who admit to supporting Brexit will be hated and attacked. Either way the whole fabric of society is in danger. I hope those MPs who support First Past the Post for entirely selfish reasons are proud of the disaster they have created.

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