In which I am a politics geek

I feel that I need to immediately confess that I did not vote in yesterday’s UK election. Voting is something that I love and feel priveliged to do, not just in memory of the brave women who fought to get me the vote but because there are so many places that do not have universal suffrage. Voting is a basic human right, but it is one that many people do not have access to.

However, I do not live in the UK, I do not pay taxes there and I have no intention of returning so I do not feel that it is ethically right for me to vote there. I would effectively be voting for a government that I do not need to live with and that seems wrong to me.

Having cleared that up…

What a fascinating vote! I was up until 2am last night following it and now I’m listening to Radio 5 live at work to keep up with it. The idea of a Conservative government makes me shudder. I’m a child of the eighties, my earliest memories are of poll tax riots and miners’ strikes. That doesn’t give me a good feeling about the Tories. Labour has made mistakes, I’m freely going to admit that, but they’ve also done a lot of good things (minimum wage, hospital waiting lists, repeal of Section 28, civil partnerships to name just a few) and none of them would have happened under a Tory government. In fact, I worry about the future of some of Labour’s good policies with Cameron in power.

I live in Canada. A hung parliament doesn’t frighten me and I’ve seen the NDP get a few things through because of the Conservative minority. The negotiations are going to be fascinating and I’m on tenterhooks waiting for speeches and announcements.

What has come out very clearly is that the first past the post system does not work. It’s insane. The LibDems are not far behind Labour in terms of votes and vote share, yet they currently have 56 seats to Labour’s 255. How is that a fair voting system? I grew up in an area that has not returned a non-Conservative MP since the beginning of the party system. There was a swing in that area from Tory to LibDem that is entirely unrepresented in the results. I know so many people who would stick pins in their eyes before they voted Conservative. Due to the FPTP system, our votes are utterly worthless. It makes no difference what we vote because the Tories will still win. That’s a massive number of votes that are going to anyone except the Tories, but a huge area (and huge number of seats) that is blue and will never change.

If nothing else comes out of this election, the UK needs proportional representation. It isn’t the scary thing that people paint it as, it’s a system that would prevent travesties like last night where the seats in no way reflect the way that people actually voted. FPTP does not guarantee a majority government, Canada has shown that for five years, but it does guarantee that millions of voters don’t get heard.

The debates this year have been fantastic for the election system. All those people who couldn’t vote because the queues were too long? That shouldn’t have been able to happen and needs investigation, but it’s also a sign that voter turn-out has been amazing. However there are still people who don’t vote because their vote won’t have any effect: PR would change that. The two things that I have always felt would counter voter apathy are television and electoral reform. One of them worked – let’s get electoral reform sorted and see what the country truely wants.

Edited to add: Just listened to David Cameron’s speech. Sounds like he’s got his sights fixed on a LibDem coalition and has put up taxes, education, low carbon economy and…electoral reform up for negotation! OK, he hasn’t said anything about PR but even being willing to discuss reform is good. He’s promising an all-party committee to investigate. A Tory-LibDem coalition would have to be better than a Tory minority, the LibDems might get some stuff done this way.

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