I’m sure most people who know me will already be aware that I am a member, and staunch supporter, of the Green Party, and I believe that, in a democratic country, a government should represent the majority of people who live in that country.
The situation we are in, following the general election 2015, is that we have in government a party that fewer than half of the people in the UK actually want. Whichever way you look at it, this system cannot pretend to be fair. I have only heard one argument in favour of the current, ‘first past the post’ voting system and that is that we are currently represented locally, and that would be lost if we were to adopt proportional representation as our voting system. That particular argument doesn’t wash with me on two counts. Firstly, there is no reason why we couldn’t be represented locally under a system of proportional representation and secondly, we do not have genuine local representation under the current ‘first past the post’ system.
As an example, I live only two miles away from Maidstone town centre. We are served by Maidstone Borough Council. We have a Maidstone postcode. We have a Maidstone prefix for our landline telephone number. We even have a Park & Ride bus service into Maidstone town centre that, somewhat ironically, we can easily reach by walking. (In fact, my youngest son always walks into town but he’s younger and fitter than I am!). So, as we regard ourselves, quite reasonably, as residents of Maidstone, it may come as some surprise to learn that we had to vote for parliamentary candidates in Faversham, which is twenty-one miles away! I have been to Faversham a few times in the past, but I have never regarded myself as a resident of Faversham, or even a resident of the Faversham outskirts and, unless I decide to actually move there, that’s not going to change.
I was present at the Maidstone count on Thursday night, (which was located, incidentally, within walking distance of my home), with my friends and colleagues in the Maidstone Green Party. It was a strange situation for me because the other members of the Maidstone Green Party had actually voted for Hannah Patton, the candidate we were there to support. With the bizarre boundaries that we have in place, I had been unable to vote for her but instead had to vote for Tim Valentine, in Faversham. I must make it absolutely clear that I have nothing against Tim who is, as it happens, a thoroughly decent bloke and, had I lived in Faversham, I would have been proud and delighted to be able to vote for him. My gripe is that he cannot be expected to represent the interests of those of us who live in Maidstone. In fact, the boundary of ‘Faversham and Mid-Kent’ even covers parts of Chatham, as well as other areas that must be close to thirty miles away from Faversham! I know that Tim made a stalwart effort to contact people in those areas that are way outside the region that can, under any other circumstances, be described as Faversham. Frankly, he had his work cut out and I’ve no doubt that he, together with the residents of Faversham, would much prefer to have a realistic boundary in place. I couldn’t blame them if they are outraged at the thought of those of us who rarely even visit Faversham having a say in issues that affect them, and them only. A cynic might suggest that bizarre boundaries such as ours have been put in place to manipulate votes, but surely that couldn’t happen in a civilised, democratic society, could it?! Perhaps we should question at what point we cease to be a civilised, democratic society.
Having destroyed the only argument I have heard against proportional representation, (‘representation’ being the operative word), I can also conclude that, should the system be implemented, it would put a stop to tactical voting. As far as I’m concerned, the practice of voting for a political party, other than the one we truly want to see in power, simply to prevent another party from ‘winning’, is an inevitable symptom of a system that is broken beyond repair. If we wish to continue to see ourselves as a democratic society, we must implement a drastic change from the current system, and proportional representation seems, to me, to be the only fair way of doing it.
I am now finding it rather ironic that those in favour of what I regard as the polar opposite of the Green Party; namely UKIP, would also benefit from a system of proportional representation. So, we currently have a system that is so badly broken it can even unite UKIP and the Green Party! Who’d have thought it?! Surely, it MUST be time for change.
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