When the Government is elected under an unfair system and does not rule by consent of a majority it’s time to reclaim democracy. The following piece is published with the endorsement of the Pirate Party UK, Something New, Young People’s Party UK and Charlotte Rose – Independent.
The Government isn’t a corporation you can opt not to give your money to. They’re not a service provider you can leave a bad review with and swap out and they’re not going away any time soon.
So how do we reclaim democracy? Recognising the problems is the first step.
First Past the Post
To reclaim democracy it is essential we move away from the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system which provides minority rule. Given enough time first past the post inevitably gives overwhelming support to a two party race where voters are no longer voting for what they really want but rather for what the dislike the least. The two party system discourages positive change as both parties know they only have to give a slightly better offer (or better impression of an offer) to sway voters. FPTP also breeds disinterest as the candidates people really want are nearly always entirely unelectable, which answers why we get so many people not voting.
First past the post is very susceptible to Gerrymandering. With FPTP creating safeseats, whichever Government is in power can opt to change constituency boundaries and make it possible to ignore the majority of voters that vote against whichever party is in power.
Finally we come to the spoiler effect or “splitting the vote”. When two similar candidates run for election in the same constituency it lessens both their chance of being elected when running against an established party as each constituent can only vote once. Under a different voting system, such as the semi-proportional Alternative Vote (AV) constituents are able to vote for their candidates in order of preference, thus eliminating the spoiler effect.
Votes for 16 Year Olds
Engaging people in politics at an early age will create a better representation of our population in Government. Often young people are disinterested in politics as if they form their own views, they cannot express themselves through votes at the ballot box. Additionally here is a list of things we can do at 16:
- You can get married at 16
- You can be full time employed at 16
- You can choose your full time education at 16
- You can buy a pet at 16
- You can have sex at 16
- You can join the army at 16
- You can be a tenant at 16
- You can choose your own doctor at 16
- You can have legal aid at 16
- You can consent to medical decisions at 16
- You can claim child tax credits at 16
- You can have an ISA at 16
- You can order your own passport at 16
…and even more at 16
Why can’t we vote at 16, which influences all of the above?
There has been a lot of discussion around online or voting by text recently but it is always disregarded for fraud and security purposes – even our generally accepted postal votes are subject to fraud scrutiny, especially with the recent selling of Scottish referendum votes on ebay.
However opening polling stations for a weekend or over a period of days rather than a single day, having more polling stations, some closer to places of work or placing polling stations in easy to get to locations with good transport links are rarely discussed.
Reform the House of Lords
For more than a century Governments have spoken about reforming the House of Lords.
The only way we are going to be able to reclaim democracy is if both the upper (House of Lords) and lower (House of Commons) are 100% elected. If your position grants you the power to pass laws you should at a minimum be elected by the public, the people who have to live by those laws.
All seats should be open for election. No seat should be reserved for Bishops or any other faith community leaders, especially with religion in decline in our increasingly secular leaning society.
All areas of the state should operate with transparency. If you’re paying into the system you should have full access to view how it operates. Politicians need to be held accountable for their actions and their spending. We can reclaim our democracy by ensuring politicians are not fiddling the books with:
Government systems are complex and it is not always clear who is responsible for what. Ministers should be given clear accountability for what areas of government they reside over.
With the latest tax loophole hot topic and the long and continuing pattern of elected officials fraudulently claiming expenses, any monies provided by the state outside of the standard salary should be published openly for all to see.
Political democracy and economic democracy are intertwined. We should campaign to increase support and success of small and indie businesses, co-operatives and employee-owned firms while moving away from the dependence on chains with no local interests.
The public should decide how big or small the role a company takes in our society and limit them to that role.
In short, the reclamation of democracy is essential for a fair society, a strong local economy, diversity, positive change and public engagement. If we want the benefits of a democracy, we must reclaim it!