Monday, 14 March 2011

Labour are still the party of reactionism and authoritarianism

Despite Ed Miliband's efforts to rebrand the Labour Party, it is clear that they have not shaken off the New Labour 'tough on crime' obsession, as well as the fascination with pandering to the tabloid press. This week has once again shown it. Sadiq Khan has apparently faced a backlash from within the party after delivering the following comments during a speech to the Fabians:

"Reoffending rates are still too high, as is the prison population. I'm clear that this is one area where our scorecard in office would have said 'Could have done better'. Much better, in fact.

We became hesitant in talking about rehabilitation and the merits of investment in bringing down reoffending rates. It was almost as if we had to give off the impression we were even more tough on crime just to demonstrate we weren't soft on crime.

Playing tough in order not to look soft made it harder to focus on what is effective."
So while Ed, and seemingly Sadiq, attempt to make small steps toward a slightly more liberal Labour Party, vast sections of the party are refusing to comply. The New Statesman highlights the point with a series of quotes from various Labour insiders. According to the New Statesman, one shadow frontbencher said "if anyone thinks I'm following Ed Miliband or Ken Clarke's line on this stuff they can think again." Another insider complained about the inconsistency: "a couple of weeks a go we had Ed in the Sun piling into Cameron for being weak on crime. Now we've got Sadiq popping up saying he wants to hand half the prison population the key to their cells. We're just confusing people." While the insider is criticising the inconsistency, the language used shows clear contempt for the rather sensible comments made by Sadiq Khan.

It is also worth pointing out that Ed's liberal direction would certainly not be deemed liberal by most people's standards. However, it would seem that it is still far too liberal for Labour's reactionaries. In his first speech as leader, Ed conceded that mistakes had been made with regard to 90 days detention without trial and "the broad use of anti-terrorism measures for purposes for which they were not intended." However, he also said that these mistakes "undermined the important things we did like CCTV and DNA testing." Despite his talk of Labour being more liberal, he is proud of Labour's terrible record on surveillance and is also proud of the routine holding of the DNA of suspects, despite it being declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.

Contrast Labour's secretive policy making, as well as it's illiberal, punitive and authoritarian attitude to crime, with the open, democratic and liberal debate held by the Lib Dems in Sheffield on matters of crime and youth justice. It is clear to me which party is the real home of liberal progressives.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

First Past the Post: A Few Facts and Figures


The turnout in General Elections in the UK is lower than in most other established democracies. Most of the EU states with a lower turnout in their last election were post-communist countries in eastern and central Europe. Whilst turnout in 2010 rose slightly to 65.1%, the previous two elections had a turnout of around 60%, no other election since 1918 has had a turnout below 70%.

Votes per MP

Under the current FPTP system, the number of votes cast for a party per MP varies widely. Votes for the Conservatives and Labour translate efficiently into seats, where as votes for the Lib Dems and Greens are far less efficient.

During the 2010 election, the parties received the following amount of votes per MP:

Conservative Party - 34,995
Labour Party - 33,345
Liberal Democrats - 119,795
Green Party - 285,616

Seat share projections

The Electoral Reform Society has looked into how the 2010 election might have turned out had it been run under alternative voting methods. Whilst modeling of this nature requires a lot of assumptions, it nevertheless provides an interesting picture of how results might have been.

FPTP - Conservatives 307, Labour 258, Lib Dems 57
AV - Conservatives 282, Labour 264, Lib Dems 74
STV - Conservatives 254, Labour 195, Lib Dems 166

Yes to AV: Say Yes to Fairer Votes

The referendum on the voting system represents a fantastic opportunity to improve the way we hold elections and do politics in Britain.

The AV voting system offers us many positive changes
- Under AV, MPs would need a real mandate. This would require candidates to work harder to win and keep support.
- Under the AV system, the constituency link of FPTP is maintained and arguably strengthened as MPs need to appeal to the majority of voters.
- AV limits tactical voting, as supporters can vote for their preferred party in the knowledge their vote can still help to decide the winner.
- The AV system also limits the chances of divisive or extremist candidates, as they are very unlikely to gain the majority support necessary.
- AV encourages candidates to campaign positively as they are required to appeal to supporters of other parties.

AV is already used in various elections
- It is used by both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats to elect their leaders.
- It is used by MPs to elect the Speaker, Select Committee Chairs and other officials.
- It is used by various unions and professional bodies.
- It is used in private elections, such as for Chancellor of Oxford University.

Voting using AV
Opponents of the AV system try to make it seem like a confusing method of voting. The reality is different. Instead of placing a 'X' on the ballot paper, voters will instead use numbers to rank the candidates in order of preference. You put a '1' by your favourite candidate, a '2' by your second favourite, and so on. There is no obligation to rank all the available candidates. Voters can rank as many candidates as they like. In fact, you can back just one candidate if you like.

How AV works
First of all, 'first preferences' are counted. If a candidate has 50% of the votes, they win. If not, the last placed candidate is eliminated and their supporters second preferences are transferred to the others. This process continues until one of the candidates gains 50% of the vote.

For more information on the YES! to Fairer Votes campaign, visit: