36arn

Politics

These are just a few of my general thoughts about politics in the UK. I should point out that I am a member of the Green Party.

Democracy

The UK supposedly operates a democratic political system. Unfortunately, it's a first past the post system, or "winner takes all" (or at least it is for the main parliament). That means that large numbers of votes are cast for parties that subsequently aren't represented at all in the elected body. As a result, in my lifetime (over 50 years) we have effectively had a two party system. The situation in the USA is even worse. The US system is openly a two party system, but the ability to win an election seems to depend on the amount of funding rather than the policies.

So why do we fool ourselves that this system represents the will of people? The answer is, at least in the UK, we don't. That's why people don't bother to vote at all. That, and the unconvincing nature of most politicians.

We need a more representative electoral system, such as proportional representation. Proportional representation seems to result in a more balanced and moderate governance, where the parties have to work with each other rather than against each other. It does however seem to lead to more elections. The rejection of the Alternative Vote system in 2011 was unfortunate. AV is a poor alternative to PR, but it was an opportunity to move in the right direction. The untruths perpetuated by both sides during the campaign showed the worst side of British politics.

The UK, although referred to as a constitutional monarchy, lacks a written constitution. The rights of the people are enshrined in statutes, case law, common law, and international treaties, stretching back almost a thousand years. Personally, I would prefer something to be clearly written down.

Voting

People should always vote, when given the opportunity to do so, even if they vote "none of the above", or spoil their ballot paper on principle. People who do not vote forfeit their right to complain about the government, in my opinion. Should we make voting compulsory? I don't think so. We should just make failing to vote socially unacceptable, like drinking and driving!

In general, I disagree with tactical voting; that is, voting to achieve some desired result, rather than what you believe in. Of course, if we had proportional representation tactical voting should not be necessary.

The UK Parliament

It's frankly pathetic. Typically, procedings in the Houses of Commons take one of two forms: either a virtually empty debating chamber where people read statements at each other, moderated by someone in fancy dress (although the current Speaker has abandoned that tradition), or a full house where people jeer, cat-call and generally behave like naughty school children. Either way, it's no way to run a country, and no way to convince a disillusioned electorate that it is worth voting. Let's have reasoned, intelligent non-partisan debate.

Why do they persist with these ancient traditions, like not being allowed to address fellow members of parliament by name? Why are practises such as fillibustering still allowed? The whole parliamentary system needs to modernise in order to convince the people that they are doing a worthwhile job. How about fixed hours for a start, and compulsory attendance for elected members?

Some argue that an MP's salary is not enough to live on, and hence MPs need generous expenses to compensate. However, in some cases, the only real skill these people have is an ability to appeal to the electorate, so why should they be paid an exorbitant salary as a backbencher? Surely, living in London goes with the job, so if they can't afford it why stand for parliament in the first place? I have a solution to this problem: demolish the House of Lords (see annoyances below), and build a dedicated luxury hotel instead. That way, there'd be no excuse for not turning up, and no need to claim expenses.

Fortunately, the UK is not run by parliament or its MPs. It is notionally run by whichever party happens to be in government, but in reality it's run by a largely competent civil service.

Annoyances

  • Politicians' inability to answer a straight question.
    I can have some sympathy for this - sometimes the question is not one that should be asked, nor one that can be realistically answered. However, so often they lie, evade, or answer a different question in a long-winded manner.
  • Press briefings.
    I am fed up with hearing items on the news such as "today the Prime Minister will announce that...", or "in his speech this afternoon, the leader of the opposition will say..." I am quite prepared to wait for them to actually say it, thank you.
  • Unrealistic promises of tax cuts.
    Also known as bribing the electorate. Unfortunately, greed and human nature lead people to convince themselves that it is possible to have world class hospitals and schools without actually spending any more money. You can't get something for nothing, and I for one am happy to pay higher taxes in order to have a better environment and fairer society and in which to live.
  • Political hypocracy.
    For example, extolling green credentials whilst bulldosing the green belt and building more airports.
  • Constant economic growth.
    I fail to understand why it is necessary to constantly grow the economy (which basically seems to mean consuming more). Why can't we be happy with what we've got? Obviously I don't understand global politics and economics, but I'm not convinced that our leaders do either. To quote the rock band Muse, "An economy based on endless growth is unsustainable"
  • The House of Lords.
    It's a complete waste of time and money. Let's have a fully elected second chamber, with powers clearly defined in a written constitution.
  • Political parties changing policies to secure more votes.
    Policies should reflect what the party members truly believe in; not what they think will get them elected. All mainstream parties seem to be equally bad in this respect.
  • Over-complex taxation.
    Thanks to a succession of duplicitous Chancellors of the Exchequer, the UK has a taxation system that is designed to be as obscure as possible. The system comprises numerous taxes, allowances, credits, fiddles etc, and is ripe for exploitation by those who can afford to pay an accountant. We should simplify everything, and move towards a fairer system based on a local income tax (as proposed by the Liberal Democrats), with incentives to encourage entrepreneurialism and innovation. Corporation tax should be based on national sales, with small allowances for offshore costs (rather than allowing creative firms to move their profits overseas).
  • Doing anything for power.
    E.g. the Tory-LibDem coalition from 2010-2015. The LibDems rarely stood up to the Tories, because they were too scared of losing their chauffeur-driven cars and generous allowances.