Wednesday, 20 April 2011
On May 5th, or sooner if you have a postal vote, you will have the chance to change politics - or keep it as it is. As the two campaigns, both for and against voting reform, gear up we have seen strange alliances between political foes on a national level and to some extent locally here as well.
Our MP Andy Slaughter is pictured here with his former LibDem opponent Merlene Emerson, both campaigning for people to vote "Yes" and endorse an change in the voting systemwhich would give people the chance to rank their candidates in order of preference.
In fact Merlene Emerson is a case in point about the present system - with not a single councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and the big battle having been between the Tories and Labour here, she knew she didn't stand a chance from the outset of that campaign. There was very little point in people putting a cross against her name, except as some kind of protest vote.
AV probably wouldn't change that because both Andy Slaughter and the Conservative Party here have large bases of support in different parts of the borough, but it would at a local level make it far less likely that the Town Hall would be dominated by one party - the Conservatives. At the moment they have a whopping 31 to 15 majority over Labour having swept them aside in the dying years of the last Labour Government. But if you look at the individual majorities of some of those councillors they are tiny - and under AV it would have been far less likely to end up like that. For any party.
Take the last election results of Shepherd's Bush Green Ward, which returned three Labour councillors in 2010. As expected. The average Labour vote for each councillor was 2,313 which was larger than any of the other candidates so they were elected. Fair enough you might think. But that means that the 3,904 people in the same ward who voted Conservative received no representation for their vote because their candidate didn't come first. At all. And the 3,036 people who voted LibDem were also ignored. At least under a new system those votes would have counted for something, and would have had to have been worried about by the three Labour candidates who basically knew they had to do something pretty disastrous not to be elected in that Ward. So they don't have to do much work - which might be why this group of Shepherd's Bush residents have never heard their Shepherd's Bush Ward councillors speak out about the proposed radical changes to Shepherd's Bush itself. The answer, as this YouGov research reveals, is that most people don't have a clue who their local councillor is because they never hear from them apart from at elections.
So ask yourself whether meetings like this, where huge cuts were pushed through over and above what central Government were asking them to do, would have hapenned in the same way under a more pluralist voting system with a more representative chamber of councillors. I doubt it.
And ask yourself whether our Council would be quite so keen to bulldoze through, quite literally, planning applications like this one in Hammersmith against the wishes of residents, or this one on the Goldhawk Road also against the express wishes of residents. Again, I doubt it.
Because they would have known they'd have to listen more carefully - or lose control of the Council. Simples.
So I'll be voting Yes - not just to have a more representative political make up of Government at local and national level but also because I don't like the political culture this current system creates where local people can be trodden down regardless because the Council has a whopping great majority in terms of seats but not as a result of the whopping majority of people actually having voted for them. The referendum itself is about how we elect the House of Commons rather than the Town Hall but the principle is the same and the implications of a Yes vote are that the local voting system would have to change as well.
Cuts there would have been regardless of who was in power here, but people like Ruth Walsh might have been listened to a bit more instead of being ignored. Vote yes.
Here's a vid of anti AV campaigner Baroness Warsi being utterly destroyed by Adam Boulton of Sky:
...and just to show this is a genuinely cross-party issue here is a pic of the top people from the four main political parties at City Hall. From the left is Andrew Boff for the Conservatives, Darren Johnson for the Greens, Caroline Pidgeon for the LibDems and Murad Qureshi for Labour all supporting AV. What a happy bunch!
Posted by Chris Underwood at 05:13