In Britain, earlier this month proponents of electoral reform had their hopes dashed when a referendum on a new voting system was lost. Sam Bayes, a 27-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from London, gives his verdict on hopes for the future. Will it be a case of evolution or revolution?
Well I must confess I’m disappointed.
The UK’s referendum on our method of voting passed (sadly on only 41% of the voter turnout) in favour of the No to Alternative Voting campaign.
The nation (well just over a quarter of it) stood and stated in no uncertain terms that despite its inherent flaws, despite its effects on the grinding continuity of electoral results it prefers the First Past the Post system.
You may recall I wrote on this a few months ago. I was decidedly more optimistic then about our revolutionary reform and indeed the UKs ability to reform at all. It had been a hundred years since the last chance of making our politics fairer. Now it’s difficult not to wallow in the thought that it will be another hundred years before we get another.
Difficult, but not impossible. To see why we have to look at the nation as a whole and make a couple of assumptions. The current climate in politics here is one in constant flux, we had an OK voter turnout last year for our general election, the Labour party, seen as responsible for an illegal war and the financial crisis were very unpopular, the Liberal Democrats ran a good campaign and the Conservatives were still seen by most as a party out of touch with the increasingly strong lower middle classes. The result was the coalition government we have today.
The assumption I believe is fair to make is that the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party want political reform and the Conservatives don’t. This isn’t a great leap; those politically right of centre always maintain that the power, influence and wealth of the upper and upper-middle classes create through a trickledown effect a better society.
Why rock a boat that’s been sailing clean and clear for 200 years? The answer to this question sits with those centre left parties whose seats make a majority in the House of Commons. They are far more conscious of the increase in the UKs working and lower-middle class influence. They are keen to bring fairness through greater welfare and distribution of money through representative taxing and the holding of our politicians to higher account.
Put simply, in the last election roughly 10 million people voted for the Conservatives, 8 million for Labour and 6 million for the Liberal Democrats. Put that another way, 10 million people voted for the status quo but 14 million voted for the potential to effect change. This number is slowly rising and the coalition government shows its gradual march.
We didn’t get our revolution on May the 5th; some considered it too much change, too fast. But we will gather the momentum shown here and our political landscape will evolve into fairer democratic governance. More people are finding their voices in this country and the result is a coalition, a Cabinet that’s has to give and take.
It is this that gives me hope that one day soon the country will declare, in numbers far exceeding 41% that it is ready for wholesale reform.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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