LETTER FROM EXILE # 23

THE UK ELECTIONS:

VOTE GREEN IN BRIGHTON PAVILION;

CAROLINE LUCAS

FOR REAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES.

AND VOTE LIB-DEM EVERYWHERE ELSE.

Vote for Your Children’s Future Environment;

Vote for Reform;

Vote for Democracy.

As a number of my readers have asked for my thoughts on the UK general election, here – for what it’s worth – is a quick posting.

People are generally disgusted with politicians.

‘So what’s new?’ I hear you say.

Well – in the United Kingdom, people have even more reasons than usual to be disgusted with the political classes. There has been the world-wide financial meltdown – largely brought about by a failure of politics. And in the UK there has also been the MP’s expenses scandal – which has seen members of the British parliament claiming on expenses, such costs as “having their moat cleaned out” – and “purchasing floating duck-houses”.

There is no doubt that the public mood – which is generally one of hostility to politicians – is, under the current circumstances, even more angry than usual.

Do politicians deserve this degree of opprobrium?

Very often – yes.

Though I was a politician myself for twenty years – I have always said to people, “all those suspicions, and instinctive hostility you feel towards politicos? As a rule-of-thumb – you’re right. Often – politicians are every bit as bad as you imagine.”

But, having said that, there are – believe it or not – many decent politicians – who are principled people – who do care – and do strive to do their best – in what is, unavoidably, a naturally toxic environment.

Which is why I always say to members of the public – when considering politicians in general – a useful guide is to always approach with caution.

Politicians should be regarded as guilty – until proven innocent.

But having said that – as I have often observed before – there is an awful lot of truth in that old saying –

“People get the government they deserve”.

But – for the moment – let’s assume you are the average British voter. And – for the reasons touched upon above – you want to punish the political classes generally; you want to make them pay – you want to teach them a lesson they won’t forget.

You want to make them experience what a first-home re-possession feels like – never mind losing the capital gain on a fake ‘flipped’ second home.

But, of course, with honourable exceptions, career MPs are rather like the scabs produced by an embarrassing skin condition; no matter how many times you might pick at it, in an effort to make it go away – another one will emerge to take its place. So – if the replacement candidate happens to be one of the bad ones – simply replacing your existing MP, with another, just will not convey to the political classes just how serious and unforgivable the failures of the last few years are.

There is only one, realistic, means of doing that; only one option open to you – that will empower you to deliver that earthquake beneath the complacency of Britain’s political establishment.

And that is to ensure a hung parliament by voting Lib Dem in every constituency where they have a fighting chance of taking the seat – except – of course – Brighton Pavilion – where their just share of the grief can – and should be – inflicted on the Lib Dems by voting for the Green candidate – the fantastic Caroline Lucas.

Before going on to explain my thinking, I’ve always believed in being honest with the public – so will begin by explaining where I am coming from politically.

My personal politics are Green. I used to be a member of the UK Green party, but my membership lapsed – not through any deliberate decision on my part – just too many things to do – too much political work going on in Jersey, where there isn’t a tradition of party politics in any event. I shall, actually, renew my membership – as soon as circumstances permit.

And as regular readers of this blog will know – the Jersey survivors and I have had strong support from the Lib Dem quarter – especially John Hemming MP and Lord Wallace.

But even if those connections of mine did not exist – my recommendations would be exactly the same.

Because if you want real change to be the result of this election – the thing you have to do is – finally – break the stagnant, complacent – and frequently corrupted – power-blocks of two-party duopoly.

And – uniquely – this election offers the voting public of Britain the very likely possibility of doing exactly that.

If enough people across the country vote for Lib Dems in those seats where they are in with a shout of wining – apart from Brighton Pavilion, where the vote should be Green – the result will be a ‘hung parliament’ – which means that no party will have sufficient seats to command an overall majority.

Therefore – the big-two – Labour and Conservative – will have to seek the co-operation of the Lib Dems in order to secure a guaranteed majority on important votes in the House.

And in exchange for their co-operation – there are certain policies of the Lib Dems which their coalition partners would have to commit to supporting; certain policies which, if not supported – would be deal-breakers.

And one such Lib Dem policy – is a referendum in short order – on electoral reform – in which the public of Britain will be asked to endorse a change from the old first-past-the-post voting system – and, instead introduce proportional representation.

I have no doubt that a change to proportional representation is desperately needed, and that the public would support such a change once there had been an informed debate, of the kind that would occur during the build-up to a referendum.

That outcome – fundamentally changing the way Britain does politics – making the system more democratic – and more accountable to the public – is the one thing you can do, to really punish the political establishment.

We may not be that familiar with proportional representation in the UK – and one will often hear the two main parties and their members criticising the system. They will point to the frequently chaotic and unstable politics of Italy – and claim that the UK system is far better – as it produces “stability”.

Be afraid. Always be afraid – when you hear politicos from established and entrenched political machines – extolling the “virtues” of “stability”.

It sounds good – doesn’t it – ‘stability’?

What’s not to like? How could anyone not want ‘stability’?

Of course – as is so often the case with politics – words are used to convey one idea – when the speaker in fact means something quite different; it is as though they were speaking in a kind of code.

When you hear people from established political power-blocs – such as the Conservatives and the Labour Party, speaking about “stability” – in truth what they’re trying to sell to you – is your own disempowerment.

By “stable” – they mean the system at present virtually guarantees that they will remain in power. Thus the system is “stable” – in that the voting system offers you – the voting public – so little meaningful power – that you are helpless to change those in charge – even if you want to to.

But not this time.

This time – because of the political mood – the voting public have an opportunity – an opportunity that may well not come around again for a very long time – to take the power back from the political classes.

So if you really do want to make a difference – this time – vote Lib Dem if you live in a constituency where they’re in with a chance of winning – except Brighton Pavilion, where – for very good reasons – the vote should be for Caroline Lucas of the Greens.

For with no working majority for the big two – and a sizable presence for the Lib Dems – in a year or two, you get a referendum – which will enable you to vote for a permanent change to a more democratic voting system.

And with such a voting system – the need for the type of tactical voting I recommend above will fade away to a large extent. Under a PR system – no matter where you live – you will be able to cast your vote for the party of your first choice – secure in the knowledge that it won’t be a wasted vote – and it will, instead, count towards your party’s majority.

And if you are not convinced about the need for proportional representation – just consider a few facts. Actually – most western European countries have had types of PR voting systems for a very long time. The result is a far more rational, balanced, proportional – democratic – parliament. The confusions of Italian politics are the exception; and given that country’s political history and the presence of so much organised crime, one has to wonder whether any political system would work well.

A fact which should appeal to lots of British people – tired of being conned by the meaningless pantomimes that are proceedings in the Commons – is that PR systems actually require political parties to find ways of agreeing – and of working together. Mature, adult co-operation – as opposed to the play-ground bellowing that passes for debate in the House of Commons. Of course – such practises wouldn’t be entirely removed – but just how many sensible people believe that only one political party or the other – can have a monopoly on good policy ideas?

The very idea is an insult to the intelligence. Yet – that is what the die-hard supporters of the current two-party monopoly are, in effect, arguing.

But at least as important as producing better systems of government – proportional representation produces a more democratic form of government.

Consider just how much attention is focused on this election. People across the nation will imagine – as they go to do their democratic duty by voting – that their vote counts. Well – it so happens that this time – unusually – it just might – so what ever else you do – make sure you use your vote.

Remember – people died so that you have that right.

Don’t disrespect their sacrifice by just not being bothered to go to the polling-booth.

And to those who say “why bother? – they’re all as bad as each other”, realise this; even if you really dislike all of the candidates – and all of the parties they represent – still – go and use your vote – and vote for the party and candidate you dislike the least.

Because if you don’t – the candidate you hate the most might get in instead.

But wouldn’t it be better to have a more positive reason to use you vote?

A bigger choice of credible parties? The knowledge that your vote would not be “wasted” – as it often is at present if you live in a safe-seat for a political party that you don’t support? Political parties being required to co-operate? And – above all – a democratic outcome?

Because what happens under the present UK voting system might be described as many things – but it certainly does not meet my definition of democratic.

How could it be?

Because of the perversities of the first past the post system – and the distribution of populations and seats – we have a situation whereby one political party – can secure only 33% of the vote – and yet gain 100% of the power.

It’s madness – and has no place in a modern, western European democracy.

And under the present UK system – there is so little you can do about it. Usually – if you want your vote to count, to have an actual effect, it has to be cast for whichever party is in first or second rank in your constituency. And even then – only in those seats which are regarded as “marginal” – thus winnable for more than one party – will you stand much chance of making your democratic will felt.

Under the presents system, UK elections – though ostensibly fought at a national level – are, in truth, fought over – and decided – in a handful of ‘swing’ constituencies – those where the outcome is uncertain – and could return a crucial MP for the respective parties.

Frankly – the political classes – though they would never admit it – view the rest of the nation – where the seats are ‘safe’ – with contempt. They are taken for granted.

So I say again – if the voting public really do want to send a very loud and clear message of disapproval to those political classes – we all need to vote for a reforming parliament. And only a hung parliament will deliver to us real, functioning democracy.

And – in broad terms – that is going to require a vote for the Lib Dems in those seats they have a chance of winning.

Except Brighton Pavilion.

And I say that not only because my politics are, essentially, Green.

I believe the leader of the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg has – under the circumstances – done extremely well. However – his leadership is not perfect.

And I believe his failure to require his Brighton party to, effectively, back the Green candidate, Caroline Lucas, is a serious tactical – and ethical – error.

There is a certain degree of over-lap between Lib Dem and Green policies; certainly, the two parties could work together – although it is not correct to suggest – as one of my readers recently did – that the three main parties – and I include the Lib Dems in this judgement – have serious and effective environmental policies. They don’t. Only the Greens are facing facts.

But by caving-in to local political ambitions – and not supporting a collaborative approach with the Greens in Brighton – Mr. Clegg makes two profound misjudgements.

Given the seat is a four-way marginal – with the outcome by no means assured – there is a very real danger that the potential vote of Caroline Lucas will be weakened by votes going to the Lib Dems.

That could – very easily – have the effective of seeing a Conservative candidate returned.

Secondly – and, in some ways more profoundly – the Lib Dems – are likely to do very well across the nation – and if they do so – it will be because of their promise to deliver a new style of collaborative, co-operative politics. Why then – fail to set an example – in this election – by not forming a sensible, strategic alliance with the Greens in Brighton Pavilion?

Because if there is one thing that a new style of politics is going to have to require – it is the curbing of the dominance of the narrow, personal ambitions of party apparatchiks in individual constituencies. It would have been far batter for the Lib Dem party – and more significantly, far better for the country – if Caroline Lucas was the candidate for a Green/Lib Dem pact in Brighton.

I believe – that for making such a crass misjudgement – one that is not even compatible with the new approach to politics they espouse – the Lib Dems deserve the punishment of the voters of Brighton Pavilion – who should throw their weight behind Caroline Lucas, and cast aside the Lib Dem candidate.

After all – as much as the Lib Dems are our great hope for democratic reform – in the context of this election – at a national level – it wouldn’t be healthy to begin conferring upon them the same kind of blind allegiance that has so led the big-two into complacency and disrepute.

And, finally – I can assure the voters of Brighton Pavilion that in Caroline Lucas – they have a candidate of exceptional quality and calibre. Her intelligence, articulacy and ethics are obvious to anyone who has seen her taking part in TV debates, or listened to her on the radio. Not only is she a great candidate – who will be a fantastic MP for you – you will also be doing the nation a service.

Britain needs a Green presence in parliament.

The voters of Brighton Pavilion can lead the way.

Stuart.

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