|Source: UK Political Info|
"Apathy could destroy democracy. When the turnout drops below 50 per cent., we are in danger." - Tony Benn, Maastricht debate in Parliament, 20 November 1991.
The landslide Labour victory of 1997 was not just because of voters switching parties; it was also owing to the drop in voter turnout - the lowest percentage since World War II. It's dropped further since.
And then there's the skewing caused by the FPTP voting system. Have a look at the figures below:
|Data: UK Parliament, UK Political Info, BBC|
Comparing 1992 and 2010, voter participation dropped by 3.9 million. Between them, the Big Three parties lost 5.48 million votes - and only five seats!
If seats had been awarded strictly in proportion to percentage of votes cast, not only would there now be 150 Lib Dem MPs, but a further 77 from minority parties - whose votes over the same 18-year period increased by 79%, and more than doubled as a percentage of turnout.
Of course, both turnout and party choice would very likely alter if every vote counted equally. (For further discussion of our democratic deficit, please see here.)
But here I'd like to add another strand: the quality of our MPs. "They Work For You," says the website - but do they?
Here's an anecdote related to me about the Conservatives as they were in 2002:
"A lady-friend who was active in the Conservative party convinced me to come to a few debates [plush venues, fine wine and senior politicians/civil servants]. The whole thing was a big disappointment, even then everyone was close minded, refused to acknowledge facts or party member opinion but worst of all clearly had self-interest or personal enrichment at heart. I saw whole rooms of highly intelligent young Conservatives, bankers, lawyers, surgeons etc. walk away in disgust time after time; even my friend left the party afterwards.
Wilson hasten to add the "all a long time ago" rider:
Yes, of course. Though I have spent quite some time over the past nearly two years trying (and failing) to get my Lib Dem MP to stand up and ask questions in Parliament about protecting savers from what I think is the eventual arrival of high inflation (long since arrived, if you look at the price of assets such as residential property).
As to the Labour Party, we have no end of material from the Blair-Brown years (despite their habit of not allowing minutes of many crucial "sofa government" meetings) and more recently there was the internecine strife of the two Miliband brothers who have a strange sense of entitlement, rather like Lord Mandelson and his vaunted descent from Herbert Morrison. It is most odd that the hereditary principle seems as strong among socialists as others, perhaps more so.
(Addendum, 12:20 pm: see Craig Murray today on his experience of standing against Jack Straw, here).
|Lewis Carroll's Walrus and Carpenter, with their supporters (pic source)|
“I weep for you,” the Walrus said.
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size.
Holding his pocket handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter.
“You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?”
But answer came there none –
And that was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
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