Monday, 24 March 2008

I vote for none of the above!

Today’s Guardian headlines with an interesting article on what it claims are government plans to radically change the traditional “first past the post” voting system. The plans, backed in principle by Gordon Brown, would involve a second transferable vote, polling stations open on weekends and even the possibility of making voting compulsory. The ideas are based on the desire to restore trust in our political structures and encourage higher voter turn out

Being very much a traditionalist, I like the current system. It produces clear winners (in the main) and every body knows who they are voting for. However, I do except that it is outdated and needs amendment. Whilst opening polling stations for two days is a valid change, the idea of compulsory voting has no place in a democratic society. The desire to vote or not as the case may be, is intrinsic to the principles of moral and political free will: the action of not actually voting is often a decision based on the lack of support for either the party’s involved in the election or the system under which they operate. It was compulsory to vote in Communist Russia – do we really want to replicate those totalitarian principals?

If politicians really want to restore public trust and encourage public turn out, perhaps they should look at themselves first. Expenses claims, payments to family members, poor attendance in the Commons, an unelected second chamber based on privilege – reform is needed firstly from within, then you can look at the voting laws.

Mind you, compulsory “attendance” laws would be a major step forward for MP’s and Councillors, but where would that leave certain local representatives?

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