This is the second part of a two part article; please read the first part here.
A Better System
How to Achieve the Next Referendum
* The 2011 AV referendum was begrudgingly conceded to cement the coalition agreement and keep, by and large, the Liberal Democrats on side.
* The 2016 EU referendum was begrudgingly conceded because the Conservatives feared a swathe of Conservative voters switching their votes and supporting UKIP.
The next referendum on how we elect our leaders is, therefore, most likely to be achieved by applying exactly the same kind of pressure.
The main parties, Labour and Conservative, are both opposed to a representative electoral system for quite understandable reasons of self-interest. They will argue that this has already been decided but, as explained this argument is flawed. They will also use, what they think will be the killer blow, that FPTP provides strong government, which has also been successfully overturned earlier in this article. A further likelihood is that the sense of unfairness, against all those who voted UKIP, will be seen as in need of redress. The British are staunch opponents of injustice and the sense of it generated by our out-of-date and dysfunctional electoral system was and is palpable, drawing in even those who are not committed UKIP supporters. The ingredients are all there for a massive swing to UKIP to force a further referendum to happen. The most important constitutional questions are now around the creation of effective democratic institutions and the increase of citizen’s power over their governance, thereby ending the drift in the other direction. Evidence of this is very visible as the UK ‘minority’ government stalls in mid-term and the EU dismisses the concept of democratic accountability altogether.
If UKIP can get its act together and put forward a national policy framework including a firm commitment to a robust and effective voting system, there is every reason to think that any beleaguered government will concede another referendum as the safest course of action.
The recent pattern seems to be, when in doubt, hold a referendum and use all the power and resources of the government to try to win it. Truth, decency and honesty please take a short break.
The alternative for both Conservative and Labour parties is a hemorrhaging of votes to UKIP regardless of the result of the EU vote.
What’s the next step
It will come as no surprise to anyone, that new ideas aren’t welcome when their only strength is that they are the best idea. In that respect we are a peculiar species as we value status and position, regardless of how they are obtained, far more highly that we do good ideas. It’s simply who we are.
The oddly named ‘Electoral Society’ (100 years of failure) have no interest in new electoral systems because their internal bureaucracy doesn’t allow fleetness of foot and, of course, everything suffers from the ‘not invented ere’ syndrome which usually supresses any contribution from the ‘little people’. Other hands on the reigns of progress are vested interests (why, for example, cars still burn fuel) but pressure for a change to the electoral system may not be seen as relevant to the money men though, we’ll have to wait and see the reality of that assumption.
We need to get electoral reform up the agenda by talking about it and sharing information and influencing those who might be able to give it a push. Whatever system is eventually chosen it really ought to be subject to a critical review process, as opposed to selection by patronage.
I’m certain that whatever criteria is laid down the F2PTP voting system will outscore any other but, getting to that stage will be require some help along the way.