Q: UKIP supports a proportional voting system. Which system would you favour? Would you support the Single Transferable Vote, used for local elections in Scotland and all elections in Northern Ireland? Unlike the Additional Member System (and AV+), STV gets rid of closed lists – which take power away from voters and hands them to parties instead – and eradicates the safe seats we see in the First Past the Post element of AMS.
A: I support a more proportional system of voting but UKIP has not yet finalised a decision on which particular system would be best for parliamentary elections. UKIP very much wants to protect and nurture the constituency connection between elected MPs and the electors who vote for them through locality. Furthermore, the closed list is open to rampant corruption, abuse and manipulation of power within political parties. Why else would it be as fervently encouraged by the European Union as that anti-democratic body’s preferred voting system? So whilst not yet ready to promote any one particular system of proportional representation, I will push our campaign in that direction and we will come up with an agreed position under my leadership.
Q: What methods would you support to continue to increase voter registration? Would you consider moves towards automatic registration, or a US-style ‘motor voter’ campaign where citizens are prompted with a simple tick-box to register to vote when interacting with public sector bodies – such as applying for a driving licence, for a tax return or for university?
A: I am not a fan of compulsory voting, but I believe that increasing voter participation will happen as a direct result of other UKIP reforms such as our agenda for local referenda on planning and environmental issues, and our initiative of triggering a referendum on an important national issue to bind parliament to debate and vote on such an issue, once every two years. These forms of direct democracy will naturally encourage people to register to vote so they can take advantage of them. With our exciting provision for MP recall, and open primaries for party candidate selections, coupled with our clean-up of voting fraud by withdrawing postal votes on demand and scrapping all the existing postal voting registers, we will see a natural return to larger numbers of voters casting their ballots as they feel more engaged in a cleaner, fairer process to a body which actually does govern and make the laws of this country rather than rubber-stamp Brussels edicts. UKIP is a libertarian party at heart. Therefore I do not like the idea of surreptitious registration, nor exploiting people’s private data.
Q: How will you work with other parties to secure democratic reform? More and more individual politicians, parties and organisations are getting behind a fair voting system. What will you do to build alliances to make it happen – i.e. what is your route to proportional representation?
A: UKIP is always ready and willing to talk with other interested groups about matters of common interest. We have some work to do firstly, as I say above, in putting together our case for a particular system of proportional representation which neither removes the great qualities of our parliamentary democracy, our sovereignty, our constituencies, and the concept of representative democracy. What UKIP does not like is the whip system, limitless prime ministerial patronage, cronyism and nepotism, closed lists, buying influence, and ignoring democratically reached decisions like Brexit.
Q: Do you believe in a fully-elected House of Lords? The Lords is currently the largest upper chamber among any advanced country, and between February 2014 to January 2015, £21 million was spent on handouts to unelected Peers, with the average Lord receiving £25,826 tax-free – despite the chamber only sitting for about 130 days of the year. What would you do to ‘take back control’ and reform it?
A: At the moment the House of Lords consists of a huge pool of politically appointed sinecures, a handful of hereditary seats, senior bishops from the Church of England, and the Law Lords of the Supreme Court. It is all a bit ad hoc and reeks of abuse. However, we have to be aware and careful if we simply try to engineer this current peculiar assemblage of legislators to become a clone of the House of Commons. I do not want to create something even worse than what we have already got. We have arrived at where we are due to the weakness and susceptibility of successive governments to try and gerrymander the upper house in their favour by appointing waves of lickspittle servants and pals of various occupants of 10 Downing Street. I vow UKIP will suspend all further appointment of life peers, so however long it takes to reform the Lords, at least it will get smaller as the current crop go to the red benches in the sky.
One saving grace of the Lords is the crossbencher arrangement, which waters down the whip system a bit. We should try to keep that non-partisanship feature in the future. What is lacking entirely in the Lords is comprehensive, weighted, geographical representation. That, so the argument goes, is what the Commons provides. The Lords is the source of senior sagacity; top judges, clerics, successful people, and superannuated politicians. It is because of rampant cronyism, nepotism and ‘cash-for-honours’ abuse by the three failed legacy political parties that public confidence in this quality of wisdom has been lost. The other factor was always given as ‘experience’, but experience of what exactly these days? Perhaps it is the experience of being a close friend of David Cameron or Nick Clegg. Not that there is anything new about any of this. It has been going on for years, Blair, Brown, Wilson and all the way back to Lloyd George.
We do need and will continue to need a body of parliamentarians willing to scrutinise in detail proposed legislation, to act as a brake and a scrutiniser of the actions of the House of Commons; ‘checks and balances’ being part of the Lords’ role. So we have to recognise that reward for such good quality legislators should include prestige bestowed upon them as recognition of their knowledge, their dedication, their experience, their undoubted integrity and hopefully to a large degree their non-partisanship. Being called a ‘Lord’ is a peculiarly British way of offering such prestige. The Romans were comfortable with Senators, as are the Americans. In Italy, however, the Senate is rife with corruption and in Brazil it is paralysed in the jaws of state corruption on an endemic scale. Maybe the word ‘Lord’ isn’t so bad; it is really the means by which the post-holder got the title which is our focus.
How can we hope to bring about such a group of people if political parties are responsible for selecting candidates? I feel the upper house, the Lords if we do keep the name, should be partly elected and partly appointed, with appointees being agreed by a commission (membership itself of which is moot, it might initially have to be made up of current lords), from a pool of nominees put forward at agreed intervals by different recognised bodies such as professional regulatory bodies, trades unions, industrial groups, commercial interests, sports bodies, artistic and academic institutions, the Civil Service and local government, and yes, a people’s list, based on merit and genuine public service, so for instance, from amongst people who receive genuine honours each year, not political honours. Most importantly I would want to listen to and gauge members’ views on this complex issue and steer our party towards putting together a coherent set of proposals using direct democracy internally as well.