Wednesday, July 14, 2010

UK Electoral Reform: a letter to our MP

I have been corresponding with Ian Murray, our local MP here in Edinburgh South, about electoral reform in the UK (amongst other issues), not because electoral reform is the most important or pressing issue facing the UK, but because it is one where improvement seems possible for relatively little effort. I thought I would post my latest message. It is not brilliant or groundbreaking, but I've been thinking about posting more of my letters to politicians as I think seeing examples is a good way of being encouraged to pick up pen or pixels for yourself.

Dear Mr Murray,

Thank you for taking the time to answer my correspondence when I realise you have received many similar messages recently. Thank you also for your reassurances about your opposition to a threshold cap on the referendum.

I agree that the issue is hugely complicated, but believe that there are a number of positive examples around the world of nations that have a better (though still imperfect) system than FPTP. Every system has its drawbacks, but I think that those involved in FPTP are large enough to justify a thorough review and referendum.

I am a little concerned that you think a result which would have led to a different outcome in 27 seats is only "minor". Although it may not have kept Labour in government, such a change would be a significant step forward in its own right.

I share your concern about both the moving goalposts of a vote of no confidence and the potential gerrymandering of electoral boundaries in any attempt to "fix" parliament. As an Australian citizen, I would warmly recommend that the UK investigate Australia's AEC (Australian Electoral Commission) as a moderately successful example of an independent body overseeing electoral redistribution and the entire electoral process. I am not familiar enough with the UK system (though my knowledge is rapidly growing) to know how well the local equivalent functions, but any concern that changes could be politically motivated would be at least partially answered if they came from a body that was genuinely independent in both perception and reality.

I have noted the concern expressed about the ballot being held on the same day as the other elections, however, don't particularly feel the weight of this objection. It seems to save money through only requiring a single electoral event. The idea that English voters are disadvantaged can only be upheld if one grants that they are not concerned enough to go to the polls for something other than an election. First, if that is the case, then we really are in a dangerous position of political apathy. Second, if it is the case, then why would a different polling date increase English participation? If they are in danger of missing out, it is not because Scotland and Wales are holding an election, but due to their own apathy. As for diluting the Scottish and Welsh elections, again, perhaps I have a higher view of the ability of the average voter to hold more than a single idea in their head at the same time. Perhaps I have missed something, but that particular issue feels like a storm in a tea cup to me.

Thanks again for your time and thoughtfulness and for all the work you do on our behalf. May God give you wisdom as you seek justice in this land.

Grace & peace,
Byron Smith