An article from a fellow contributor on PoliticalPromise. I repost here, along with my comment in the Responses section.
An article from a fellow contributor on PoliticalPromise. I repost here, along with my comment in the Responses section.
It’s taken me a long time to decide how to vote in this referendum. I know I’m in the reform camp – when an election system allows people to be elected and have total governance with barely a third of the vote, there’s something wrong with that country’s democracy. So many people in so many ‘safe’ seats will never have their voices heard. Can this be democratic?
So, I want a change. But not to Alternative Vote (AV). Of all systems, not AV. It’s arguably the worst reform we could have, barely better according to some commentators, and actually regressive for some others. Much better may be a shift to AV+ or STV. But…
There is a camp of progressives campaigning on the “No to AV, Yes to PR” (Proportional Representation) vote. I’ve been tempted to their side. But I can’t. I’m voting Yes to AV.
We can’t pass up this chance. This is the one time in a generation when the PR camp is positioned strongly enough to force some form of change in our voting system. We need it – we have to get rid of First Past The Post, at any cost. If we vote no, the FPTPers will close the door forever. At least this way we can keep our foot in the door. If we lose… then we may have lost.
It’s been said that AV can’t be a stepping stone to further PR. I’m not so sure. Yes, no country has switched between AV and PR, but why can’t we be the first? Is our electoral mindset, in the 21st Century, really that set in stone? I’m hopeful it’s not.
It’s a pretty easy system to understand – as Johann Hari recently discussed, if you understand X-Factor, you can understand AV. When people have the FPTP mindset broken, by demonstrating that the alternatives are no so scary – then, and only then, can we have a fully mature debate on the nature of which is the best electoral system for Britain.
We can keep moving forward. Lord Forsyth’s recent somewhat-xenophobic comments on the vote being “rigged” for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s more pro-AV voters, brings to mind the whole devolution argument. Despite a shift to Parliaments and Assemblies in the Celtic nations of Britain, this hasn’t stopped the debate.
The debate has moved further on the axis from highly centralised London-centric government towards independence, but we haven’t found the right balance between homogeneity and independence. The debate continues, with camps at either end pulling at the electorate.
Just because we move to AV doesn’t mean the progressives can’t stop pulling towards Proportional Representation in the UK, just like Salmond can call for Scottish independence. If we lose, the fight may be over. If we win, we can keep fighting, and get the system Britain needs.
I’ve often heard a quote of Winston Churchill’s used to attack AV. He called it a system where the winner is decided by “[t]he most worthless votes for the most worthless candidates.“
And of course, that clears up the debate. The great Churchill’s wonderful talent for aphorisms has saved the day, much as he did in WWII. Mind you, that ignores that he thought Gandhi “ought to be laid, bound hand and foot, at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on its back” for trying to steal away the jewel in the Empire’s crown. Frankly, Churchill was not exactly the best quotationist to talk about liberal democracy.
Don’t take Churchill at face value. He claims that there are worthless voters and candidates – but there are no worthless voters, votes or candidates in a democracy. Every voter, every citizen has worth. Every one is important, no matter their choices.
If these voters are “worthless”, then we have to give them worth, to truly make it one person=one vote. Every vote must be heard, no matter what candidate it is for. If they vote BNP, or any other party, that the mainstream political set believe should not be allowed power, we can only deny them power by engaging them, head on, exposing the lies and hatred for what they are.
In safe seats we have worthless voters, whose voice is never heard. Where the BNP may win seats, we have voters who feel worthless. We have to give all these people worth.
Every voter has worth. Every vote has worth. But First Past The Post leaves us with worthless votes, not AV It’s time for change. It’s time for an Alternative Vote.
With the international community divided over how exactly to react to the ongoing crisis in Libya, the world risks losing its best hope of toppling Gaddafi, preventing a full-blown humanitarian emergency, and repairing its links with the Arab world. All because of Iraq.
While Britain and France have been demanding a no-fly zone to be put in place over Libya for some time now, the Obama administration is lacking. It’s rhetoric is multilateral and interventionist, but outgoing Secretary of Defence Robert Gates refuses to sanction a no fly zone. The reasons are plain – it fears another Iraqi conflict. But Libya is not Iraq.
The invasion of Iraq was wrong, and should not be repeated, but not because it brought down the Hussein regime – it was wrong because it was poorly planned, costly, showed no awareness of the internal situation, had no exit strategy, and had little international and regional support. On the other hand, involving ourselves in Libya is a must. We can deploy immediately, hopefully never use ground troops, and can exit when the new government is installed – a government with mass popular support, from the population, the exiled king, human rights actors in Libya and the regional powers.
NATO claims that there are three conditions for its involvement.
1) Regional Support
2) Proof its help is needed
3) A Security Council Resolution
The first condition has already been satisfied by recent calls from the Arab League and the Gulf Co-Operation Council to impose a no fly zone. The Arab League Secretary-general, Amr Moussa, has said that the League “can also play a role” in imposing the no-fly zone. Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and other Arab planes in the skies over Libya would help nullify Gaddafi’s rhetoric about the West just being after Libya’s oil. We must make sure that any response is multilateral, this is true, but this can be done.
The second condition – It is probably true that the humanitarian crisis has not yet fully emerged, and Gaddafi’s air force has not always been the main danger to rebel forces. But with strongholds such as Brega and Ajdabiya being taken by Gaddafi loyalists, and Misurata coming under heavy shelling, it will not be long before the rebel forces are driven all the way back to their stronghold in Benghazi. This is the crown in the rebels’ defences – a city of up to a million people, most virulently anti-Gaddafi, and many armed. It will be too large for Gaddafi’s forces to attack head on, and some pundits claim that the air force will be used in great force. It will be the only way for Gaddafi to finally crush the rebellion against him.
The rebels are in a desperate position. The Libyan army has huge momentum and control of major roads and crossroads, whereas the rebellion is lacking supplies and its morale is low. Support from the international community would change everything. A no fly zone grounding Libyan planes would improve morale and make Benghazi near impossible to capture. The rebellion may yet succeed, but only if we support it in its hour of need.
The third condition of having a UN Security Council resolution is important. But it may be too late. Diplomats are currently saying that there may be no vote on the UK-France resolution before Thursday – in a conversation with Reuters, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said that the country would be back under control “as soon as possible… [he hopes] in a matter of days”. It might be time to start thinking about circumventing the UN – we did it in the Balkans, when time was of the essence. It is almost run out for the Libyan Opposition.
The desperation of the situation in Libya for the rebels cannot be over-emphasised. If the Arab League and/or NATO are going to install a no fly zone, in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis, it must be done nearly immediately. Perhaps before even a Security Council resolution can be passed. Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Minister of Australia, and proponent of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, claimed that Libya is a perfect case for military intervention. Amr Moussa, has said that intervening in Libya is a “humanitarian action, [consisting of] supporting the Libyan people in their fight for freedom against a regime that is more and more disdainful.” We must move quickly, and if the UNSC does not manage to give authorisation in time to prevent a tragedy, NATO, the Arab League, Britain and France should prepare to take matters into their own hands, if Cameron’s calls for the UN to “show some leadership” go unheeded, and they act too late. In a short, emotional speech on Tuesday, Gaddafi attacked Britain for calling for a no-fly zone – “What right do you have? Do we share borders? Are you our tutor?” No, Britain and Libya do not share a border, but the neighbours of Libya call for the same action to be taken as Britain. We are not your tutors but we must be the protectors of the Libyan people, if their government are a threat to them. It is only right and moral.
This is what the UN and NATO, Germany and the United States, must remember – Libya is not Iraq. Here, we have a chance to prevent a crisis, help overthrow a dictator, liberate a people. We have wide-spread regional support, a request from the Libyans themselves to intervene, and even a minimal deployment will help in some way. Iraq must never be repeated, but this is a different situation. If we allow our fear over repeating Iraq to prevent us implementing a no-fly zone over Libya, and saving the Opposition movement from its almost certain annihilation, we will have committed a mistake greater than invading Iraq ever was. We learnt the wrong lessons.
Voting has just begun in a week-long referendum amongst Southern Sudanese, on whether or not they should leave Sudan and go it alone.
Following decades of violence, it’s hard to see how the people of Southern Sudan will not vote for independence. As the deserts of the north make way for grasslands, forests and swamps of the south, the people change as drastically as the landscape. The predominately Arabic-speaking Muslim northerners are totally different from the tribal Christian or Animist southerners. In the north, 50% or more of children complete primary school, whereas this figure drops to closer to 1% in parts of the South. Infant mortality nearly doubles if you travel between Khartoum and Juba, capitals of each part of Sudan. Over 2/3rds of people in the northern Khartoum, River Nile and Gezira states have access to piped drinking water or pit latrines, as opposed to under 20% of southerners without any form of toilet.
On the one hand, I want to defend my party. I want to show the world that the Lib Dems and Clegg in particular don’t deserve this hatred, that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, that this won’t hurt the poor as badly as people think.
On the other, I want every one of those MPs who breaks their pledge to suffer – especially those who now drive around in Ministerial cars. I want to blame them for trebling tuition fees in one fell swoop, instead of doing away with them altogether, a platform the LibDems have held for years, and garnered many student votes because of it.
I won’t bother fully enunciating the vitriol my student half feels. Just look at the TV, on facebook, down at your Uni’s student union…it’s everywhere. There’s no point in me blogging about it.
So instead, I’ll warn my beloved Lib Dems. The ones I have defended for years against allegations of being the useless third party, that we’d never be able to taste power, that we were irrelevant. Constantly, comedians wondering who Nick Clegg was. The news side-lining us. All in the past now.
Don’t turn your back on the students. We are the basis for victories in too many constituencies to alienate our support.