Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Progressive Conservatives?

George Osborne has chosen to eschew the hospitality of Nathan Rothschild this year - or more likely the other way around - in order to speak to us about the Conservatives as the new progressives. But they are progressives with a twist: as a result of their belief in reform, they will also save cash, he says.

Let's take these propositions at face value. On reform, the record is pretty patcy. It is true that Michael Gove has some interesting ideas on schools, though his structural school reforms largely build on Labour academies and legal requirements for more providers in schools. The big difference is the cost. An extra 220,000 surplus school places are promised, and are essential to deliver the promised changes, at a cost of £1 billion a year. Some £4.5 billion of capital would be raised from existing plans to replace or renew schools. So, no savings there.

But, as we have seen, education reform is not matched in health. Indeed the BMA spokesman and shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley is determined to push up waiting times, demand less from doctors and assume that patients will prosper merely because they (and the hackers of Russia) can access their patient records on Google. He has also declared that NHS spending will rise without this reform.

Equally, on political reform, the record is just as patchy. The Totnes primary was a good idea, and Labour should embrace primaries. I'm backing the Progress campaign there. But it is hardly cost-free. And more to the point, David Cameron has set himself resolutely against electoral reform, even though it would with the Alternative Vote or Additional Member System do more to ensure that voters had a direct say over who was their MP than the current system. Again, hardly a bastion of progress.

But, there is a reason they're still called the Conservatives, isn't there?


Anthony Tuffin said...

Although the Alternative Vote or Addtional Member system would be an improvement on First Past The Post in some ways, it is a moot point as to whether either would really give voters a direct say in who their MPs would be. The Single Transferable Vote certainly would. See www.stvAction.org,uk

Anthony Tuffin said...

Sorry but the end of my recent comment should have been www.stvAction.org.uk

Richard T said...

Listen to Daniel Hammon, Harry Phibbs and John Redwood; look at the 20% VAT kite; recall the reduction in inheritance tax for the privileged and the prospect of benefit cuts for the unprivileged; learn that they're going to let the savage chase small mammals to death; listen to the arrogance of Alan Duncan. Then smell the sulphur, glimpse the cloven hoof and know that they haven't gone away. The Tories are still the Tories and they're using the current economic position as the pretext to slash spending when the rest of the world knows public spending is unavoidable to keep some lift in the economies.

It was ever their policy to maintain the privilege of the rich at the expense of the poor.

Peter Davidson said...

"Progressive Conservatives" is an oxymoron – the two words simply don't belong in the same sentence!

Primaries are a distraction we could do without, designed to fool the electorate into believing they have had some direct input into the process of electing their MP. If you're a staunch supporter of one party but reside in a stronghold (under FPTP) of another, your vote is utterly worthless. How can a primary to appoint a PPC for a party you have no interest in or connection with help to engage you in the democratic political process - the answer is blindingly obvious; it can't!

Voters want two things above all others when they enter the privacy of the polling booth:

1. They want their vote to count (if only in some small way)
2. They want real choice

Only one voting system can deliver these fundamental features and retain the properties of the constituency link - Multi-Member STV.

If the Conservatives really are a progressive party they would adopt STV without hesitation but of course they won't because they know STV will damage their electoral prospects.

Seems as though the interests of the party always come before those of the country?

Joe Patterson said...

First of all we have to recognise that "Progressive Conservative" is a contradiction in terms.

On the particular issue of primary elections: what is the point of primary elections under an undemocratic, unrepresentative system, where 70% of all votes are wasted anyway, and where elections are won or lost by the votes of a comparatively few thousand Murdoch-oriented voters in a comparatively few marginal seats.

Cameron's suggestion was another piece of window dressing to try to create the impression that he was "doing something about" reforming the Commons, even though he refuses absolutely to countenance the one necessary fundamental reform: the introduction of Proportional Representation. The system adopted should be STV in multi-member consituencies, which apart from its other attractions would automatically ensure that preferred party representatives were elected without the expensive complication of primaries.

AV (which is STV for single appointments) would be an advance and could easily be converted to STV in multi-member constituencies but it is no more proportional than FPTP.

Primaries might be useful for AMS systems but why should anyone want to adopt such a party controlled system when voter-controlled STV is available.

Joe Patterson said...

While we are on the subject of STV, it occurs to me that it would be relevant to copy below an extract from an enthusiatic pamphlet issued to the people of Northern Ireland before the introduction of STV.

"STV for Northern Ireland



What is PR?

It is an electoral system designed to make sure that the candidates elected represent accurately the opinions of the voters, i.e., that the strength of each party in the assembly or council is in proportion to its support among the people. The system to be used in the coming elections is called the Single Transferable Vote, STV for short. Every voter has only one vote, but he can ask for it to be transferred from one candidate to another to malke sure it is not wasted. He does this by numbering the candidates 1, 2, 3 and so on instead of just putting an 'X' against one of them.

2. Why multi-member Constituencies?
In a single-member constituency, all the votes not cast for the winning candidate are wasted, since they have not been able to elect anyone. And so are all the votes in excess of a bare majority cast for the winner, in the sense that they have had no effect on the result.

Imagine a country where the strengths of the various parties were consistent in every constituency; no opposition candidates could ever be elected. The single-seat majority-vote system works only because parties are stronger in some areas than others, and this is why there is so much difficulty in fixing constituency boundaries.

With PR several candidates are elected together, representing all the sizable bodies of opinion in the constituency, in proportion to their strength. The bigger the constituency, the more chance a small party has of electing a representative. In a 7 seat constituency, for instance, any candidate who gets more than 12% of the vote will be elected".

Under whose authority, do you suppose, this pamphlet was issued? Why A TORY UK GOVERNMENT of course in 1974!

If anything highlights Tory hypocrisy this pamphlet does. They are just as aware as the rest of us that FPTP is an undemocratic antediluvian system but their attitude clearly is "PR is all very well for the provinces but not for US in Westminster. WE were elected under FPTP - a system that has kept us in power for a century - and we’ll fight tooth an nail, and with as many lies as necessary, to retain it".