Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Bell drops a clanger in Middlesborough?

It would appear that Sir Stuart Bell has a few questions to answer, not only from his constituents, according to gazettelive, but also from the Labour Party. This alleged failure to perform a duty, one that is surely obligatory as an MP, raises serious doubts as to his suitability to be a Member of Parliament.

As a side issue, it also raises the matter of the method by which candidates are elected to Parliament.

Let us consider the results of the general election of 2010:

General Election 2010: Middlesbrough[3]

LabourStuart Bell15,35145.9-11.7

Liberal DemocratChris Foote-Wood6,66219.9+1.2

ConservativeJohn Walsh6,28318.8+2.3

IndependentJoan McTigue1,9695.9+5.9

BNPMichael Ferguson1,9545.8+3.3

UKIPRobert Parker1,2363.7+1.3

Labour holdSwing-6.4

From an electorate of 65,851 only 33,455 bothered to turn out and register a vote and of that figure only 15,351 supported the winning candidate. This cannot be the only example where a candidate, securing only just over 20 percent support of the total electorate in a constituency is then elected to be a member of a political party who might form a government. That an element of voter apathy would appear to be a factor is only too obvious - or is it? I know not how many hustings Bell held, nor how much canvassing and where it was done. Prior to voting day on May 6th careful and detailed analysis of the voting register would show where rock solid support in the constituency existed and that a certain number of votes would secure victory - ergo, get those voters out and game over.

Perhaps there is a case for compulsory voting? It is accepted that in Middlesborough, the remaining 32,000+ may well turn up at polling stations and spoil their ballot paper - although I believe that would be unlikely. If we have to have a government, is this the most satisfactory method of electing one? If voter apathy does exist - and there is evidence to suggest that it does - then the sooner we change our system of democracy the better, as the present system has a whiff of gerrymandering to it.

Just saying...............


Anonymous said...

If they all turned up, would there be enough ballot papers available? Would the polling booth still be open? Would they find that some one had used their vote? Finally, who does the counting?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Anon: Exactly!

A K Haart said...

We have to ask why on earth people vote for the party rather than the person. Admittedly we don't have much to go on when we vote, but the party label is no guide at all.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

AKH: Very true, which is one reason for having open primaries, to stop parties imposing a shortlist of their own robots thus breaking the dictatorial hold of the party leaders.

The Gray Monk said...

The case you present here is surely one of the best arguments against the "first past the post" system? I lived in a solid Conservative area, it didn't matter one way or another who I voted for if it wasn't the True Blue candidate, nor did it matter if I didn't bother showing up. The same apllies to friends of mine who live in solid Liebor or LibDem constituencies, your vote doesn't count if you don't vote for the Tribal Party of choice.

In the recent elections in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the UKI Patry would not have a single representative in the Landestag because they did not achieve the required 5% of the vote - which, incidently, was much higher than any of the recent elections in the UK. Sadly, on the figures you give for this seat, the BNP would have at least one representative ...

Voter apathy in the UK is the biggest warning sign - to me at least - that the system is broken and must be replaced or renewed in some way. When voters feel there is no point in casting a vote that should send politicians running for cover. Sadly, I don't see that happening - our politicians are content with a broken system that ensures they continue in power - who cares what the voters do or don't do with their vote?

LJH said...

There's also an argument for proper voter identity and no voter registration or voting without it.

Bill said...

Compulsory voting would only serve to give the Liblabcon a greater legitimacy. People think that compulsory voting would lead to smaller parties would 'get in' but I disagree but then again I don't believe in the sanctity of state either.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we have a civic responsibility to vote. And, in all and every election both local and national.
It should be a incumbent upon everybody to exercise one's franchise, thus, all ballots - to be compulsory [and as already mentioned above]: voting with
ID only, no ID = no vote.
Exemptions will and can be made for infirmity/disability/absence etc.

+ Bin postal voting for able bodied people.

Edward Spalton said...

The Gray Monk has an excellent point. As long as he retains his party's nomination, a Labour MP in this constituency has the nearest thing to a freehold on his seat that you can imagine.

when Parliament was Parliament and had real power, MPs did not get themselves terribly busy with a "caseload" of constituents' problems like supernumerary social workers. Of course, they did not have researchers or office staff allowances either.
They had to pay attention to the major interests of the constituency but the idea that they would be dealing with individual complaints about the actions of social services etc would never have occurred to them or to constituents. Some were very infrequent visitors to their constituencies.

I have often thought that all this generation of busy-ness was organised by the authorities to keep MPs very busy with their constituents at the expense of their real task - to keep their eyes on the government. The system started in a modest way in 1971 and was vigorously opposed by a prescient Enoch Powell.

Anonymous said...

Until the role and extent of government can be restricted to a minimum level by a constitution, imposing the will of the majority of takers on the minority of makers then democracy is the enemy of freedom not just the voting system

Ian said...

The article your first link points to shows that this MP's "political assistant" wife has done even less work than him, ie zilch. Just like Peter Hain's old political assistant - his nursing home-resident mother.
Who needs to loot from shops when you can raid the tax kitty instead?

TomTom said...

Did you read the Blog Comment on the Indie today ? That Stuart Bell lives in France ?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TGM: Where to start? Yes the voting system may well need changing and in that respect I can but repeat the point I made at the AV referendum. If it is to be changed then it must be changed by the people - all voting systems should be put to them and explained in a non-partisan manner and then they choose.

FPTP is not the sole reason for voter apathy and can be cured by devolution of power, limiting those areas for which MPs are now responsible.

I am working on a paper about this, problem is the deeper I go the more there is to cover.....

LJH & Anon: You both make basically the same good points.

Bill: "compulsory voting would lead to smaller parties would 'get in' but I disagree" - debatable, I need to investigate this one

ES: Please see response to TGM above.

Anon2: True.....

Ian: Again good point but then Bell and Hain are not the only ones, are they. Some are still in the HoC

TT: Yup knew that. There was a youtube at the last gen elect by his opponent on this subject.

john in cheshire said...

I wish we had some UKIP and BNP members of Parliament; perhaps even the EDL. I think this would do a lot to shake up the complacency of the existing status quo, as well as neutralise the malign influence of parties such as the libdems and the greens. It might even result in our withdrawal from the odious EU.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

jic: Don't know about BNP and EDL, but if Ukip just got its act together people would vote for them!