Here’s a brief catch-up on recent debate goings-on at the University of Warwick & Warwick District Council, courtesy of Jeremy Ireland, the Phonebank Co-ordinator for our good neighbours at Yes to Fairer Votes Coventry & Warwickshire:
UK fails the Democracy test? (13th January)
The first of several debates on democracy in the UK, and on the AV referendum in particular took place across Warwickshire recently, with the increasingly high profile Warwick Debating Society throwing down the ‘Is Democracy Worth It’ gauntlet with their debate on campus. The debate highlighted some of the dubious values of dictatorships, quasi-democracies, and paranoid autocracy that is ‘enjoyed’ by some of the worlds fastest growing economies (China, Singapore), and compared them with the flawed, but more democratic UK, American, European and other systems where there are varying forms of democratic control over government.
The UK didn’t actually fare too well, with many arguments being put forward as to why our democracy both relies on and tends towards a two party system, which was judged harshly against the more ‘real’ backdrop of pluralist politics, differing viewpoints and multiple interest groups that make up our world. These combined with increasing support for political disengagement were painted as positions that are in fact subservient to the two party rather than supporting it. Also rearing its head was the dangerous realisation that many conservationists who love the first past the post system (originally launched as a ‘temporary measure’ fact fans!) were operating from a position of frightening ignorance about the place of the two houses in our democracy.
Peter Facey, Chairman of Unlock Democracy was a passionate speaker in favour of increased democracy, and in particular of his belief that the AV referendum is a sensible way to deal with the varied views held by the electorate.
Warwick District Council public interest debate on AV (19th January)
In a similar, but more muted debate at the Warwick District Council meeting, passionate views were expressed on both sides – “Yes” campaigner Colin Quinney explaining that he wanted a fairer political system to stop his children and their peers from drifting away from politics entirely, and the NO vote relying on racist appeals (AV is only used by foreigners (er it would be – its different to our existing system!), on a belief that the (elderly, conservative) electorate would be confused by having to write more than one mark on the ballot paper, and on a confused logic about AV meaning wasted votes, whilst simultaneously explaining a system where anyone voting for opposition parties in safe seats was wasting their votes. This last point was countered by Alan Boad (Labour) who pointed out that only a few hundred thousand votes actually influenced the last general election under First past the Post.
The frightening disregard for the electorate from the No campaign was of little surprise when the convervative block-vote made their case which featured a confused argument about ‘puddings after dinner’, using a rambling AV example where nanny might not allow them to have the lemon curd, because the chocolate cake had already been eliminated in the first round. It seems one of the reasons Warwick and Leamington Conservatives don’t want AV is because they are worried that they themselves might accidently vote for what they don’t want. Coalition Pie anyone?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The local Yes to Fairer Votes campaign is moving apace throughout the Warwickshire area as well as Birmingham now, with street stall & leafleting dates coming thick & fast with the teams of volunteers in Warwickshire & Coventry out spreading the Yes to AV message in the following places very soon (times & exact locations to follow shortly) –
Saturday Feb 5th – Coventry
Saturday Feb 12th – Nuneaton
Saturday Feb 19th – Stratford and Rugby
Saturday Feb 26th – Leamington
Saturday March 5th – Coventry and Bedworth
Saturday March 12th – Warwick and Kenilworth
Add to this the ongoing events & leafleting in Birmingham, & the formation of further grassroots Fairer Votes groups in Wyre Forest & Staffordshire then signs are very good for a positive & active west midlands campaign to show our fellow west midlanders the real voter benefits AV can bring, which strongly contrasts with the smearing, “top-down” approach used so far by those against who are desperate to cling on to the broken First Past The Post system.