Government loses first round of ping pong


Today is the day for Parliamentary ping pong on the Parliamentary Voting System & Constituencies Bill.  The first issue up was whether or not the referendum result on AV should be binding in all circumstances.  Lord Rooker proposed that if the turnout is less than 40% then the result is advisory and Parliament makes the final decision.  Clearly if the turnout were 35% and the result clear it would be unwise for Parliament not to agree, but it offers the flexibility not to proceed with such a big constitutional change if the turnout is low and the result very close.

What was fascinating was that when this was voted on last week the Government lost by just one.  This time they lost by 62.  The Tory rebellion grew from 10 to 27 – including such names as Michael Forsyth, Norman Tebbit, Norman Lamont, Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe, and Brian Mawhinney.

This sends a strong signal to the Government.  They need to compromise rather than just ping it back to us again later.

13 comments for “Government loses first round of ping pong

  1. Carl.H
    16/02/2011 at 2:13 pm

    I was listening to this in the commons, I didm’t think it would be back so soon.Much was made in the other place about the one vote, I’m very glad some have had a change of heart. It shows character.

    AV is not the way to go even for those wanting a seemingly fairer system. It appears the Lib-dems really are grasping at straws with this, it’s not what they wanted and will not rectify a thing. It’s complex, appears just the type of thing a con artist would use and really is the worst thing that could happen to the Nation with what could be considered the best Parliament and system in the World.

    Faith in elections and Parliament will decline if AV becomes the preferred system.

  2. John Lister
    16/02/2011 at 2:19 pm

    So presumably, politicians not being hypocrites, all future votes in the Lords and Commons will require a 40% turnout to be binding?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      16/02/2011 at 9:52 pm

      John Lister: The amendment doesn’t provide for a 40% turnout in order to be binding, but provides that if there is not a 40% turnout then it is not binding. It is then up to Parliament to decide.

  3. maude elwes
    16/02/2011 at 5:39 pm

    These politicians are terrified of a proper voting system. One man one vote. They fear being thrown into the long grass. All of them. For they are petrified by the fact that they simply cannot come up to the needs of the people in any shape or form.

    However, the Swiss way of changing its leader regularly is the answer here. And ridding us a a House of Lords and a Commons who do not have the backing of the nation behind them.

    We never get rid of the old has beens. Year after year they sit there in that red chamber, without the slightest embarassment, knowing full well they are not wanted by the country in general.

    They need the courage to go out and sell themselves if they want to live on the tax payers largesse.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      16/02/2011 at 9:36 pm

      maude elwes: The claim that ‘I speak for the people’ or ‘I am sure I speak for the nation when I say..’ tends to be the refuge of someone who doesn’t have much of an argument. Stripping your comments of claims that cannot be substantiated by hard data means that there is little left. You may care to look at the findings of the Ipsos MORI poll commissioned by the Constitution Unit at UCL which, while now a little dated, is instructive.

      • maude elwes
        17/02/2011 at 7:39 pm

        @Lord Norton: I don’t say I speak for the people. I say the people should speak for themselves. Not through the filter of parties and blockers as is the pratice to date. Why not have direct referendum on say, ten important issues?…. The idea that 4 out of 10 people are counted as a good turn out is offensive. How low can your expectation be?

        People don’t vote because there is no change. The same old drivel is thrown at them decade after decade.

        Let the voter set the mandate.

        Do we want to Privatise the NHS? Do we want to stay fighting in Afghanistan? Do we want the bankers to increase their bonuses before they pay back the money from our social fund? Do we want to continue with failing schools or would we like to return to a system under which people did well, the Grammer School? Do we want more immigration? Do we want more stultifying Political Correctness? Ask these questions and you won’t have to be content with four out of ten people bothering to turn up to vote.

        If you ask directly you will get people to the poles.

        Tinkering with the whistle whilst the Titanic sinks is not a good way to make a difference.

  4. Carl.H
    16/02/2011 at 9:48 pm

    \o/\o/ 2-1 \o/\o/

  5. Senex
    17/02/2011 at 11:32 am

    It was inevitable that the turnout clause would be defeated because of practical difficulties that remain within the electoral system. According to Hansard’s time line of ‘Plural Voting’ the present system was largely established 100 years ago in 1911.

    Prior to this it was Disraeli that believed if you pay taxes in two constituencies you should be able to vote in both of them. Even though we now have ‘one man one vote’, registering in two constituencies is legal and it is a matter of trust that a vote will be cast in just one of them. I don’t think the political process ever caught up with just how mobile people would eventually become.

    If the amendment had gone through it would most certainly have caused a post election Judicial Review to take place; the difficultly for the Electoral Commission is that because no central electoral register is available the difficulty of testing for plural votes would cause an unwelcome delay to the Reviews outcome and hence the ability to govern.

    Even when resolved and a referendum had taken place using a turnout constraint, it would create a constitutional precedent. It could be a political way of forcing a new referendum on continuing EU membership or indeed any other referenda that had previously taken place.

    None of this is to say that the executive is against allowing the electorate to throw out by veto, referendums. After all the government intends to allow union members to veto strikes dependant on voting turnout?

    Ref: Plural Voting Bills 1895 thro 2000

    • maude elwes
      17/02/2011 at 7:53 pm

      I think the one man one vote I wrote of was more to do with illegal voting in the hundreds. Where people who are dead are voting, and others, who have long left the country, as well as those who vote more than once.

      The way we set up elections is akin to Zimbabwe. We should have the finger die and then we may be able to ‘trust’ the figures given.

      Have you forgotten the last election where those who waited in line were unable to place their bet? They lined up for hours outside village halls and schools, in the cold, and were turned away. It was a disaster.

      At the same time, those who planned to vote illegally were taken in with open arms. Now why do you think that was? Couldn’t have been a set up could it? Perish the thought.

      However this is all a side step.

      • Senex
        18/02/2011 at 10:55 am

        I entirely agree but you have to consider the irony of it all. Not withstanding what you said on fraud one must consider the historic role of plural voting.

        The establishments of their day thought it was fair and that large sections of society were incapable of using a prospective vote responsibly. Plural voting when it took place used ballot papers in differing constituencies because the individual had personal connections with those constituencies.

        ‘Plural voting will return’ at the next general election but not in the form that it once did. It places quite a responsibility on the voter because they now have to consider casting more than one vote, this time on the same ballot paper; a plan ‘B’ so to speak.

        Disraeli the founder of modern Conservatism considered the larger electorate incapable of using their vote responsibly and that view persists by the Tories today: “Why should you need a plan ‘B’ we are the only solution you need.”

        The problem for the main parties is that their voters may deny AV by only making one choice on the ballot paper in marginal seats, that is, if they are aware the seat is marginal. If their candidate fails to reach 50% they will be eliminated. This suggests that parties will have to move from self reliance to strategic alliances but with whom?

        • maude elwes
          19/02/2011 at 2:11 pm

          @Senex: What fun!

  6. Dan Filson
    17/02/2011 at 3:49 pm

    They say that whoever you vote for, the Government will always win, and so it proved with this Bill, now an Act or so I believe.
    Nobody wants the outcome, the product of the Coalition deal.

    What is clearly wrong with our current electoral system is that the regions are mis-represented in the House of Commons. So there are far too few Conservative MPs for the northern conurbations and far too few Labour MPs for the south, rural or urban. This is deeply unhealthy for the body politic, as it gives little incentive for the Conservatives and Labour to care sufficiently for the north and south respectively.

    Only STV or AV+ would rectify this. The flaws of STV, apart from the absence of meaningful constituency representation, are that some fairly nasty or useless parties of the extremes of right and left might get elected, and it is very difficult to unseat someone with a core support above the required %. The flaw of AV+ is that it is a hybrid system, retaining some constituencies, albeit larger than before, and a list system which may or may not enable the voter to make a choice within the names offered. But compared to the defects of FPTP and simple AV, these are minor. Incidentally, the LibDems also do not benefit from either FPTP or simple AV, as will be apparent if it wins the referendum. The number of seats in which AV will make any difference will be very small.

  7. MilesJSD
    23/02/2011 at 5:14 pm

    A compromise always has such unnecessary loss on both, even on all, sides nowadays, doesn’t it ?

    Why is ‘win-win-win’ methodology not constituted for first-resort ‘friendly’ problem-solving, nor even majorly-used at all, up there at parliamentary levels, nor even down through the whole British Democracy structure ?

    The Australian Conflict Resolution Network, primarily taught by Shoshana Faire in her international reach-out workshops, snapshots a compromise as follows:
    Schoolgirl and schoolboy, brother and sister, in hurry to have breakfast and catch bus to school, each with their own packed lunch, but both want the only one orange available. They argue.
    Time runs out and the older decides “we cut it in half”; thus they each catch their bus.

    That evening a parent asks “What was the argument this morning ?” and hears the tale.
    The other parent joins in, quietly with: “But the girl only needed the rind, as zest for her cookery class; whilst the boy only needed the inside segments, for his lunch ?”.
    “You could each have won 100% instead of only 50% if you’d given time to do a Method III ‘win-win’ resolution !”
    It appears that none of us, at parliamentary top nor at constituent-bottom, have been taking more initial ‘set-up’ time, to establish such a friendly and first-resort Method III of Needs & Hows recognition and ‘win-win-win’ cooperative problem solving.

    Is that not so ?


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