Britain like Zimbabwe?

Today - this article only for the Blog. Boris makes the proposition that the electoral system is biased towards Labour and that:
the awful truth is that the difference between GB and Zimbabwe is not as big as it should be
bread.jpg ZIMBABWE / GB : FORMER BREADBASKETS? You know I hesitate to assist the mad old tyrant Robert Mugabe, and I only mention this idea because I am sure he has thought of it already. There he is in Harare, luxuriating in another infamous violation of democracy. By force and threats his Zanu-PF thugs have kept thousands from the polls. Pro-Mugabe ballot papers have been magicked into existence, while opposition threats have been systematically destroyed. To believe that last week's elections were free and fair, you have to believe that the people of Zimbabwe are so in love with Mugabe's policies of chronic inflation and mass starvation that they could think of nothing finer than to give him another five years. The elections were a sham and a fraud. They have been denounced around the world; and that is why, if I were Mugabe, I think I would embark on the following entirely cynical wheeze. I would make a long speech on that very subject; I would harp on about the disaster of electoral corruption, and the eating away of voter confidence in democracy. Then, with a flourish, I would announce that I was sending a team of election monitors to - you guessed it - Birmingham, England. Can you imagine the scenes? The Zanu-PF henchmen would tool around in their Mercs, pompously demanding to interrogate our returning officers, and invoking UN codes on the sanctity of ballot boxes. They would give long-faced press conferences and wring their hands on the steps of Birmingham town hall. Back in Harare, Mugabe would pick up on their findings, renew his hysterical assaults on the Blair government (which he has already denounced, you may remember, as a bunch of "homosexual gangsters"), and urge his election monitors to redouble their efforts. And how, in the current circumstances, could we reasonably deny them? We say that there was scandalous ballot-stuffing in Zimbabwe, where opposition election officials were brutally kicked out of polling stations, and where voting was mysteriously closed down early in pro-opposition areas. For instance, in the Kariba district it was initially announced that 16,676 had cast their vote. Then the votes were counted according to party preference. Hmmm. Long pause. Sorr-eee! said the Zanu-PF election officials: actually there were 13,719 Zanu-PF votes, and 9,540 votes for the Movement for Democratic Change. In other words, an extra 7,466 new votes had somehow turned up from nowhere. We in the west say that the whole thing was a fix. At which the Zanu-PF election monitors in Birmingham would feign outrage. A fix! they would say, taking off their shades for extra sincerity. Who are you to call us corrupt? Talk about pots and kettles, they would say. This is just the kind of racist bias we expect old imperial power, they would say, and they would point to the amazing way in which the British postal ballot system has been perverted. And we have to admit that they have plenty of evidence to back up their case. Thousands of ballot papers were nicked, amid scenes of police apathy and general official shambles that belonged, indeed, in Matabeleland. According to Richard Mawrey QC, who presided over the Birmingham inquiry, the entire system is an invitation to fraud and redolent of a "banana republic". Mr Mawrey is a brave and good man, and we must hope that his legal career is not jeopardised by his willingness to speak out. And he also, alas, provides Robert Mugabe with the perfect rhetorical opportunity. If I were Mugabe, I would hail Mawrey as a kind of martyr for truth, a lone judicial opponent of political corruption, and I would instruct my British monitoring team to stay for the whole month of the election campaign. That is because if he wants to find evidence of the outrageous pro-government bias of the electoral system, it is there in spades. We complain that the Zimbabwean system is designed to favour Zanu-PF, not least since Mugabe can pick 30 MPs himself. But look at the way the British system currently favours Labour. We have just started a truly exciting general election campaign. We Tories believe that we deserve to win, and that we could win. We leave parliament today, and hit the campaign trail, with our danders up, our peckers up, and our tails up, if that is anatomically possible. The polls are now putting us level pegging, if not better, with Labour. But consider how the system is skewed against us. Even if we both score 34 per cent in the final shoot-out, Labour would be left with an incredible 142 MORE seats than the Tories, and Mr Blair would still have a majority of 40 over all other parties. Even if Labour and the Tories score 36 per cent apiece, Blair still has a majority of 52 seats. In order to secure a majority of just one seat in the Commons, the Tories would need a lead of about ten percentage points. I am not saying that is impossible; but it means overcoming the kind of ludicrous unfairness that is familiar to the Zimbabwean opposition. How has this happened? There are several reasons, but the most shocking is the way Labour-held seats in the north, and especially in Scotland, have been allowed to shrink and shrink in population, while Tory seats have grown ever more populous. The electorate in Tory seats averages 72,000, with fewer than 66,000 in Labour seats. If the Tories and Labour both achieved 34 per cent, the average Tory MP would have 22,000 votes, while the average Labour MP would have 16,000 votes. This nonsense cannot go on. if Labour is re-elected, it will be with the help of one of the most gerrymandered systems in the western world. It is time for a Great Reform Act, to redraw the boundaries and clear away Labour's rotten boroughs. The more you study the position, the clearer it is why Jack Straw has been so muted - compared, say, to Washington - in his criticism of the Zimbabwe polls. The awful truth is that the difference between us is not as big as it should be.

101 thoughts on “Britain like Zimbabwe?”

  1. As To Ron Firth’s comments nothing new there !
    Boris highlights a lack of democracy that for 15 years favoured Mrs Thatchers party but now appears to have shifted to towards New Labour. That opposition parties climb mountains to get their votes while the ‘system’is generaaly favourable to the status quo majority party. So we get repeaTed sequences of victories for Tories and labour who generally provide variations on the same capitalistic policies.
    if we want real change then we haveto lose the first past the post winner takes all scenario.
    Is Boris advocating such a reform?
    Is Mr Johnson favouring STV or some other system?
    If he is I feel the need to support this.

  2. “why Jack Straw has been so muted – compared, say, to Washington – in his criticism of the Zimbabwe polls.”
    It MIGHT be somthing to do with this:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3695678.stm

    While I don’t agree that the british electoral system is quite as bad as the one which exists in zimbabwe, I certainly agree that it is due an overhaul.

    Borris for PM πŸ™‚

  3. Great article – I always wondered how the system has become unfair and why no-one is saying much about it. It seems that the Tory-held seats are more appealing to live in… πŸ˜‰

  4. I never dreamed that one day I might be persuaded as to the attractions of Proportional Representation.The arguments against PR are well known, but tend to be less watertight than earlier, and, the more I see the inbuilt bias toward Labour,( not only in Scotland,) the more I believe that a strategy should be evolved, ( and quickly) in that direction. It would ensure that , using present poll predictions as a guide, whilst no single party would have an overall majority, the minor parties would get their bite at the cherry. Which side of the cherry would depend on the offerings of one of the leading parties to any or all of the smaller ones. It works, for example, in other European countries, and at the very least would ensure that no one party could railroad the country into following where the true majority did not wish to go ( it might even force a change in the “make -up” of The Bliarites)

  5. Ooh good point Boris, well said. Once again we have to rely on Boris Johnson, the MP for Henly to say what the customers of this service industry are thinking. Frankly I was thinking: why yearn for a holiday to the deep south when it’s clear I’m in Florida – doesn’t seem to matter what the public want or actually vote, the government make up the ‘truth’.

    I too “never dreamed that one day I might be persuaded as to the attractions of Proportional Representation” and “would ensure that no one party could railroad the country into following where the true majority did not wish to go” (see mac above). The truly wise and wonderful Bill Deedes had a warning this week about a hung parliament. ‘Bout time someone in Westminster was hung, out to dry in my opinion. You can do it Boris…softly, softly catchee monkey.

  6. I always thought that Zimbabwe was in the same mode as the Tory party. After all with Howard Flight, being jack booted out like he was, one can only draw the line and say that the tory leadership is a bit to much of a autocracy.

  7. Let’s not forget that Boris says that this is just for the blog. Glad you agree Jaq.
    Let the people speak

    At the moment, there’s a hint of revolution,
    The conscience of the Nation stirs at last
    Political correctness! That’s no solution;
    The time for hiding truth has long since passed
    The debate about the fate of ballot rigging
    Has gone on far too long, you must agree
    The guilty should be banned from public office,
    Or hung to dry upon the highest tree
    Democracy must be allowed to function;
    The people speak of bringing back the noose:
    Politicians seem to fear a referendum;
    The electorate is a cannon on the loose
    Politicians just forget why they’re elected;
    We are children, whilst they play Mum & Dad,
    If there really is a change in what we’re thinking,
    Use the ballot box, and cut out all the bad.
    We don’t want another war without an ending,
    If it has to be at all, let’s do it right!
    At the same time we could cure that swine Mugabe,
    Let democracy return, for black and white.
    The reason that this nation is in crisis,
    Is easy to explain, now let’s be fair,
    It’s the ego of that man ( nominally) in office,
    It’s the President himself, it’s Tony Blair

  8. Boris is quite right to highlisght the problem, but part of the reason the huge disparity exists is that Labour voters are more efficient in where they vote. At the last election Labour voters did not turn out in safe seats, but turned out in large numbers in the marginal seats. On the other hand the Conservatives tended to turn out whatever the state on the seat. This meant Labour won far more seats than what it should of done.

    The estimations on seats if the parties are tied are no doubt based upon the expected Uniform National Swing a system which at best provides a very rough guide and was roundly beaten at the last election. Yes the boundaries need to be redrawn, but the problem is not as drastic as we think.

    PR is not the solution, the tories would never get in (as you have to go a long way back to find a party with over 50% of the vote) and therefore Boris would never become PM.

  9. Boris on Electoral Reform

    Boris highlights some of the fundamental flaws in the electoral system. Whatever your political stripe, a system which has such inbuilt bias cannot be healthy. Voting reform is becoming essential….

  10. It’s not simply time for boundaries to be changed, it is time for the whole electoral system to be changed. First Past the Post has had it’s day.

    In 1997 Labour’s manifesto promised electoral reform, and then they found that the current system worked quite well thankyouverymuch.

    In 1998 Lord Jenkins proposed a move to AV+ (a system which would allow a voter to say ‘anyone but THEM’).

    This was roundly ignored, the trouble is that the party in power has no interest in rocking the boat… and this is true whatever the stripe of the party.

    A reform of our voting system is essential, and should be supported across the political divides.

    It cannot be right that a party has such a bias (even if long term that bias may be reversed). Whether one’s own party benefits or not, such a bias is not healthy.

    http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/opus6151.html
    http://www.steveguy.me.uk/2005/04/so-just-how-unfair-is-first-past-post.html
    http://www.murky.org/archives/2005/04/postal_voting_f.html
    http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/opus6145/1189_MVC_A5flyer-mono.pdf

  11. Is it not a tad late to be making a fuss about this? Sounds like Boris is rehearsing his excuses in readiness for a poor election showing by his party.
    Vote New Badger

  12. I think ,Ted ,that you do not fully understand the intricacies of PR, or you would not have said that a party with less than 50% would not get in. In practice,it always turns out that there is an amount of horse dealing,( above and below the table), in order that one or other, “not quite successful”, party has to offer to another party or parties, some sort of inducement( generally in the form of Cabinet seat(s), to become a partner in Government. This is necessary in order that there can be a more or less successful coalition, still having the capablity to carry out the larger Party’s manifesto, even if tempered to suit the opinion of lesser partner( s) . The minor party thus becomes less minor, in that it has a role in Government it would not normally have a hope in Hell’s chance of achieving. Try the Lib -Lab Pact as an example, with the two stalwarts of the emergent Liberal Democratic Party , Owen and Steel(sounds like a debtor’s route out of trouble). It works in a whole lot of successful countries: why not here? By the way, generally speaking, splinter Parties , polling less, I believe, than 7% , do not get to have MPs.

  13. PR might be a good idea, works here to some extent in scottish parliament, as up here conservatives do not gain as much seats as even though percentage of vote was almost 2 highest in last election if it was not for UKIP, it gained only around 1 seat

    As for postal voting, it should be banned as it can’t be secret unlike voting centers and people already are being intimidated

  14. The answer is very simple: follow the Australian example. Just like the Tories have borrowed the great Lynton Crosby, they should also urge the UK to adopt the Australian system of having an independent electoral commission which redistributes the boundaries of all constituencies every three years or so. The UK should also adopt the Australian system of preferential voting (which is similar to the alternative vote) which gives a fairer result and which would probably destroy the Lib Dems within a few elections unless they went into coalition with Labour.

  15. And how about following another excellent Australian example and making attendance at the polling station compulsory on election day? (You can take a citizen to the polling station but you cannot make him vote.)

  16. It would appear to me that Labour have done everything short of making voting compulsory,
    ( by post Etc.)Why not the final step?( fine those not appearing at a polling station without a valid excuse– more hidden taxes for Prudence)
    You can’t make anyone vote if they so wish, but , what is the use of having the right to vote if you only wish to excercise your right NOT to vote?

  17. Well done Boris for highlighting the iniquities of the current electoral system and about time too.

    I strikes me that the Tories have failed to raise a lot of important issues which could resonate with the electorate for quite some time. Perhaps it is becuase they haven’t chimed with focus groups. But if the public don’t know how twisted our constitution has become because of the opposition’s failure to draw attention to it, what do you expect?

  18. And another thing. What happened in the Birmingham elections was an absolute disgrace. I have a postal vote but now wish i did not as i feel the system has now been proved (as some said it would) to be flawed. If this had happened under a Tory government the opposition (and the media) would have been screaming blue murder. I am afraid to say however that the Tories (as with so much else) appear too laid back. They seem as if they do not want to frighten the horses. I guess we will have to see in the outcome of the elections whether habitual sang froid will triumph or not.

  19. On balance I do not think voting should be made compulsory. We have already had enough of our liberties interfered with since 1997 without more being added to the list. However I am all for making voting easier provided it does not compromise the integrity of the system. How about letting people vote at weekends? I know having been a commuter working long hours it was often impossible for me to vote.

  20. Difficult to make voting itself compulsory and at the same time retain the confidentiality of the ballot but attendance at the polling station could certainly be compulsory and, yes, with fines for those who do not attend – perhaps fixed penalty notices. ID cards would have to be produced to prove identification. I don’t think it would be too difficult to get this accepted as people are getting more used to an authoritarian state. We could have a referendum on making voting compulsory and the chances are that a good majority of those who could be bothered to turn up and vote in the referendum would be in favour of corralling the remainder into the polling stations.

    I would be in favour of compulsion even though I have only voted once the 30 years since I turned 18. The one time I did vote was in the first general election after my 18th birthday. I was expecting this engagement with the democratic process to be an intensely spiritual experience akin to taking holy communion. In fact, for me, it was a very sordid experience (it might have been the people running the polling station or the polling station itself in a very old primary school). I left the place feeling very grubby indeed and somewhat ashamed of what I had done. I never went back. I am not apathetic about politics. I am very interested in how we are governed. Its just voting I do not care very much for. Make it compulsory and I would have a good incentive to give it another go. Perhaps I might enjoy it more the second time.

  21. Voting inequities

    As people may have realised, I’ve been thinking about electoral systems for a little while, and I wanted to demonstrate the fundamental problems with the current electoral system in the UK, and how this can lead to voter ‘apathy’ (or…

  22. Emily Pankhurst and all of those determined and brave ladies must be spinning in their graves at the lack of enthusiasm to register those hard won votes. Fence sitting must be a very uncomfortable,and even lonely, occupation. The male population had it a tad easier than the ladies, but giving up one’s rights for an idle whim is no excuse for not coming in out of the cold. It is of no use, after sitting on the fence, to complain about getting a pain in the arse. It’s one of the legacies of the last General election , and the salve should be applied now, before permanent damage is done.

  23. Compulsory voting? It depends upon the nature of the compulsion. I don’t believe we will pull back from the brink of a police state until there are a good number of decent people in jail for stupid things. That is what it will take for our docile people to rise up.

    I would therefore willingly go to jail for not carrying the new ID card, for example. Boris is on record as saying he will eat his the first time he is forced to present it, so he might be there too.

    But this government is sneaky and unsporting. I have read that they were considering alternative penalties for not carrying the ID cards; punishments which put pressure on individuals to protect their families.

    Just as they threaten hunters with confiscation and destruction of horses, dogs and vehicles, they are rumoured to be thinking of repeated fines for every day of refusal to carry the card, with interest accumulating on unpaid fines and ultimate seizure of all assets to pay them. They know the opinion polls suggest 4 million Brits would go to jail rather than carry the cards and they don’t propose to give us chance to do so.

    If the “compulsion” to vote is purely criminal – so I can go to jail for refusing, that’s fine. My family can live comfortably while I follow the honourable path of passive resistance to tyrrany.

    I confidently expect to end my days as a British citizen in jail anyway (Labour have criminalised more than 1,000 activities which were formerly legal and at that rate we are all going to jail).

    But if the price of my civil disobedience is not the loss of my liberty but the impoverishment of my posterity I am in a real dilemma and may have to emigrate.

  24. Agree totally Mac, ‘cept one small point: “The male population had it a tad easier”. That’s like saying The Beckhams are a bit better off than I am. Since woman bit from the apple of knowledge, man has been trying to make her pay.

    It seems expected for a man to vote and have an opinion on what influences our daily lives, but STILL it seems much easier and acceptable for a woman to say “oh I’m not interested in that sort of thing” well shame on you woman. Martin Luther King said something very profound but I can’t remember the exact words, he said something like; it’s not the agressors that do the most damage because they are easily identified, it’s the quiet, silent majority that is content to just let it happen.

    I don’t think this should be just for the blog Boris.

    The Telegraph publish personal, banal emails between reporters wives and call it a column for goodness sake. Your sisters diary is like Dickens next to thiers. With Marrs hampster as a reporter of note what next? If you’re not going to write for the DT I’m cancelling my subscription.

  25. Once again Boris appears to be the only voice of reason in the big blue bunch known as the Tories.

    There are a couple of great articles in The Economist this week about just how biased the system is against the Conservatives.

    As I have mentioned many times on the Make Votes Count blog (www.makemyvotecount.org.uk), it’s startling how the Tories do so much to protect a system that hurts them more than anyone else.

    As for the comment about PR needing shifty coalitions or a 50% majority – tis nonsense; there are about 69 varieties of PR which offer much more sensible solutions. Which one we finally plump for is open to debate, but what is perfectly clear is that a change is fundamentally necessary.

  26. Boris to the rescue?

    In a special blog-only article, the nonpareil Boris Johnson echoes the reasons why the current system is so stacked against the Tories. Obviously, being bound by party lines, he concentrates on re-drawing the boundaries in terms of reform, which would…

  27. Is this at all true? I’ve always presumed that your stereotypical Tory constituencies are likely to be geographical wide and smaller populated, while densely populated northern cities return few MPs.

    Am I also right in thinking that in the US the Republicans have to win a much less proportion of the total vote in order to get more electoral colleges?

  28. Having watched “The Life of Brian” again last week one is tempted to ask “What have the Tories ever done for us?”.

    Well on the plus side it cannot be denied that they reformed the unions and broke their stranglehold on major industries which had contributed to Britain being the sick man of Western Europe. They also maintained robust support for the trans-atlantic alliance in the face of the Soviet threat which the rest of Europe and Britain’s chattering classes appeared to want to ignore. They were also initially firm on terrorism.

    But, to paraphrase the film, apart from the economy and the Soviets and terrorism, what else did the Tories do? Well they took us into the EC on a false and damaging prospectus. They allowed, IMO, the judiciary to increase their power at the expense of parliamentary sovereignty. They shirked constitutional reform which in turn has allowed Labour to introduce all their biased reforms. By seeking to and ultimately joining the ERM (admittedly a policy the oppositon and sundry metroploitan luvvies supported) they damaged the economy and their own credibilty. And finally until recent months their opposition has been craven. But in comparison to Labour as Mr Paine indicates, the Tories are far more preferable.

  29. I am not quite sure about PR. I can see there might be advantages in electing an upper house by PR. However that could be problematic as regards the related issues of what powers such a house should have and whether it would be seen as more democrtaic then a first past the post lower house.

    I do not believe in transferable votes. I do not want to vote for a party I do not want. In fact if you really want PR I would prefer a system which permitted real PR via more referendums. The Swiss have them and seem to be doing OK.

  30. esbonio – in what way does STV mean you are voting for someone you don’t want? you are not obliged to rank them all, you simply stop when you get bored/get to Veritas…

    besides, transferable vote isn’t the only form of PR…

  31. Demos Kratus
    At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious:-
    The concept of democracy is, as the original Greek says, “Government by the People”.
    We live under what is loosely a Representative Democracy, where a majority of like minded people elect a representative to speak on their behalf, and who, in theory at least, is responsible to that electorate and its constituents. In practice, we have a nominal Democracy, in which the elected representative for a given constituency is in practice, answerable, in the first instance, to his / her Political Party., and only then, in part, to his constituents. Anyone not following the dictates of that Party line ( excepting in certain well defined cases) is normally singled out as a rebel and at best, sidelined.
    In theory, this is in contradiction of the meaning of Democracy. An example of this is the continual refusal of Party leaders to listen to what the majority of the electorate wants: the engagement in war with Iraq as being a primae facie case in point, with the return of capital punishment as another amongst many. What the people want is not what the people get: it is the decision of the Party , to which the so called Representative of the people belongs, which is enacted upon. We, the electorate, are left with the expense of cleaning up the mess left by inept Government departments.
    In the Magna Carta, we, the people, were given certain so called inalienable rights, to which, over the years, has been added universal suffrage. We would be foolish in the extreme to give up any of these rights, on the whim of any Government. We choose a particular Government : if that Government fails in its duty to us, the Electorate; it is incumbent upon us to change it at the first legal opportunity. Fail to do so at your peril. Such failures lead to Dictatorships. Use your vote, it is your only voice in a wilderness.

  32. This is all crass hypocrisy coming from a Tory. I didn’t hear them squeal when the boundaries favoured them in the 1950s and 1980s! This is all a bit of a dilemma for the Tories, because they want to scream ‘unfair’, but not too loudly in case it makes people realise how useless our electoral system is! We should change to PR! AV would be a start but a list system or mixed member system would be better, or even STV.

    Of course the Tories don’t want that because they know they’d never get 50% of the vote. The boundaries are going to change heavily in the Tories favour after the election. Plus Labour voters have got used to not voting in urban centres so when this is merged with high Tory voting rural areas the writing is on the wall for Labour for the election after next.

    Lets stop this nonsense of only having to bother with a few voters (800,000 is all the Tories say they are bothered about) in a few marginal areas, and start making everyone’s vote count.

    As for turnout, compulsory voting gives 95% turnout in Australia. Better still in my opinion would be incentive voting where people get a tax rebate or credit for turning up at polling booths. I agree postal voting is a disaster!

  33. Compulsory voting gave near to a 100% turnout in the former Soviet Union, but it didn’t give the people what they wanted. The low turnout is an important democratic message – a warning sign that the system is sick. Suppressing the symptom won’t cure the disease.

  34. And they’re off!

    The election race is on – and so is the race to scrub any reference to “MP” on all MP’s webpages. Boris’s official website is now fully “candidate-compliant” – and to celebrate the fact Boris has posted a website-only piece…

  35. Comparing a Totalitarian State with a mere quasi Totalitarian State( as it is in danger of becoming, even if Nanny State is a kinder description), is not of much use in this debate, Tom .( Stalin polled in 1947, more than 120% of the electorate; fact;) even in this climate ,where a postal ballot cheat was sentenced yesterday to several years in gaol, it would be difficult to hide such a discrepancy.
    If you have a voice , and do not practise its use, it is a fact that there is a danger of at least partially or temporarily losing it.
    Only through the ballot box can a system be legally changed. Who wants to descend into anarchy?

  36. >If you have a voice , and do not practise its use, it is a fact that there is a danger of at least partially or temporarily losing it.

    Mac, you’ve reminded me of some famous quotes:

    ‘If you want peace, prepare for war.’
    ‘If you value peace over security, you loose both.’

    Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.”

  37. We can berate the large numbers of people who do not vote and try to frighten them with “end of democracy as we know it” scenarios, but it is not going to have any effect whatsoever on the turnout. A “plan for action” on turnout needs to recognise that a reason why many people do not vote is that they have no individual incentives to do so. Whether or not I cast my individual vote will make no difference at all to the result of the election either nationally or locally in my constituency. So why should I vote? If everyone thought like me we would have a problem….yes. But me going along to the polling station is not going to have any effect on others and whether they vote – so why should I bother. Very selfish…yes. Very egocentric view of the world…yes. But it is how many people think and the way to tackle it is with compulsion or incentives. At the moment I have no incentive at all to repeat what I found to be the very sordid experience of casting my vote. However the thought of a fixed penalty fine or perhaps a tax rebate would make me think again.

    More research is needed on why people do not vote so we can come up with a solution to address the problem. I feel is not apathy which keeps people from voting – it is just that they know that one vote, their vote, is not going to matter and make any difference.

  38. Labour councillor jailed for electoral fraud

    A 61-year old man from Blackburn has been jailed for three and a half years for cheating in a local council election. This is an entirely separate incident from the ‘massive, systemic and organised fraud’ that would ‘disgrace a banana republic’ (words …

  39. Mr Lyons:
    Is it not a truism that every journey begins with the first step? You remind me of the quote by Dr Johnson ( a namesake of our hero ), when asked about a certain tourist attraction, ” Worth seeing? Yes, but not worth going to.”

  40. The Zimbabwe Thesis

    For all his Bunterish affability and charm when appearing on ‘Have I Got News For You’ one should never make the mistake of forgetting that Boris Johnson is, and remains, a Tory MP and that at election time is no less prone to economies of fact than an…

  41. Had to Google to work out the reference to Mr Lyons. Regret I am not him. I am new in town and not related to Badger Lyons. But I hope to stay for a while and perhaps we can become acquainted.

    Dr J was always good for a sound bite. This one was, I think, something to do with going to Ireland. Dr J was never very taken with the Celtic fringe of the British Isles. Barbarous places! Has much changed?

    Further thoughts on incentives to vote. How about publishing lists after each election of those who voted? They could be on the internet. I think the shame of not being on the list would be enough to get me along to place my X against someone’s name.

  42. I’m glad that voting fraud is beginning to become an issue. For the past year or more, I’ve been worrying whether British parliamentary democracy is going the way of US democracy (never mind Zimbabwean democracy) – rigged.

  43. Dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.

    Oh dear oh dearie me.

    I haven’t read the comments above so forgive me if I’m repeating anything, but Boris’s post about the trials of being a Conservative candidate in the current electoral system is such utter twaddle I’ve got to say summat.

    Perhaps he’s too young to remember, but this is EXACTLY what the Labour Party kept saying throughout the 1980s when the holy margaret was in charge. The system’s biased, we won’t get the seats we deserve, the other lot’s seats are all concentrated in certain areas oh woe is us with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    Then you go on to make a sensible suggestion, Boris: to wit a new Reform Act. Trouble is you immediately undermine yourself by suggesting this has something to do with Labour having rotten boroughs.

    Of course they do, just like the witch-woman had in the 80s.

    It’s not the size of the conbstituencies that’s the problem, it’s how the vote is allocated. The LibDems (and the Liberals before them) have been saying this for decades. Make the vote PROPORTIONAL to the representation: you’ll do away with the problem forever. With the added bonus of making sure all those millions of people who live in safe seats but don’t want to vote for the incumbent will once again feel enfranchised by our political system.

    You know it makes sense, Boris. It might even benefit the Tory Party a little, if any of you were prepared to stick your head above the parapet…

  44. One problem with PR, though, is how the seats are assigned after the results are announced. If party A gets 14% of the vote, which of its members does it nominate? No doubt, the most ‘on-message’ ones. The potential for Blairesque cronyism would be huge.

    Plus, one of the advantages of the current system (in theory) is that constituents vote for a local candidate who is meant to (but doesn’t always) represent them and their interests. How does PR, with its emphasis on massed voting on a national level meet this need?

  45. Sorry Badger,( why regret)
    Should have realised you were another. The spelling is of a better quality. Yes, Ireland :Giant’s causeway to be precise.
    How about this one? “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction,is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please.”

  46. Boris,

    I know that you’re supposed to remove all references to ‘MP’ from your website since you’re now technically just a candidate, so I thought you’d like to know that your RSS feed (well the RSS1- index.xml- one that I subscribe to with bloglines)is still calling your blog ‘Official website of Boris Johnson MP’

  47. My apologies, it is actually the RSS 2.0 feed that I subscribe to, and is still saying ‘Boris Johnson MP’ (just found that out when I was getting the link for my blogroll)

  48. David –

    Thank you for pointing this out.

    We are on to this and hope to remove it asap, though of course the House actually dissolves on Monday afternoon – so we are still technically within the time limits, just!

  49. Personally the biggest question of PR (for me) is how the voter gets to decide which candidates represent their local constituency.

    In First past the post (FPTP) system we vote for a candidate in a local-constituency, if they win the popular vote they are elected MP for that area, the party with the most MPs forms government. If we have PR and the split is:

    35% Labour
    30% Conservative
    15% Liberal Democrats
    20% split between little parties.

    How do we decide who is in power? Do labour get 35% of MPs and allocate from their candidate this number of MPs? How do we, the people, get to choose the MP, or do we purely select a party? How does their leader get elected, after all (as I understand it) only an elected MP can run the party in government.

    I’ve not spent much time looking for the answers to my concerns about PR, but I can’t seem to find out how we (the voting public) decide which candidates serve in which area or, indeed, which candidates the party chooses to be our representatives.

    Boris raises some interesting points about the split of constituencies though and I agree that a system should be in place to make this as balanced as possible, however Alexander (who refers to the 80s and the same issue) would be best served by understanding that parties can (and do) move on and just because the party Boris campaigns for once was guilty of the same thing doesn’t mean they cannot question, nor fight against it. Especially since Boris was not an MP back then and there could be a good chance he would’ve favoured a change, even if it was detrimental to the party he supports.

  50. one of the problems with PR is that every time anyone mentions it, 45 people immediately jump up and down waving their hands and telling us how complicated it all is.

    So’s Nuclear Physics, but we cracked that. All it takes is a political party to put the electorate’s franchise before their own certainty of seats: the rest is just technical stuff for the number-crunchers to work out.

    They do it all over the world in some form or another, for heavens’ sake.

  51. Some other problems with PR are that parties like the BNP might get share of vote and encourage people to vote for them

    Might end up with situation in france where National Front nearly became president of France

    However a system like here in scotland with a vote for both candidate and a party would help, although what to do with those elected by PR would be a problem as who do they represent

    also problem is party control happened here with labour party which list was dominated by leaders of the party and also SNP

  52. Of course the British First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system is unfair and should be reformed (in addition to the House of Lords etc. etc.). I don’t believe a bad system can produce a good government or good laws, and while I am in favour of compulsory voting, I don’t think this can be introduced until we have a system that enjoys widespread support.

    The additional member system (AMS), a rather complicated form of proportional representation, is used for the Scottish Parliament, but it isn’t very successful. People have been confused by having two votes (one for the constituency and one for the ‘list’), with some thinking that the second vote is for supporting minor parties like the Greens.

    Having seen both FPTP and AMS in operation, I am a firm convert to the single transferable vote (STV) system, which will be introduced in future for Scottish council elections.

    Under STV there would be multi-member constituencies, and votes would be ‘transferred’ from one candidate to another to arrive at a result. One of the advantages of having a three, four, or five member constituency is that you have a choice of representative to contact. For example, if I am a Liberal Democrat supporter, I can contact the Lib-Dem member rather than the Labour one.

  53. Multi member constituencies elected by STV sound OK. But list systems lead to cronyism or worse. The number 1 place on the Communist list in Russia for the last Duma election was rumoured to have been sold for $1 million.

    People who think it’s a good idea to criminalise non-voters need a life. This government has made more than 1000 new crimes and the police aren’t even enforcing the ones we had in the 13th century successfully!!

    I am as serious about politics as anyone here but will probably not vote this time because nothing is on offer but people arguing over how to spend the taxpayers’ money and what to tell them to do. Why should I be forced to choose between these rogues? And don’t tell me I should stand myself. I would love to but it’s a bit tricky when one lives in Russia.

  54. Let me hasten to say that the majority of contributors to these pages are not ( thank goodness) as follows:-

    Apathetic people :apathetic lives
    Apathetic husbands: apathetic wives
    Why are they apathetic? Doesn’t anybody care?
    Apathy’s endemic: As the French say, ” Laissez faire”
    Some call the state pragmatic, but others say, ” Not true.”
    On a scale of one to fifty; where would anyone place you?

  55. Tom Paine (reincarnation or namesake?): “People who think it’s a good idea to criminalise non-voters need a life.”

    Any kind of obligatory system of voting would have to be sensible. Voters might be required to go to the polling station on penalty of a small fine (like a parking ticket) but have the option of handing in a blank vote. In any case (as I noted before), we need to reform the electoral system first before we can propose treating voting as some kind of civic duty.

  56. the idea that PR removes the constituency link is one of the biggest myths of PR that has to be debunked.

    Take the Jenkins proposals for instance, 85% done via constituency, 15% top up, based on the spillover of the votes once the constituency people are elected.

    In many ways, PR enhances the constituency link, because you are voting for the candidate you most want to see rather than voting against the candidate you least want.

  57. Reincarnation I would like to think, Simon! But Tom and I have in common a lack of such superstitions, as well as a name.

    There is no virtue in anything done under compulsion. Make me vote and what have you achieved? I was at best indifferent, at worst alienated. Now I am your enemy.

    You speak casually of small fines, but fines must be enforced. You are offering to bring the apparatus of the State (a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless, and one to be invoked as little as possible) to bear on someone whose crime is to find the present crop of politicians (Boris honourably excepted) an unworthy bunch!! Seems a little de trop, to say the least.

    If the state was successful in enforcing the present laws against murder, burglary, robbery and rape, one might be tempted to let them create more. But since they “lack the resources” to investigate those, why on earth create more for them to fail at – and bring the law further into contempt. Creating laws is easy, but enforcing them is hard – particularly if people guilty of breaking them know that in truth they have done nothing wrong.

    Every pointless law damages the ability of the police to enforce the important ones. We used to have “policing by consent”. Now we have would be Judge Dredds in BMW squad cars.

    Think of all the nice respectable people whose only experience of the police is the intimidatory attitude of a traffic cop or the bored indifference of the “scene of crime officer” who has no intention of doing anything but check you are not over-claiming on your insurance before issuing a “crime number”.

    This is important stuff, Simon. Think before you criminalise more nice people.

  58. Simon:
    I wonder if your shaft went home? T.P.’s republican activist namesake would be turning in his grave, if he knew that someone bearing his name was lacking in some sort of positive political conviction.A failure to vote is the chink in the door through which an even worse choice can creep.

  59. Tom Paine: “Think before you criminalise more nice people.”
    I have no wish to criminalize nice people, or nasty ones come to that. I am not suggesting that failure to show up at the polling station should be a criminal offence.

    What I am suggesting is that in a well-ordered state (which rules out present-day Britain!) voting should be regarded as a duty.

    Tom: “If the state was successful in enforcing the present laws against murder, burglary, robbery and rape . . . But since they “lack the resources” to investigate those, why on earth create more for them to fail at . . .”

    Well actually the state is very good at collecting parking and speeding fines, the fact that the police find it so difficult to find resources to fight real criminals, doesn’t mean that the authorities lack expertise in keeping ordinary people in line. (Another irony for Boris to ponder).

    Tom: “There is no virtue in anything done under compulsion. Make me vote and what have you achieved?’

    If you go the polling station and submit a blank vote that will be a strong statement. If you don’t turn up at all no-one will know why you didn’t vote.

    By the way do you know the new website: Not Apathetic, which is for non-voters to explain why they are not going to the polling station:
    http://www.notapathetic.com/

    Please note I am strongly opposed to ID cards, detention without trial and other civil liberties issues – as I have written frequently here and on my own blog.

  60. BritBlog Roundup # 8

    Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend….well, yes, quite enough Emerson Lake and Palmer there I think. The eighth issue of the Britblog Roundup is upon us, an attempt to highlight

  61. Tom.
    Your statement that there is no virtue in anything done under compulsion needs careful consideration I fear. You are born: birth:a primaeval,normally unavoidable urge , ergo compulsion . Virtue?
    After your birth, your reflexes compel you to breathe. Virtue? After a hopefully fruitful and long life: you are compelled to die: death: Virtue? Virtue, amongst other lesser meanings : conformity to a standard of right.

  62. You’ve lost me there, Macarnie. I can’t see any virtue in being born, breathing or dying. They are good enough things in their way of course, but Hitler and Stalin managed all three without being virtuous. I think you are playing with words.

    I am happy to say that people should vote. It’s a hard won right and should be taken seriously. I think it’s fair to say I am giving it a lot more thought than the average voter!

    However, it disturbs me a little that Conservatives and civil libertarians here seem prone to want to compel people to do the things *they* approve of.

    I approve of lots of things and regard some of them as my duty, but if you catch me trying to force you do do them too (absent demonstrable harm to others if you don’t) then you can watch me eat my favourite Borsalino fedora online, OK?

  63. If you force people to vote they are quite likely to be angry and vote for extremist candidates out of spite. I would rather that the only people voting were ones who actually wanted to vote, out of conscience, conviction or whatever.

    I would also prefer the system known as “Approval Voting”, in which you vote for ALL of the candidates of whom you approve. The candidate with the most approval wins.

    It’s a simple modification of the First Past the Post system, but it largely removes tactical voting in that you can vote for say both UKIP and Conservative, or Liberal Democrat and Green, or Labour and SWP, etc. If you want to vote against a party, (e.g. BNP), you could put a cross in every box except that party, thereby in effect voting against them.

    Simple, easy to understand, and used amongst others by both the American Mathematical Society and also the UN to elect the Secretary General.

  64. Tom: “you can watch me eat my favourite Borsalino fedora . . .”

    A Borsalino! Hold it right there! Let’s not be rash! Do you have a picture of it on your blog? What colour is it? What size? If it’s around seven and a quarter, you can post it here instead. I’ll give you my address . . .

  65. What a magnificent peice of headgear Tom. I reccomend you fry it in a little oil with some onion and a dash of mixed herbs.

    Agreed, assuming that voting is ‘a good’ and not voting is ‘a bad’ then removing the choice whether to vote or not robs it of any moral value whatsoever. However, our venerable and noble ancestors fought for the right to directly contribute to the democratic process, and it seems that simply going through the motions and making a futile gesture of, for instance, voting Conservative in a labour safe seat is not what they had in mind, particularly as such behaviour merely serves to endorse the existing, and frankly scandalous electoral system.

    By the way, on the subject of party lists, yes there is a significant danger of cronyism, but STV doesn’t use a party list, it simply elects multiple member constituencies. Problem solved.

  66. The UK Political Pulse

    After I mentioned a BlogPulse graph in IRC, Aquarion took the graph which I put had his way and modified it in order to show each of the three party leaders in their appropriate colours Graph of who is being…

  67. Zimbabwe is just the latest example of socialism in action. In Russia they blamed the Kulaks, in Germany they blamed the jews, in Zimbabwe they blame the whites.

  68. I haven’t been paying attention, Bozza, what a lovely new photo at the head of the page. Dressed up and ready for combat.
    I just pray that some unscrupulous individual does not copy that picture onto their immature web log, in order to try to make fun in an imbecilic and immature way.

  69. Press Update – 12/04/05

    Anthony King adds the numbers to Boris’ eloquence in the Telegraph today, explaining the geographical oddities that rob the Tories of any hope of getting elected. King mentions that, “a system biased on this scale is wholly unjustifiable and no…

  70. Off topic, why have the Tories not introduced Europe into the election debate hitherto? There’re tons of juicy new quotes to use. You could really kick Blairs ass with this stuff:

    “We have finally obtained this ‘Europe

  71. One has to admire the French for having the brazen cheek not only to get what they can from the EU, whilst doing exactly what they want, when they want… To manipulate an old phrase, taking with one hand and making rude hand gestures with the other behind the back. Why must we persist in being so stuffy? Lets jump on board the good ship EU and loot as much as we can..

  72. Party whips are undemocratic. Party politics is, therfore, undemocratic. We are supposed to vote for someone from our community, who best represents our views, to represent us on a national, and, hence, international level.

    If there IS a move to make voting compulsory, then a “none of the above” box must be included on ballot papers. If that box gets more votes than any single candidate, then new candidates should stand – until the people are represented by THEIR choice.

    Unwieldy, impractical…but democracy.

  73. Vicus Scurra: “I just pray that some unscrupulous individual does not copy that picture onto their immature web log . . .”

    On the contrary, my concern is that a sophisticated Hampshire-style blog con artist might raise the possibility of Boris Johnson photo theft in order to self-incriminate his own publication to attain notoriety – and that during an election campaign! Tsk, tsk!

  74. Labour’s rotten boroughs

    Boris Johnson has an apposite posting on the unfairness of the Westminster electoral system. If all three main parties achieved the same number of votes, Labour would be able to win three times as many seats as the Liberal Democrats, and twice as many …

  75. Lilburne: “One has to admire the French for having the brazen cheek not only to get what they can from the EU, whilst doing exactly what they want, when they want…”

    Isn’t that what national politicians are for? I mean, if they can’t defend the national interest what are they there for? If the French are good at it, all the more credit to them. Why are British politicians so poor at it? Maybe the lack of a positive approach on the world and our place in it? A fear of competing on equal terms? A preference for ridiculous boastful rhetoric at home – and timidity abroad?

    Michael Howard said “I always think how intensely grateful I am that I was born on this side of the Channel.” It’s worth wondering why.

    The French have a cleaner environment than us (thanks to lower CO2 emissions), they have better transport, better roads, a better health service, better support for the arts, more beautiful cities, and obviously better food, Where is the downside? They have more traffic accidents, that’s true. What else?

  76. “Michael Howard said “I always think how intensely grateful I am that I was born on this side of the Channel.” It’s worth wondering why. ”

    Theres an idea for your next article Boris.

  77. This calls for a little HMS Pinafore:

    “I’ve half a dozen Frenchmen tried to teach That I’m twelve times as brave and strong as each,

    And showed that this corollary must follow, One Englishman can thrash twelve Frenchmen hollow.”

    “For he himself has said it, and it’s greatly to his credit That he is an Englishman!

    “For he might have been a Roosian, A French or Turk (Boris?) or Proosian, Or perhaps Itali-an….

    But in spite of all temptations To belong to other nations, He remains an Englishman, he remains an E-he-he-he-he-he-he-englishman.”

  78. Ils veulent L’Empire ancienne
    ==============================
    I don’t agree with Tony Blair.
    Who opened up the gate
    Now aliens by their thousands
    Want to alter Britain’s fate
    For far too long we’ve pandered
    To the French, who long to take the lead
    If we say nothing: we’ll be sidelined
    So it’s time the truth to heed
    The truth: the French don’t want us there:
    They repeat it time again
    They aim to bleed the Union dry,
    Not if; perhaps; but when.
    The French have longed to rule us
    From Boney to ‘Gros Nez de Gaulle’
    Their Ministers, e’en as I’m writing
    Want all Anglo-Saxons to fall.
    Once on a time I was happy;
    To be married to Europe, back then,
    But this ain’t the Europe I fancied:
    I long to be single again.

  79. We stand as a reminder to society, that no individual or organization is more powerful than one person who has the courage to stand up and tell the painful truth.

    Pervert Rodney Hill ex-leader of the York council and friend of Tony Blair had twenty years at the helm in twenty years of filth and Debauchery being a sexual predator of young girl causing entrapments for young girls, Drugs, Abuse, Alcohol, using public funds for his own needs.

    Having innocent people arrested on trumped up charges when pictures of Hills in sexually compromising situations were handed in to the council. All charges have since been proved to have no basis in foundation and have been dropped.

    There are still people who were affiliated with Mr. Hills

  80. Admin:
    I have no doubt as to your sincere belief in your cause, whatever it may be. There is however, a little confusion as to precisely what that might be.Is there proof that what you imply / state is fact and not pure supposition? The report is, to say the least, confusing: is this Councillor dead or alive? Might I suggest that this case be taken up by a neutral group of responsible persons, and examined as to its merits?

  81. Replace first-past-the-post with Condorcet with ranked pairs. You immediately get rid of any nonsense about tactical voting, as one of the strengths of this particular system is that it is trivially provable that the best strategy for any voter is to list the candidates in his genuine order of preference – there are no situations in which it is advantageous to place your favourite candidate anywhere but first, in order to prevent the bad guy from getting in.

    This also has the benefit that it makes it easier for small parties to get elected in a constituency, as there is no danger of splitting the vote and letting the “other” side win.

    It may well not be very good for the Conservative party’s prospects at the moment, though, as it’s likely that more Lib Dem voters prefer Labour to the Conservatives, and more Labour voters would rather vote Lib Dem than Conservative.

    It’s still the right thing to do, though.

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