Fishy Tales

13 May 2005

Straw Poll

I'm sure there was a time I liked Jack Straw. I've certainly admired his ability to express himself.
However, his star has certainly fallen now and the embers are barely glowing.

Here's a letter from Straw printed in the Guardian about the merits of our First Past the Post voting system, and why we really don't want any form of PR.

And here's a beautiful response from Nick Barlow, including some well-considered comments.

Straw's vision of manifestos as almost sacred - representing the contract between the winning party and the people - deserves still closer attention. I've always thought that the increasingly regular appointment of Independent and/or single-issue MPs like Martin Bell and, more recently, Dr Richard Taylor was significant. It's a very strong anti-party-politics statement.

I reckon it's a rare person that subscribe 100% to any Party's manifesto. That almost certainly includes many of the Party's own MPs. However there will be some pledges in a manifesto that most people in the country love, and some that most people really hate. The closest we'll get to a perfect manifesto, representative of the people's wishes, is one that is negotiated, mixing and matching from various sources, some of which may not even be written in any Party's manifesto.

And a significant step towards negotiated manifestos would be the introduction of a percentage of PR voting, whereby public preference for all the little shades of policy can be represented by the makeup of our elected assembly.

Straw appears to see a need for governments to negotiate and intelligently find common ground as something debilitating. I would say that in the medium to long term that makes him and all like him (who aren't prepared to work with diversity) political dinosaurs.

How we should be democratic is the substantive question, and a flexible approach to this question is entirely consistent with an unwavering commitment to democracy. Politicians who are the beneficiaries of a particular electoral system naturally wrap themselves in the mantle of democracy and need to be reminded occasionally that this mantle can come in different styles, all of them with patches.

John Allen Paulos in the Guardian [my emphasis]


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