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Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

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Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Chas Peeps on Mon Sep 22, 2014 11:03 pm

‘We’re Alright!’

Labour had been unexpectedly defeated by John Major’s Conservative Party in 1992 under the First Past the Post electoral system and the impact on the morale of the Labour Party was truly devastating. Neil Kinnock’s defeated Party had led to the probability of at least eighteen consecutive years of power for the Conservative Party.

The First Past the Post (FPTP) Electoral System

The First Past the Post voting system was designed for a different age of two party politics where there were a far larger number of marginal seats. The increase in vote share for smaller parties together with the massive reduction in marginal seats (down from over 160 in 1955 to below 90 in 2010 (source - IPPR)) means that FPTP is now very damaging to the UK’s democracy. There is a strong incentive for both major parties to focus on developing policies to win the small number of floating votes in marginal seats as these are the votes that win elections, meaning that policies tend to converge on that very narrow demographic. Further, any changes to constituency boundaries can have a massive effect on the outcome of general elections for each of the major parties, leaving the review process susceptible to gerrymandering. 1974 and 2010 are examples of when FPTP has failed to deliver a decisive victor in the general election, resulting in a hung Parliament, Pact or Coalition Government.

John Smith’s Labour Considers Electoral Reform

In 1992 to 1993, debate in the Labour Party was in full swing over whether it should embrace electoral reform for Westminster Parliamentary Elections. The chosen vehicle for this examination was the Plant Commission headed by Professor Raymond Plant under the watchful eye of Labour’s new leader, John Smith. Although John Smith was on the centre right of the Labour Party, he was an inclusive man and saw merit in the debate within the Party over electoral reform going ahead even though the main movers of this debate were on the democratic left, whose main figurehead was Robin Cook.

By the end of March 1993, the Commission, headed by Lord Plant, professor of politics at Southampton University, voted by 10 to 6 against keeping the present scheme for electing MPs – while, as predicted by the Independent, a narrower 9-7 majority decided it should be replaced with a ‘supplementary vote’ (SV) system that would retain constituency links.

Had SV been used for the 1992 election, the Liberal Democrats would have won 45 to 48 seats instead of 20, predominantly in the South of England, producing a hung Parliament.

The decision set the tone for a closely-fought debate in the party.

Campaigners for change said Labour must present the prospect of a more representative system well before the next election. SV would allow voters to exercise first and second choices in a single ballot. Candidates who score 50 per cent of the vote would win outright. In all other cases, those with the highest number of votes after second preferences are added in would win.

While the scheme would have retained the first-past-the-post principle, and still called for tactical voting, it would have ensured a fairer distribution of seats in relation to parties’ shares of the vote.

The move’s significance was underlined by Anthony Barnett, co-ordinator of Charter 88, the constitutional campaigning group. He said: ‘It’s great that Labour has gone for change, even if we would prefer something more proportional.’ Voters should be allowed a referendum, he added.

The commission overwhelmingly backed regional ‘list’ PR systems for the European Parliament and a second chamber to replace the Lords.

Blairism

Tragically, John Smith died suddenly of a heart attack in 1994. Tony Blair was elected as leader of the Labour Party and embarked on a project to ‘modernise’ the Party. Ostensibly this involved rebranding to New Labour, ditching references to Labour’s socialist past, reducing the influence of its Trade Union backers and moving the policy platform well to the right of centre.

Plans for electoral reform were effectively shelved by the incoming Labour government in 1997 when the party won a 179 seat majority under first past the post. Lip service was paid but the reality was that FPTP was there to stay for Labour.

Devolution – The Time Bomb Starts Ticking

Blair’s New Labour Government elected in 1997 acted quickly in giving referenda to the people of Scotland and Wales to determine if they wanted devolution of powers to their own Parliament or Assembly. Both voted in favour resulting in the Scots establishing their own Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh with tax varying power and the Welsh setting up the welsh assembly in Cardiff with less devolved power than its Scottish counterpart. Both new chambers elect their Members on a proportional electoral system but in addition, each country continues to send MP’s to the Westminster Parliament under the First Past the Post voting system.

Referendum on AV for General Elections 2011

When Blair’s New Labour rejected electoral reform, the time bomb started ticking towards a Conservative hegemony in England. 13 years later, the Conservative Party saw its chance, first by sabotaging the Liberal Democrat’s demanded referendum on a more proportional voting system by limiting it to Alternative Vote (not very proportional) and campaigning against it and secondly by pushing for a further review of Parliamentary Constituency boundaries that most considered would favour the Conservative Party. The Conservatives were thwarted by their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats refusing to support the review out of spite rather than conviction.

Scottish Independence Referendum 2014

Although the majority of Scots voted to remain within the United Kingdom, promises were made to them by the ‘Better Together’ campaign before the vote that further powers would be devolved to Scotland including a tight timetable for the necessary legislation.

Rather than allow this legislation to proceed without pre-condition, David Cameron saw an opportunity to link a resolution of ‘The West Lothian Question’ (i.e. Scotland’s Constituency MP’s being able to vote on exclusively English legislation in Westminster) to the progress or otherwise of further powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The End Game?

The Conservatives now just need the final two pieces of the constitutional and electoral jigsaw puzzle to fall into place for them, removing Scotland’s MPs from votes on English legislation and a boundary review that will give them electoral advantage. A Conservative Party hegemony (effectively an elected dictatorship) in England is now a distinct probability rather than just a remote possibility.

The road to this fearful risk leads right back to Blair’s replacement of John Smith and his subsequent landslide victory in the 1997 General Election. For reasons of political greed, Blair saw no reason for electoral reform for Westminster elections and kicked it into the very long grass to die.

The fact is that with deepening devolution for Scotland and possibly Wales, the need for a proportional voting system for Westminster elections becomes crucial to safeguard democracy and political diversity in England in the 21st Century. That has to be worth fighting for for all supporters of progressive democratic politics.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Redflag on Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:51 am

I just hope you have got this very wrong (The End Game) Chas Peeps because I do not like the sound of it or the outcome it will have on the people of the length and breath of England.

Here is something funny I said if Scotland voted yes in the referendum I would move back to where I was born (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne ) if the Tories get their way I will have to stay where I am with the SNP calling for UDI something Rhodesia did in the 1970s can anyone telling me is something being put in our water, all of a sudden the madmen are trying to take over the Asylum.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:31 pm

Not all of the assumptions made above are a foregone conclusion, principally because of course the Tory Party alone cannot carry a division in the House of Commons, as they do not have a majority unless supported by the Lib-Dems.

Once Labour wins a General Election, Tory desires are no longer relevant without some kind of new coalition, so Miliband needs to spend the next eight months garnering support from other parties who might agree that four years of Toryism has not benefitted the Nation.

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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by boatlady on Wed Sep 24, 2014 7:34 am

Now, that's a heartening way of looking at it
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Redflag on Wed Sep 24, 2014 12:11 pm

I just hope that the NHA party take plenty  of the Tory & Fib-Dems votes, they would be as good coalition party for the Labour party to have in the HOC.  Most of the NHA party are made up of doctors and nurses and the head of NHA is Clive Needell who will be standing against Cameron in the constituency of Witney Cambridgeshire.   That is one results I will watching keanly on the night of 7th May 2015, and every result where a Tory MP loses there seat, there are NINE Tory MPs standing down in 2015 after just been elected into the HOC in 2010 (I THINK THEY HAVE GOT THE MESSAGE) lol! lol!
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Phil Hornby on Wed Sep 24, 2014 1:21 pm

"..so Miliband needs to spend the next eight months garnering support from other parties."

That assumes he doesn't 'forget' to do so.

I am sure he is a lovely chap who is kind to animals, but how many more opportunities will he miss to rid us of the Diseased Tories.

Aaaaaaaaaaaargh...
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Chas Peeps on Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:31 pm

oftenwrong: The Conservative Party only has to align the conditions correctly once under the FPTP system to effectively neuter Labour's power in England. In 2010, without Scottish MPs voting on English legislation, the Conservatives would have had an overall majority (in England) as Scotland contributed 41 Labour, 16 Lib Dem, 6 SNP and 1 Tory to the UK total pot in both that and the 2005 elections. Most experts think that a further review of Parliamentary boundaries will favour the Conservative Party. Labour has had 22 years to do the right thing for itself for the long term, for the people of the UK (but especially England) where every vote would be of a more equal value, and for political pluralism allowing small parties a foot in the doors of power and a chance to contribute and grow.  The dead hand of the two party system and First Past the Post is strangling our democracy and the Tories can sense they are within a hair's breadth of making England their political plaything for good. Best of all, Labour would be able to move to its natural position to the left of centre because it would no longer have to worry so much about appealing to the swing voters in the marginal seats who are currently the only people who decide who wins.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by oftenwrong on Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:43 pm

Everything is possible, but Tony Blair would have won all his elections against the rabid Tories even if he had not had benefit of Socialist MPs from Scottish constituencies.

Ask again whether the Lib Dems ever had a real chance of changing the electoral system in Britain.  They sold their collective souls for an opportunity in Coalition with the perfidious Tories.

Such an opportunity will not occur until there is no possibility whatever of any single party being able to form a majority in the House of Commons. Then only might there be an agreement to adopt PR.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by methought on Thu Sep 25, 2014 9:33 am

It might shed some light on this current resurgence of localism to read September's New Scientist, which analysed how large a community needs to be before federalism is likely to work. The conclusion was that a population of 56,000, with a geographically defined boundary and a language distinction was the minimum viable, giving Switzerland as an example, and citing the need for democratically agreed bureaucracies to ensure representatives meet to agree common overarching policies.

It also cited collapse of Iraq as being due to the absence of an infrastructure which could be managed to deliver organisation to the disparate cultural groups, though I would also argue that Saddam Hussain's socialist subsidising of all essential goods was also the first thing the Americans abolished, leading to shortages of every necessity.

Read Emerald City, or the Green Room as the film was called, to understand how the American occupation of Baghdad was doomed to failure.

ISIL on the other hand can perhaps be better understood by reading Conn Iggulden's books on Genghiz Khan through to Kublai Khan. The absence of geographical boundaries in eastern Europe, and pockets of groups with different linguistic and cultural origins, made it easier for a sweeping destruction by fast moving troops with ruthless ideology to actually leave the area under-populated and empty.

But I digress

For Labour there will be a need to embrace federalism on a regional basis if London is not to dictate the continuation of centralisation to the detriment of the post-industrial north of the UK. Cameron is looking to have English votes for English laws. Perhaps there needs to be 3 regions for England - north of Manchester from Sheffield to Berwick and Carlisle, Manchester down to south of Birmingham and across to Kings Lynn, and Cambridge southwards for the wealthy Tories to have their cake and eat it. Cornwall, Dorset and Devon might like to go it alone regionally too. Political consistency is unlikely with the breaking up of rich and poor boroughs, but it would also bring Wales and Scotland back in for important stuff like the Human Rights Act, taxation, and Benefits.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Ivan on Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:34 pm

I’d like to thank Chas Peeps for providing us with this very interesting and thought-provoking thread.  thumbsup

Some people think there could be similarities between next year’s election and the 1992 one, where Labour is expected to win and the right-wing papers do their damnedest to destroy the Labour leader. Kinnock certainly helped them in 1992 with that awful triumphalist Sheffield rally - when everyone in the hall should have been out knocking on doors. A hung parliament, with Labour as the biggest party, was the expected result, but we must remember that the Tories were then defending a majority of 101 and they did lose forty seats. The Tories have not managed to win an election since, and next year they'll be starting from a minority position.

I don’t share the gloomy predictions here, because I don’t think the Tories appeal to a wide enough constituency of voters any more to win a majority on their own. However, I do agree about the effects of the 1992 defeat on Labour Party morale. If the Tories could win a fourth term in unfavourable economic circumstances, how could they ever be beaten when things improved? When Blair became leader, he had a largely compliant party membership prepared to accept almost everything – including the scrapping of the cherished but never enacted Clause 4 – to gain power.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:12 pm

methought wrote: ....
For Labour there will be a need to embrace federalism on a regional basis if London is not to dictate the continuation of centralisation to the detriment of the post-industrial north of the UK. Cameron is looking to have English votes for English laws. Perhaps there needs to be 3 regions for England - north of Manchester from Sheffield to Berwick and Carlisle, Manchester down to south of Birmingham and across to Kings Lynn, and Cambridge southwards for the wealthy Tories to have their cake and eat it. Cornwall, Dorset and Devon might like to go it alone regionally too. Political consistency is unlikely with the breaking up of rich and poor boroughs, but it would also bring Wales and Scotland back in for important stuff like the Human Rights Act, taxation, and Benefits.

Otherwise known as "Balkanisation", I think. Think of the local fiefdoms that would spring up, with Robber-Baron leaders drawn from the likes of Bo-Jo, Farage and Shapps.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Ivan on Fri Jun 12, 2015 8:56 am

How prophetic of Robin Cook, who died at the age of 59 shortly after making this astute comment:-

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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by sickchip on Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:26 am

Good thread and excellent lead post, Chas Peeps.

I couldn't help but think of a post I made on the 'what now for Labour' thread.

I think the problem for Labour is that our elections are no longer a two horse race. I say this because other parties (the greens, SNP, UKIP, etc) appear to dilute the Labour vote more than they do the Conservative vote. If we had a two horse race, as in the US - DEMOCRATS V REPUBLICANS, we would undoubtedly see Labour in power the majority of the time. The Labour party could really have incorporated the belefs and views of the greens and snp and amalgamated those parties and people into the Labour party.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by sickchip on Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:48 am

This...

Conservative......Labour...Libdems....SNP......Greens....UKIP...Others
.....100...............70..........30.........50.........20.........40........30
TORY WIN


                                              or

Conservative.......Labour (incorporating others) - an anti tory alliance
.....100................240
LABOUR WIN


.....numbers are made up, but hope y'all get the point I'm making.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by oftenwrong on Sun Jun 14, 2015 4:11 pm

The Labour leadership contest has a familiar feel to it. No candidate has commercial experience, all are products of the Political system.

Disregarding any other considerations, I don't think the British Electorate is going to be captivated by a same old same old programme.

I sincerely hope, for all our sakes, that the successful Leader, and Deputy Leader, can prove me wrong.

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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by sickchip on Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:00 pm

oftenwrong wrote:I sincerely hope, for all our sakes, that the successful Leader, and Deputy Leader, can prove me wrong.

.....unfortunately sincerity means f all these days - we live in an age of self-centred ignoramuses who care not a jot about the general good outside of their own shallow circle. Cheers, Maggie.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Redflag on Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:36 pm

oftenwrong wrote:The Labour leadership contest has a familiar feel to it.  No candidate has commercial experience, all are products of the Political system.

Disregarding any other considerations, I don't think the British Electorate is going to be captivated by a same old same old programme.

You seem to be pointing out the Labour party faults OW, how many of the Tories in gov't have had a real job, ie plumber electrician or brick layer NONE most of them have came for Oxbrifge strait into the HOC or have had a well paid job in the Bamking sector, which I would rather trust some one in the Labour  party that has came from UNI and got into the HOC.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:55 pm

The point I intended to make, Redflag, is that Labour have to BEAT the Tories in order to attain power, and many voters abstain altogether in the belief that "they're all the same", which is possibly the reason that the Tories got their majority this time.

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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Redflag on Tue Jun 16, 2015 9:43 am

As long as they do not copy the Tory policies OW, they had quite a few of good policies for the 2015 G.E. yet not enough people voted for them. Knowing the Tories policy was more Austerity for the low paid sick & vulnerable they still voted Tory and some of them where Labour voters this I will never understand OW.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Penderyn on Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:57 pm

It begins to look as if Labour lost the election because the over-65's ratted. They are, after all the only people who take Murdoch and his muck-mates seriously. and they vote. Cut out anyone on old-age pension from the Electoral Register on the grounds that they are senile?
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by oftenwrong on Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:30 pm

Don't blame me, I voted for a geezer claiming to represent The Wessex Party, whatever that (or he) was. Certainly wasn't going to vote for the Tory buffoon with the standard-issue spam-coloured face.

Nor did I invest in Gideon's 4% Alzheimer Bonds, either.

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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by boatlady on Wed Jun 17, 2015 5:58 pm

Don't blame me - I voted Labour - for all the good it did me
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by bobby on Wed Jun 17, 2015 10:21 pm

Penderyn said: Cut out anyone on old-age pension from the Electoral Register on the grounds that they are senile?

Taff, do you mean all of us or just us from the South East.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Redflag on Thu Jun 18, 2015 2:23 am

Penderyn wrote:It begins to look as if Labour lost the election because the over-65's ratted.  They are, after all the only people who take Murdoch and his muck-mates seriously. and they vote.    Cut out anyone on old-age pension from the Electoral Register on the grounds that they are senile?

I hope your not talking about me Penderyn because I am an OAP, but still voted Labour and did my bit for the 2015 G.E around the UK as you will know, not all OAPs are senile we might be a bit slower than every one else but definitely not senile.lol!
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Penderyn on Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:31 pm

For all you know I am talking about me! Smile
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Redflag on Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:48 pm

Penderyn wrote:For all you know I am talking about me!  Smile

From your posts Penderyn you are most definitely not senile lol!
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Penderyn on Thu Jun 18, 2015 1:20 pm

Redflag wrote:
Penderyn wrote:For all you know I am talking about me!  Smile

From your posts Penderyn you are most definitely not senile lol!

Working on it!
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Jun 18, 2015 10:38 pm

"Entitlement" is important to the majority of Labour supporters, arising from a lifetime contributing directly from their wages into "National Insurance" which disappears along with PAYE tax before they even get to see the contents of the wage-packet.

In the particular case of Pensioners, they are rather cautious of any perceived threat to whatever benefits they now receive, a fact evidently recognised by Gideon and his pals. The Labour Party needs to be no less vocal about its public commitment to The Welfare State, but a problem is that although there is universal approval of safety-net welfare provision, there is not a corresponding willingness to pay for it.
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Re: Blair's electoral time bomb under the Labour Party

Post by Redflag on Fri Jun 19, 2015 11:50 am

Yet OW it is something that most of us have done since starting our working life "P.A.Y E & NI! . I just wonder what Giddy-Up would do if the normal working man/women found a way to avoid our NI & tax like those in his own crowd who do there level best to avoid -evade paying there correct amount of tax.
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