Last Monday found The Ericle present at the hustings for the constituency of Islington North – the political fiefdom of  Jeremy Corbyn, the very independent Labour member of parliament since 1983 who re-elected in 2010 with a majority of over 12,000. There are 6 candidates running this time round but the result is palpably a foregone conclusion. As a consequence of our first-past-the-post system the votes of a sizeable proportion of North Islington voters are thus rendered academic, as they will bear no direct influence on the future government of the UK.

The issue of fair voting* has been at the centrepiece of my political interest since the mid-Sixties, when I canvassed in the constituency of Hampstead & Highgate for a particular candidate who was haplessly standing against another incumbent of Corbynesque proportions, (Henry Brooke, the then Conservative Home Secretary). Then, as an A-level student of British Constitution, I was being taught about the merits of the ‘unwritten constitution’; the notion that a sense of political fair-play was an integral element of the UK’s political DNA. Even in that pre-Thatcher era, it seemed very clear to me that our system was a prescription for Prime Ministerial dictatorship. Amazingly 35 years after The Iron Lady, the UK is still shackled with a political system that has a built-in predisposition to electing on one of the 2 major parties and one where minority parties are grossly under-represented, if at all.

* There are many variants of a fair voting system. I favour a constituency based Commons, elected on a single
transferable vote basis, and a 2nd chamber which reflects the proportional representation of all parties.

The fact that the UK has had a coalition government for the past 5 years, and the prospect of another this time round, changes nothing. The reality remains that 2 of the parties will end up with more than their fair share of the seats and the rest will be under-represented. This notwithstanding, the 2015 General Election is a unique one where the absurdity of our voting system is clear to one-and-all before the outcome is known.  As a result, in many constituencies people will not be voting for the party of their choice but for the party that has the best chance of defeating the one that they most dislike or fear.

Though fair-voting still appears in many manifestos, it is not a front-line policy.  My hope is that in the aftermath of May 7th, the issue of fair voting moves to centre-stage again. In Islington North that is all my vote will count for – another drop of dissent onto the hard rock of the political status quo. But as the Zen poet put it:

 If water drips long enough.
Even rocks wear through.

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One Response to A view from Islington North.

  1. Here we are at the thirteenth general election and still not much sign of voting reform! I think it’s our collective karma in the UK to experience an unfair and confusing political system. I for one would vote for a party who implemented a fair voting system along with protecting the NHS.

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