Last week we saw Maria Miller MP resign (was she pushed? The PM avoided the question at PMQ’s) after it was exposed that she had over-claimed on her mortgage for her second home. It has also emerged that Tony Blair’s eldest son is set to stand at a safe seat in the next General Election (a friend of mine said that we seem to be following North Korea’s method of choosing our leaders now).
These two situations really do bring up the worst in the political system we live under. First of all, why does someone need a second home when they live an hour away from London? (I have a 90 minute commute on two buses to and from work every day). Secondly, why was her home in her constituency rented? Was she not living there? Well it appears that Maria Miller does not have much in common with Basingstoke other than she has similar political beliefs to many of those residing there. She actually hails from South Wales, and I doubt very much that she would have had a promising future in the Valleys of South Wales as a Conservative. Basingstoke is a prime example of a safe seat for the Tories; it does not matter who the MP is, as long as they are blue, they will win in this well off commuter belt area of Hampshire. This is not what the constituency model was supposed to produce. Rather than having MPs linked with that part of the country, we have candidates parachuted in to seats from all across the UK in order to gain a victory. If you follow the party rank and file, don’t speak up, and follow the dogma, then as a party member you can be rewarded with a guaranteed win at an election. How on earth are we to change politics when you have to sit down and shut up in order to progress in a party?
The First Past the Post system has many flaws, the safe seat is it’s major one. Living in South Wales all my life, there is no point in voting for anyone other than Labour as they will always win in that area. You also feel that being politically active in that area is pointless unless you subscribe to the New Labour dogma, forged by Tony Blair. Labour have a vision, and if you don’t fit that, then they will put you up for election somewhere in Oxfordshire.
First Past the Post does not make politics local, the reason many MPs are “not in touch” with their constituents is because they don’t know them! There is a saying from my home town that is “You can put a monkey up for election in Swansea, and as long as it’s Labour it will win”.
On the one hand, we have the major parties all fusing together, but with people sticking to the parties they have always voted for, there is no room for new emerging parties to operate. Unless you have plenty of money, or a ridiculous amount of air time (such as UKIP and Nigel Farage), parties such as the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and the Greens find it very difficult to gain support even in local elections.
People who support FPTP say that it provides strong government, and few coalitions, but we have a coalition right now now, and is a strong government a positive government? With huge majorities in the 1980’s the Conservative government were able to bring devastation to the North of England, Wales, and Scotland, and destroy the lives of people who had never voted for them.
We need politics to start at the most basic level; in the work place, at council level, the way we run schools. When people are involved in running things at an every day level, we can ensure that they are fit to run systems at a national level. All too often do we see our leaders coming from university, straight in to a position of power without knowing the challenges people face when they have wage freezes, or benefit cuts.
If Blair’s Heir wins in Merseyside, it would be a great shame. Although the area has links to his family (close to his mother’s home) I doubt very much that he knows much about the area now, and I would not want someone representing my area, if they have used it’s working class roots as a way of progressing up the greasy pole.