Have you ever been in a debate so tedious and facile that you cannot muster any other facial expression other than mild disbelief crossed with utter boredom? Thankfully, as I only entertain myself with interesting conversations I have never encountered this problem, but looking at David Cameron and Nick Clegg making their twin speeches on the subject of voting reform, you could see the spark of life slowly dwindling in their eyes. Both have entered into a referendum campaign that neither wanted to involved with, whether it is for political or ideological reasons or in the case of the Cleggster, both.
The political tightrope both have had to tread has been elevated to Cirque Du Soleil heights since entering into the Coalition government, as the leaders have had to stress the independence of their party’s whilst refraining from the usual character attacks found in normal politics. All the while Ed Miliband has the ability to use this united-whilst-divided to Labour’s advantage as only he can provide a credible alternative beyond the cuts, existing in a world of rhetoric and finger pointing. But instead he has preferred to stay at the side-lines whilst being as much use as a teenage girl in a moshpit. In our esteemed Prime Minister’s case he has wittingly wandered into a minefield as he has taken up the advocacy of a system which provides strong governments not coalitions (regardless of what the research suggests: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/10/alternative-vote-minimal-impact-general-election) whilst up to his SamCams in a loving partnership.
The speeches for and against the move to the Alterative Vote disguised the elephant in the room as Eric Pickles, when in fact it should be spelling out the missed opportunity we have had as a country to engage in a real debate about how our vote counts. Once again, this can be laid at the recently vacated door of the LibDem’s conscience. Instead we have to contend with a Waterloo style pitched battle over two things which are about as different as fries and chips but somehow can cause ‘democracy’ to crumble and fall. The invocation of democracy as a both tangible and intangible, curdle my already boiling blood; the idea that democracy is an object that can be saved but simultaneously use it as a lofty buzzword which is trotted out to support a poorly made argument, makes me want to move to North Korea so as to never hear the word again.
The power democracy has as a rhetorical label are linked with its connotations with liberty, equality and not to mention World War II, so by trotting it out it is meant to grab us by our patriotism and rankle us to our very Churchillian core. It is a cheap sentiment in a political system populated by empty gestures contrived purely for the waiting media. But attempts at soaring rhetoric only work if the speaker possesses more charisma than a primary school teacher explaining to their class why colouring in the class’s pet hamster is wrong and in this case it falls flat. Politicians use it when they have no substantive points to support their case, and hope that the emotive power of the words will leave the audience too busy mopping up their floods of tears to question what has just been said. In fact, numbed by the constant barrage of ‘big’ words such as democracy and politics, the viewers skirt over the surface of the argument and see nothing worth taking in.
Democracy needs healthy, open and honest debate in order to represent the will of the people; Dave loves healthy, open and honest debate, but in this case the will of the people will be absent. Narrowing down the field of options to two has excluded voices from the democratic process (mainly those in favour of Proportional Representation), voices which were backed by the LibDems until they went a bit Benedict Arnold and decided that AV was proportional enough. It strikes me as odd that someone so vehement in support of democracy should knowingly stifle the debate, especially one so important (and not to mention ironic) as how our country’s political system works.
These ramblings should not be confused with support for Proportional Representation as like the other voting models it is subject to the trade-off between proportionality and strength of government. Instead it is a plea for governments all around the world to start treating its citizens with some respect and to stop the ‘we’re doing it for your own good’ schtick that assumes we are all idiots, which is highly insulting as only 83% of voters are medically a few votes short of a majority. By ramping up the rhetoric to an absurd level, politicians are once playing an all or nothing game with the interest of the public, and judging by previous results they are on a losing streak. Democracy will still be here regardless of the outcome of the May 5th referendum that is unless it is part of the next stage of Government cuts.