Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Has it really been a month..?

I can't believe I've not written in here for a month. I've started an entry a few times, but self-censorship has always cut them off halfway through for reasons of "not being interesting enough".

But, today I shall throw caution to the wind and simply dump my thoughts down into this little window and press "submit" whether it not I judge the quality to be worthy.

It's been quite a month - our MPs have been claiming far too much money for ridiculous things and the parliamentary Labour Party came within a whisker of committing regicide. Iran had a free election, in which anyone could vote whichever way they wanted - but then disregarded the votes cast in a bastardised version of democracy. Gordon Ramsay upset an Australian TV presenter and Margaret Mountford announced she's not going to be on The Apprentice next year.

All exciting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. But let's talk about democracy today.

Democracy is very important. Equally important is the need to recognise that a perfect voting system does not exist. Here in the UK, first-past-the-post is unpopular - though mostly unpopular with those parties who'd do better under a PR system, it has to be said - but at least it's democractic. If a government becomes unpopular, and gets fewer votes cast, they will have fewer MPs and will not be the government any longer.

And therein lies one of the key values of democracy - the ability to lose an election aswell as win one. Plenty of elections happen worldwide in which votes are cast and counted, but winning is the only option; the government cannot lose (China, Zimbabwe, Iran to name but three) be it as a result of corruption during the voting process or simply by cheating when it comes to counting the votes.

In the recent European elections here in the UK, the BNP won a couple of seats. For whose who are unaware, the BNP are a whites-only, right-wing, homophobic and racist party who believe in the absurd notion that to be British involves being white, speaking only English and definitely not being gay.

However, for whatever reason - be it manipulative campaigning or simply a protest vote amongst a low turnout - they did win enough votes to win two seats and much as I find their policies and personalities abhorrent in the extreme, I cannot deny them the right to represent if they are duly elected.

There is no hint that any deception was involved in the electoral process to enable the BNP to win those seats. Even amongst the most cynical of serious observers of the political process here in the UK, there is a belief that a vount cast is a vote counted even if there is strong disagreement with how those votes are transformed into an elected government.

So whilst it may be fashionable at the moment to criticise the first-past-the-post voting system or to rue the fact that the BNP become fairly elected representatives I think it's important to remember that whatever crinkles in our electoral system there may be, when you cast a vote on polling day, you can be safe in the knowledge that your vote is counted, and that - in simple terms - getting the most votes means that you win the election - and not getting enough votes means you lose.

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