Remainers will need to do more than just campaign to rejoin the EU if we Brexit – they will need to help bring about democratic change.
Since 2016, we have persisted with a major strategic blunder – to fail to explain and campaign that the referendum was a fakerendum. Instead, we campaigned against a hard Brexit, for a final say referendum, for remaining or for our appreciation of the EU. But we failed to demand first and foremost a rerun. A fair and honest referendum re-run.
Our case for this was – and remains – strong. Foreign interference. Cambridge Analytica. Facebook. Lies. Dirty tricks. Disenfranchisement. No actual leaving plan.
We never rebuffed the big lie that “the people have spoken”. A lie so big it duped pro-EU MPs into mealy words, fence-sitting or worse.
So now, added to the democratic deficits of the referendum, we have the democratic deficits of an election where the majority voted against Johnson’s Brexit yet he gets a majority.
The truth is that Britain cannot now get back on the side of history without a broad alliance inside and outside parliament for democratic change. The People’s Vote coalition has brought such an alliance into being on one issue. The New European and others have helped. Is there any way forward except along this path?
There is really no point in talking about regrouping, rebuilding, or mending our broken politics and country until we get rid of one of the main causes of it: The first past the post (FPTP) electoral system.
It effectively amplifies the front-running party, decreasing the representation of the party in second place, and virtually extinguishing the smaller parties. This makes people feel that voting for one of the smaller parties is wasting their vote, which should not be the case in a democracy as those parties often represent viewpoints not supported by the ‘big guys’.
My neighbouring MP, occupying the sole Green Party seat in the new parliament, explained today that the small parties got 20% of the vote, but occupy only a tiny percentage of the seats. Her party got 860,000 votes nationwide, yet returned only one seat.
If we had proportional representation the Tories would now have 288 seats, not 384. They would be a minority government. The other parties could have formed a ‘rainbow’ or unity coalition to stop or at least soften Brexit. Johnson would be a minority PM, instead of the autocrat this system has created.
Why discuss rebuilding for the future unless we start with changing the foundation of the system that has created such an unfair, undemocratic, unbalanced political landscape?
Back in 1997, Tony Blair set up the Jenkins Commission to look into electoral reform. It made recommendations to give us a (more) proportional system, but the government then chose to do nothing about it, I guess with a large majority they didn’t see the need.
Perhaps, if they could have looked 20 years into the future they might have acted differently, for with a fairer electoral system I think this country would have taken a very different (and better) path.
Our need to address our current political system is now even more desperate than before – it is no longer just the electoral system that needs reform, but also party funding, the use of social media, discussion based on facts, the need for proper scrutiny, media impartiality and a return of honesty and respect to the electorate.
So, as the Labour Party begins their period of reflection, please could I implore them to consider all those who had to ‘lend’ them a vote and put a commitment to genuine political reform centre stage, perhaps then there could collaboration across the political spectrum so that my children, and generations to come, no longer have to live with the dire consequences of a winner takes all system that I have experienced for the last 40 years.
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