Saturday, May 3, 2008

We can't complain when the voters vote for other parties

I have enormous respect for Mary Reid, and she is the last person I would expect to have a disagreement with. But I believe Mary is on the wrong track with her post 25% and 11% it doesn't add up:

With support for Liberal Democrats running at 25% across the rest of the country, London stands out as an anomaly with only 11% for the party list. It seems that the heavy media interest in the Boris v Ken confrontation actually got in the way of good democracy.
Labour introduced the idea of having elected mayors, partly to bring some excitement back into politics, and it has certainly had that effect.

But higher turnouts are not the only measure of a healthy democracy. What is also necessary is a real understanding of the options, so that people make informed choices.

During the run-up to these elections I came across many electors who believed that they had to vote for Ken to keep Boris out, or vice versa. They didn't know about the second preference vote - at least not until I told them.

So, Mary, you talk to a small (compared to the 2 million plus votes cast) voters and reach the conclusion that, although there was a record turnout, this was somehow bad democracy because they didn't vote for us. The "wrong type of votes" in otherwise.

That is a staggeringly, dumfoundingly patronising attitude to the electorate.

They made their decision and made the effort to go to the polling station or post box. We should respect those decisions and learn from them ( and yes, if that means better informing them about the voting system, fair enough - but it is down to us to initiate this). We should not be patronising and imply that they didn't understand the complexities of the voting system. It's absurd.

Mary seems to be saying that we want high turnouts but only if the people vote for us (or at least if the handful of people we talk to are able to explain the voting system). And if they didn't vote for us, they didn't understand the choices and complexity. Naughty voters! It's all the media's fault!

I can well understand your shock and even grief in Kingston-upon-Thames, Mary, but in the cold light of day you might like to consider this:

If we had had Charles Kennedy as our candidate and he was on form, we wouldn't be having this conversation and we would have been the ones who had the media on our side (or at least a more equal share of the coverage). I am not saying that Charles should have been our candidate (far from it). I am just using him as an example of a LibDem who has always had the media wind behind his back.

We had a candidate who did not set the media and electorate alight, in comparison to the two other main candidates. It's as simple as that. We're not going to correct that in future by sending out more voting system explanatory pamplets to the voters.

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