Posts Tagged ‘AV’

What will the Guardianistas do if we defy them and vote “no”?

20/04/2011, 07:00:14 AM

by Dan Hodges

I’m starting to feel sorry for the Yes campaign. Genuinely. They’ve got some good staffers. People with a sincere commitment to their cause.

But they haven’t got a prayer. And the reason they haven’t got a prayer is too many of their  own supporters don’t actually care whether they win or they lose.

Watching the Yes campaign from afar is like watching the Labour party in the late eighties. By then, the harder edges of dogma and ideology had been blunted. There was a realisation that the principle meant little without power. But while there was an intellectual acceptance of the need to secure office, the hunger was lacking. We wanted to win. But not quite enough.

It’s the same with those who are supposedly fighting for a change in our voting system. They’re not actually fighting at all. They’re pontificating. Posturing. Striking a pose.

Get hold of  yesterday’s Guardian leader. “Reformists have just 16 days to transform things”, it warns, “by countering a campaign of unremitting negativity, whose garish posters are explicit in saying that because the NHS matters, democracy doesn’t, and carry the implicit message ‘vote no or the baby gets it’”.

It then points out, “Dismal as the pitch is, it is making in-roads”. No shit Sherlock. You mean negative campaigning actually works? Who’da thunk it? (more…)

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Yes, MPs work hard. But who for? Themselves.

19/04/2011, 02:00:23 PM

by Alex Hilton

It’s truly challenging to express incandescent rage in the form of dry, political writing but let me have a go. I am stomach-wrenchingly sick of MPs defending the nobility of MPs in the process of backing the first past the post electoral system.

I’m sorry, Jim Murphy, but I’m talking about you.

Murphy is one of the better MPs. By all accounts he’s intelligent, hard working, serious and responsive to his constituents. But because he is good, does that really mean the rest of them are?

He is the latest in a long list of MPs telling us how hard-working and selfless MPs are. Please listen to me: this is utter tripe. Many MPs really are hard working, some are even obsessive and monomaniacal. But you have to ask who they are hard working for, and it’s usually themselves. It’s not their fault, it’s just how the systems works. (more…)

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Put aside the Cleggphobia and then vote No to AV

19/04/2011, 08:07:12 AM

by Jim Murphy

I have stayed out of the debate about the AV referendum until now. I have surprised myself because instinctively I usually know where I stand on all the big issues, but on this I have found it easy to sit it out. There are so many other more pressing issues – a view that I know those involved in both campaigns share. I have waited in the expectation that the pro-AV campaign would make a convincing new argument.  They haven’t, so when the referendum comes on May 5th I have decided to vote No.

There are many people I know who are voting No simply to spite Nick Clegg, but I’m not one of them. This was a really important point that Ed Miliband rightly raised yesterday. To vote against AV to get back at Nick Clegg is a churlish way to conduct politics. A change in the electoral system could be permanent, but say whatever you want about Nick Clegg one thing for sure is that he is certainly temporary – this is probably his last job in frontline British politics. If last year’s post-election political gamble of switching to the Tories’ macro-economic policies turns out to be as bad economics as it is bad politics then it’s questionable whether he’ll even lead his Party into the next election.

So let’s put all the Cleggphobia to one side. My decision is based on the merits of the case. The main reason I have decided to vote ‘No’ is that the supporters of changing the system haven’t made a convincing enough case that this is the right kind of change. They have struggled to make a persuasive argument about why the country’s politics would be better with AV. It may seem unfair, but in all these constitutional debates most of the burden of persuasion falls upon those advocating change – that is certainly my experience with devolution. (more…)

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Thursday News Review

14/04/2011, 06:40:54 AM

Cameron adds fuel to the fire

David Cameron will today make the provocative claim that communities across Britain are being damaged by the record levels of immigration of the last decade. He will accuse some new arrivals of not wanting to integrate with their neighbours, leaving some areas suffering “discomfort and disjointedness” following dramatic population shifts. He will also risk accusations that he is inflaming tensions over race in a local council elections campaign speech asserting that immigration has been too high for too long.  But an unrepentant Mr Cameron will insist he is right to speak out on an issue that concerns millions of people – and accuse the last Labour government of fuelling support for the British National Party by refusing to address popular concerns on the subject. – the Independent

And in words that will alarm many of his Lib Dem partners he will claim many immigrants don’t want to fit in – accusing them of fuelling social pressures and dividing communities. He will say: “It has placed real pressures on communities up and down the country. “Not just pressures on school, housing and healthcare – though those have been serious – but social pressures too. When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods, perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods.” He will warn that the Government will never be able to properly control immigration without first tackling welfare dependency. He describes them as “two sides of the same coin”. – the Mirror

The Downing Street press team will no doubt know what they were doing, and the type of coverage that they were aiming to achieve, so there may be a view that there are short-term political benefits to this – the Telegraph reports says the timing of the speech is influenced by wanting a popular theme for the local elections, and the well informed Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome also emphasises tensions with the Tory grassroots and right-wing presss seeing this as an “attempt to steady a panicking ship with a tough speech on immigration” as the local campaigning begins, also tweeting: Increasingly nervous about core Tory vote, Cameron makes immigration speech. – Next Left

How long till Lansley’s P45 arrives?

Health secretary Andrew Lansley apologised to nurses yesterday after they backed a vote of no-confidence in his controversial NHS reforms. Almost 99 per cent of delegates at the Royal College of Nursing said they did not support the Health Secretary – the first time such a motion has ever been passed against a minister. Mr Lansley later said sorry to the nurses several times and admitted the no confidence vote was a ‘rebuke’. It is the latest blow for the beleaguered Health Secretary, whose plans to scrap Primary Care Trusts and give GPs greater control of NHS cash have come under sustained attack from leading doctors, MPs and even members of the Coalition. – Daily Mail

Andrew Lansley coupled an apology to Britain’s nurses for failing to explain his health reforms with an impassioned statement of his commitment to the NHS. Hours after the Royal College of Nursing voted 99% in favour of a motion of no confidence in him at the RCN congress in Liverpool, the health secretary told nurses that he would have voted with them if he thought his plans would undermine the health service. The health secretary sought to underline his commitment by making clear that his only ambition in politics is to serve as health secretary. He said he had told the prime minister of this “publicly and privately”. Downing Street fears that Lansley’s failure to sell the reforms, which are designed to transfer commissioning powers from Primary Care Trusts to new GP-led consortiums by 2013, is jeopardising years of work in neutralising the NHS as an issue. Clegg must secure major changes to the bill to win over his party, which voted against the reforms at its spring conference last week. – the Guardian

Ed plots to kill off NHS reforms in the Lords

Labour has held secret talks with independent peers in a bid to ‘kill’ the Coalition’s controversial health reforms in the House of Lords, Ed Miliband revealed yesterday. The Labour leader said shadow health secretary John Healey had held a series of joint briefings with crossbench peers in recent weeks in a bid to sabotage the Health Bill when it arrives in the Lords in the summer. The Government does not have a majority in the House of Lords and the crossbenchers could play a key role in watering down the planned reforms. Some Coalition peers, including senior Lib Dem Shirley Williams and former Tory Party chairman Norman Tebbit, have also voiced serious concerns about the health plans. Mr Miliband said the legislation was already in ‘intensive care’ and now needed to be ‘killed off’. He added: ‘The answer to a bad Bill is not to slow it down but to junk it.’ – Daily Mail

Osborne wades in to the AV battle

The chancellor has launched an extraordinary attack on the Yes to AV campaign, highlighting alleged conflicts of interests in its funding.  George Osborne’s accusations are just the latest dispute in an increasingly bitter and bad-tempered campaign which has seen both camps fling insults and accusations of assisting the far-right.  “What really stinks is actually one of the ways the Yes campaign is funded,” Mr Osborne told the Daily Mail. The Electoral Reform Society, which is actually running some of the referendum ballots, and is being paid to do that by the taxpayer, stands to benefit if AV comes in. That organisation, the Electoral Reform Society, part of it is a company that makes money – is funding the Yes campaign. That stinks frankly and is exactly the sort of dodgy, behind the scenes shenanigans that people don’t like about politics.” –

George Osborne was at the centre of a legal row last night after his attack on voting reform backfired. The Chancellor was accused of demeaning his position, and lawyers were called in to separate the opposing sides in the impending referendum on changing how MPs are elected. Mr Osborne claimed that the Yes campaign to scrap the first-past-the-post voting system was involved in “dodgy shenanigans” in funding – raising the temperature in an increasingly acrimonious contest. Electoral reformers called in solicitors to try to stop the dispute escalating any further, ahead of the 5 May ballot on whether to switch to the alternative vote for Westminster elections. The Yes campaign has pointed to the many wealthy Conservatives handing large sums to the opponents of electoral reform. Backed by Mr Osborne, No to AV countered by alleging that the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), which has given £1.1m to the pro-AV campaign, faced a financial conflict of interest in pressing for a Yes vote. No to AV claimed that the society and its subsidiaries had received more than £15m in contracts from the public purse over the past three years. – the Independent

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The Old Politics case for AV

08/04/2011, 07:44:40 AM

by Atul Hatwal

What a strange situation. Secretaries of state facing-off at cabinet meetings; shadow cabinet members at loggerheads and rival gangs of activists squaring up, hoping one of the other lot will spill their pint.

Who knew electoral systems were so emotive? It’s enough to make you want to shout “leave it, Lee; it’s not worth it”.

Like many, I find myself looking on, bemused. The intensity of the debate on the referendum on the alternate vote (AV) is in equal parts bizarre and disengaging.  Babies without incubators, Nazi fellow-travellers and a rag-bag of random celebrities are all part of the carnival of the absurd wending its way across our news pages.

In terms of the actual argument underneath the artifice, the case is finely balanced.

Most people get Cameron’s Usain Bolt analogy and intuitively feel it odd that someone finishing second in a race should end up winning. But, equally they understand that voting is about building legitimacy, and for most voters, a second best choice as MP is better than someone who the majority actively opposed.

As neither side has delivered the killer blow in their initial pitch, the approach of both campaigns has been to just shout louder. A ten-pints-of-lager strategy.

So they continue to brawl, while people, who are only now just beginning to look at the issue, feel a bit like they have walked into a taxi queue at club kicking-out time in downtown Croydon on Saturday night. (more…)

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Saturday News Review

02/04/2011, 06:59:02 AM

AV campaign heats up

David Cameron has stepped up his attack on the alternative vote backed by Nick Clegg, describing the system as crazy and reminding voters that his deputy once regarded the reform as a “miserable little compromise”. He did so as the yes campaign prepared today for a celebrity-backed launch and a poster campaign beginning on Monday designed to argue the voting changes will make MPs work harder by needing to win 50% of their constituency’s support. The comedian and Labour supporter Eddie Izzard and European and world championship gold medal winner Kriss Akabusi today launch the yes campaign, with the referendum five weeks away.Other celebrities to come out in favour of the yes campaign include broadcaster Jonathan Ross, actors Nick Hoult and David Schneider, and comedian Chris Addison. – the Guardian

David Cameron last night condemned plans to scrap Britain’s historic first-past-the-post voting system as “crazy”. In his most passionate intervention yet in the electoral reform debate, Prime Minister David Cameron rubbished the proposed Alternative Vote system backed by Labour and the Lib Dems as “undemocratic” and a recipe for a “politicians’ fix”. And he risked worsening tensions within the coalition Government by mocking Nick Clegg’s switch to supporting AV. The Deputy PM had called it a “miserable little compromise” before the last election.Daily Express

‘Miserable excuse’ of an EMA replacement

Listening to Education Secretary Michael Gove on his cut-price replacement for the education maintenance allowance, I nearly burst a blood vessel. It wasn’t so much his plans, which mean thousands of students aged 16-19 being deprived of  state support, but the fact he said: “We’ve got to fix our broken education system.” What an insult to the army of teachers and students whose work and dedication over the past 13 years have seen more schools than ever labelled “outstanding”, more pupils passing five GCSEs at grades A*-C and more students going on to higher education. You haven’t done your homework Mr Gove. Go and stand in the corner. – Daily Mirror

The Government announcement this week of a £180 million bursary scheme to replace the scrapped Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) demonstrates that it is beginning to realise its mistake in cutting support for the most disadvantaged students (“Rethink in cash help for students”, Mercury, March 29). However, what the Government has offered is totally inadequate. For example, 75 per cent of students at Gateway College, in Hamilton, were eligible to receive EMA. Under the new system, they estimate that only 40 per cent will be able to receive any financial assistance. With nearly two million young people in the UK not in employment, education or training it is vital that the young people of Leicesterare given every opportunity to improve their social mobility. – Leicester Mercury

Boris Johnson has been in talks with the education secretary, Michael Gove, after calling on his Tory colleague to review the government’s policy on financial support for poor 16-19 year old students. The mayor said he fears young Londoners from low-income backgrounds could drop out of education altogether and see their life chances “radically diminished” as a result of a cut in funding. Johnson became the most senior Conservative figure to speak out against ministers’ decision to replace the £560m education maintenance allowance (EMA) budget with £180m for the new 16-19 bursaries, when he appeared on Question Time on Thursday night. – the Guardian

David ‘Keys’, sorry Willetts whips up a gender storm

Feminism has set back the cause of social mobility by decades, a senior minister has claimed. Universities Minister David Willetts said feminist policies had inadvertently halted the improvement in the life chances of working-class men and  widened the gap between rich and poor. He said feminism was the ‘single biggest factor’ in the decline in social mobility since the 1960s,  adding: ‘Feminism has trumped egalitarianism.’ – Daily Mail

The countries with the highest levels of social mobility are those with the highest levels of gender equality. David Willetts’s claim that feminism is to blame for the decline in social mobility has caused no shortage of outrage this morning. His thesis is that middle class women, who otherwise would have been housewives, snapped up university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to working class men. But to my eyes, there’s a basic empirical problem with his claim. All of the available data on the subject shows that the countries with the highest levels of social mobility are those with the highest levels of gender equality. The 2010Global Gender Gap Report, which ranks countries according to how well they “divide resources and opportunities amongst male and female populations”, puts Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden at the top, with Britain lagging behind in 15th place (a fact that suggests, pace Willetts, that the “feminist revolution” has some way to go). – New Statesman

Anger as NHS reforms steps up

The constituency offices of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley have been daubed with graffiti by anti-NHS reform activists. Cambridgeshire Police are investigating the incident at Hardwick last night when red paint was thrown at the building and “Hands off our NHS Tory scum” written on a wall. Protesters left a letter demanding to be treated as “patients, not consumers” and said: “We are taking action to fight this attack on the welfare state.” The incident happened as unions today stepped up protests against the Health and Social Care Bill which they say will lead to the NHS being privatised. – Daily Mirror

He still hasn’t got on that bike

Lord Tebbit insists on adding a tie to his outfit. “I can’t have a go at David Cameron and the bloody tieless and gormless lot and then not wear one in the photo.” He turned 80 on Tuesday, but he will not let his standards slip. Did the Prime Minister send him a card? “No he didn’t,” he says with an impish smile. “But then I didn’t send him one either.” He says he is more of a Conservative than David Cameron. The Big Society is just a “buzzword. It’s a logo looking for a product”. He wants to turn the party back to being nationalist and jokes that he would like it to go into coalition with the UK Independence Party. Chuckle. Lord Tebbit has written to the Prime Minister several times about issues, and while he always gets a reply, “sometimes I have had to give him a reminder to”. By contrast, when he wrote to Nick Clegg before the election — to tell him he how much he agreed with the necessity to raise the threshold of income tax — “I had a nice letter back”. As a joke I ask if he has more admiration for Mr Clegg than Mr Cameron, and am astonished when he says, “Yes, in a way, because I think he has pushed his agenda quite hard. I think Clegg is probably more politically motivated than Cameron.” Damning for them both. – Daily Telegraph

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Half a minute Harris

16/03/2011, 03:00:57 PM

Episode 3: How’s that working out for you Polly?

You can catch up with previous episodes here:

Episode 1: Welcome, Uncut readers, to the mind of Tom Harris

Episode 2: Should we abstain on the welfare reform bill?

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AV is a quick fix benefitting only politicians. And Lib Dem ones at that.

26/02/2011, 10:30:01 AM

by Dan Johnson

In May of last year, Teesside suffered a shock. It was one the Labour party had warned against, but nonetheless people were taken aback. The people of Redcar, devastated by the closure of a local steelworks, blamed their MP, Vera Baird, and sought solace in the arms of the Lib Dems, and many now regret it.

We are often told that in too many seats votes don’t count, that those seats are “safe”, but events in Redcar show that it simply isn’t true. Who, after the 2005 election, would think Labour would lose this seat?

Who, after the elections in 2001 in Blaenau Gwent, Brent Central or Hornsey and Wood Green would suspect that the next time they went to the polls a Labour MP wouldn’t be returned?

There’s no such thing as a safe seat. In fact, the LibDems have made a Parliamentary party out of proving this at by-elections and general elections alike. (more…)

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Saturday News Review

05/02/2011, 06:44:06 AM

More damning evidence on Coulson and Cameron

In written evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which is investigating allegations of widespread hacking by the Sunday tabloid, Paul McMullan, a former features editor, said that the practice was widespread and “easy”. He insisted that Mr Coulson, who finally left No. 10 on Tuesday and denies knowledge of any phone tapping during his time as editor of the paper, knew that “a lot of people did it” at both the News of the World and its sister paper, The Sun. “The real scandal is [David] Cameron would have been briefed ‘We can probably get away with this one,’ when hiring Coulson, so Mr Cameron is either a liar or an idiot,” he went on. Mr McMullan, who has left journalism and now runs a pub in Dover, Kent, also claimed that employees of the mobile phone company Vodafone, “people at the tax office” and doctors’ receptionists would telephone reporters offering to “sell numbers and codes of stars’ phones”. Admitting that he himself frequently hacked into phones, he claimed that Mr Coulson would have been aware of what he and others were doing. – Daily Telegraph

Andy Coulson was aware that phone hacking was taking place at Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire and “told others to do it”, a former executive at the News of the World told MPs. In written evidence given to the home affairs select committee and published for the first time today, Paul McMullan, a former features executive and investigative journalist at the title, said former editor Coulson “knew a lot of people” used the technique when Coulson worked at sister paper the Sun. He joined the News of the World in 2003, where he worked alongside McMullan for 18 months. McMullan said: “As he sat a few feet from me in the [News of the World] newsroom he probably heard me doing it, laughing about it … and told others to do it”. McMullan told the Guardian last year that Coulson must have been well aware the practice was “pretty widespread”. Coulson has continued to deny this. The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, also confirmed in written evidence to MPs he has instructed the Crown Prosecution Service to adopt a far broader definition of what constitutes illegal phone hacking. This decision makes fresh prosecutions more likely. The CPS announced a new investigation into phone hacking last month. News International says McMullan’s evidence is unreliable and will demand evidence is withdrawn or corrected. The home affairs committee will publish its report into unauthorised phone hacking in the spring. David Cameron was, meanwhile, accused tonight of “breathtaking arrogance” for refusing to answer questions about his links to Murdoch’s media empire, which owns the Sun and News of the World. – the Guardian

Sorry Sally

A Government minister yesterday told the publicity-mad Speaker’s wife “to shut up and cover up” after she posed in just a bedsheet in an interview on her sex life. Children’s Minister Tim Loughton hit out as Sally Bercow defended the controversial snap. Mrs Bercow, 41, admitted she was “a fool” to pose but insisted the snap was tasteful. Sally, whose outbursts have built her a profile to rival hubby John, 48, added: “I’m a personality, I’ve got ambitions.”Responding to Mr Loughton’s tweet, she wrote on Twitter: “I always pass on good advice. It’s never of use to oneself.” Earlier, she told BBC Radio 5 Live her husband was “not exactly thrilled” about her interview with a London paper. But she dismissed critics who said her actions belittle the dignity of his Commons role. She said: “Should I be a wife who walks dutifully three paces behind my husband, keeps her mouth shut and makes cucumber sandwiches? It was a bit of fun, but it backfired.” – the Sun

Sally Bercow, the wife of the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, today admitted a newspaper photo of her wearing a bedsheet had made her look a “complete idiot” and that her attempt at a bit of harmless fun had “completely backfired”. But despite her apparent contrition, Bercow insisted the revealing photo was “tasteful” and that she found the situation quite funny. She attracted criticism for a photoshoot, in which she stood by a hotel window, clad in a white sheet with the House of Commons in the background. The photo was taken to accompany an Evening Standard interview, due to be published today, in which she described the aphrodisiac effect on the couple’s life at the Palace of Westminster. She told the paper’s magazine section that she found living in a grace-and-favour apartment in the building “sexy”, and that both she and her husband had been “hit on” more since he was elevated from a Tory backbencher to the Speaker’s role in June 2009. Today, Bercow went on Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC Radio 5 Live show and admitted she was “probably stupid” to do the interview and had been a “fool” to agree to be photographed in the sheet as part of the newspaper’s Valentine’s Day coverage. – the Guardian

Not there yet on the AV Bill

Labour’s Lord Falconer has said there is still “work to do” if a bill setting up a referendum on the Westminster voting system is to get through.It follows a marathon 15-day debate on one stage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. A compromise was reached to end it but the bill returns to the Lords next week. It must be law by 16 February if a referendum is to be held on 5 May. Lord Falconer told the BBC’s Record Review: “There isn’t a deal yet.” The shadow justice minister said agreement had been reached on “certain aspects” of the bill – but added: “There is still work to do.” – the BBC

Campbell stands up for Scottish school

He was renowned for piping up for the New Labour cause. But now Alastair Campbell, the bagpipe-playing former spin doctor to Tony Blair, has become the latest high-profile figure to join the growing chorus of condemnation against the threatened closure of a traditional school of music in the Highlands. The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton High School is facing the axe following the announcement that Highland Council plans to withdraw its funding of £317,000 for the facility as part of a package of spending cuts. The centre opened in 2000 after receiving £650,000 from the Scottish Executive and has produced many award-winning musicians over the last decade. Mr Campbell said yesterday that he had been made aware of the threat facing the school by a friend and had been highlighting its plight on his Twitter and Facebook pages. The former director of communications at Downing Street, whose father is a Scot, said: “I wanted to support this because I think it is important. It looks to me like an easy target in a way. “And it’s one of those things that, unless enough people raise their voices in support of it, it could just go without a fight and I think that would be wrong.” – the Scotsman

Every little (vote) counts

Labour surged from bottom of the poll to the top when it snatched a surprise council by-election breakthrough. Candidate Brian Oosthuysen won Gloucestershire’s Rodborough division by a margin of three over the Tories, with a votes share surge of nearly 20% for the party since the last county contests in 2009. This is particularly encouraging for Labour’s chiefs since it trailed a poor fourth last time. Rodborough is part of marginal Stroud constituency, lost to the Tories at the General Election. – the Independent

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AV is a small change – but it could have a big impact

01/02/2011, 07:00:51 AM

by Richard Burden

For me, securing a yes vote in the referendum is about helping to create a more open and participatory politics. A lot of people in this country find politics a really big turn-off – and I can understand why. They want to see a change in the way politics is done. I do too.

Introducing AV is a small change – but it could have a big impact.

It is hardly earth-shattering to suggest that if we MPs are going to claim the right to speak for our constituents, we should each secure the support of 50% of those who voted. Preference voting systems – such as AV – are already used up and down the country in the internal elections of membership organisations, businesses and unions. Labour and other political parties use them to elect their own leaders.

That preference voting for the House of Commons is sometimes regarded as an outlandish suggestion says a lot about the narrow culture of the existing political system. It will take more than a new voting system to change that culture. But it will certainly help. (more…)

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