Thursday, September 26, 2013

How I decided to vote Yes

I believe in representative government.

I believe people should be able to vote for the representative or party whose stated priorities and policies most closely reflect their own.

I believe a party that is elected on a manifesto should have a legal obligation to act in line with that manifesto.

I believe that if politicians lie to the public or Parliament, they should face criminal prosecution.

I don't believe any of those things are unreasonable.

They're also the main reasons I've been convinced to vote Yes in the Independence Referendum.

I was a big supporter of AV. I still am. And, other than Conservatives, who benefit the most from a First Past the Post system, I still cannot fathom why everyone else isn't. Why wouldn't you want a government that actually reflects the priorities of the county's population, unless you know that your priorities are so marginal that they'll never be heard?

The Labour Party's split approach to the concept befuddled me. Why would they want to perpetuate a system which allowed such an unrepresentative party as the Conservatives to periodically take control of the country? I could only see a few explanations: they prefer to swap outright power back and forth with the Conservatives and keep the Lib Dems and the Greens on the margins, rather than regularly sit in coalition with one or both of those parties; or they don't actually believe in the long-term viability of their own policies and believe the country needs an occasional Tory government to do ... something. Make a mess, perhaps, so they can always point and say "at least it's better than it was under them". I really don't know. Somebody should ask them.

The argument that AV would have allowed lunatic fringe parties like the BNP to gain power was always disingenuous. AV required any candidate to receive some form of approval (1st, 2nd or 3rd choice, etc.) from at least 50% of the electorate to win. To suggest that 50% of the electorate of ANY seat in Britain would support the BNP to any degree seems desperately unlikely to me.

In the 2010 General Election, their best performing candidate, based on actual votes and percentage of votes received, was party leader Nick Griffin. He polled 14.8% of the vote in Barking. Even if we make the ludicrously tenuous assumption than every UKIP voter would have given Nick Griffin their second preference, he'd only have managed 17.7% of the vote - leaving him just behind the Conservative candidate on 17.8%. And even in the hypothetical situation where somehow he'd ended up above the Conservative candidate and got every second preference from Conservative voters, the total percentage from Conservative, UKIP and BNP is just 36.5% of the vote.

That's right, in their best performing seat, the best result the BNP could have hoped for under AV was 36.5% of the vote, assuming all right-wing voters gave them a preference. But the No to AV campaign pretended that AV would have somehow increased their chances of being elected.  In fact, it would have been much harder for a fringe party like the BNP to get elected, because they would have needed 50% approval from any electorate.

There was a very good reason the BNP were supportive of the NO to AV campaign. Because the argument that it would benefit them was not only a flawed argument, it was the exact opposite of the truth.

It was a lie.

So, how does that bring me to supporting Independence? Here are some more stats from that 2010 General election:

The percentages of the UK vote won by each of the UK national parties was as follows:

Conservative 36.1%
Labour 29%
Lib Dem 23%
UKIP 3.1%
BNP 1.7%
Green 1%.

Now, if we split those votes along roughly Left / Right lines (without getting into the debate over exactly where New Labour sits on that scale these days, I'm taking Labour, Lib Dem and Green as 'left' and Conservative, UKIP and BNP as 'right'), that's 53% Left and 40.9% Right.

Yes, you read that correctly, the UK voted for a 'Left Wing' government in 2010.

So how did such a Left Wing country end up with a Right Wing government? Because our electoral system is fundamentally flawed and incapable of producing a representative government.

Now, let's do the maths within Scotland from that same election:

Labour 42%
SNP 19.9%
Lib Dem 18.9%
Conservative 16.7%
UKIP 0.7
Green 0.7
BNP 0.4
TUSC/Scottish Socialists 0.2%

Doing the same Left/Right maths (the SNP are substantially left of Labour these days), that's 81.7% Left and 17.8% Right.

Read that again. 4 out of 5 Scots voted for a 'Left Wing' party.

We are not the same as the rest of the UK. We have a different culture and different values, and those are strongly, passionately Left Wing in nature.

This is why we are not simply part of the UK family. While we may have close relationships with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have a unique collective social identity which simply is not in line with the whole of the UK. Our government should represent us. Socialism is not a dirty word in Scotland, but it has become one in many parts of England. We would not privatise the NHS or the postal service - and yet that's exactly what Westminster are doing.

We have ONE Conservative MP. One. Yet we are living under the auspices of a Conservative government, for all intents and purposes.

This government does not represent us. It's that simple. I want one that does.

So what about that big lie? The one about the BNP and AV? How is that relevant?

Because there are lots of big lies being told in this campaign too. One of the best is that we'll be abandoning the rest of the UK to Conservative rule if we leave the Union. That's a lie.

Then there's the argument that there are too many unanswered questions about what life will be like in a future Scotland. Of course there are unanswered questions, because that will be decided by the governments we elect in future. But what that statement does is assume that the future in the UK is assured to stay the same. That is at best disingenuous and at worst a total deception. Who foresaw the privatisation of the post office at the beginning of this government? ATOS? The bedroom tax?

Here's a truth about an independent Scotland - none of those things would have happened here if we were independent.

This isn't about specifically deciding everything we do after independence in advance, it's about us having the right and the power to make those decisions for ourselves in the future and not being in thrall to a government elected by people with totally different priorities.

To be absolutely honest, if it had been on the table, I'd have voted for a Devo Max option. But it isn't. And that means I'd rather vote Yes than be forced to keep accepting Conservative governments every time the English electorate chooses one. I seriously fear that those who vote No in the hopes of some further devolution option being offered by Westminster will find that anything other than a close defeat for the Yes campaign will have this government claiming that there is clearly no appetite for Independence OR further devolution in Scotland and leaving their vague promises of jam tomorrow as nothing more than electoral rhetoric.

If we want Scotland run along the lines of our values and priorities, we have to vote Yes in the referendum - whether we win that vote or not, I believe we need a strong showing for Independence in order to hold the government to their dangled promises of more devolution if we do stay in the UK.

And those are the reasons I'll definitely be voting Yes.

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