Our First Past The Post electoral system forces East Devon voters to make an either-or choice, while it is completely failing non-Tory voters in Tiverton & Honiton
Some people in Seaton and Colyton have asked me why I’m more interested in the General Election campaign in the East Devon constituency than in ours in Tiverton & Honiton.
The answer is very simple – East Devon voters have a real choice. Some might prefer to vote Labour, Lib Dem or Green, but if they want to stop the new parachute-Tory candidate being allowed to continue 150 complacent years of Conservative representation, they do have an answer: Vote for Claire Wright. And an excellent MP she will be.
In Tiv&Hon, realistically, we don’t have a choice at all. The Lib Dems have circulated a leaflet with a diagram based on a genuine independent projection, which shows them closing in on the Tories. If you look at the diagram, it looks close between Lib and Con. But the figures tell a different story: Tory 47.1, LDs 20.5, Lab 13.7, Green 4.7 – and 20% to 47% isn’t exactly a close race.
The Lib Dem diagram would be a disgrace if it wasn’t laughable. But the joke is on us. The race would be close if LD, Lab and Green shares were combined. Then it would be 37% to 47% and we’d be in with a shout. But it’s a leap of faith too far to think that John Timperley’s leaflet is going to move every non-Tory into his column, and then enough Tories to swing it as well.
There hasn’t been a non-Tory MP in Tiv&Hon in the last century. For all that time, half (and often more than half) the voters have been casting their votes in vain, never electing an MP. It doesn’t mean that voting is a complete waste of time – the parties will count our votes in their national totals. This time we certainly need to show that a big majority of the country are opposed to Boris Johnson.
But how do we actually get ALL our votes to elect an MP? The only way is a system of Proportional Representation. The Labour manifesto in 1997, when Tony Blair won, said: ‘We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a PROPORTIONAL ALTERNATIVE to the first-past-the-post system.’ It never happened (if it had, then Brexit might not have). Another ‘Blairite’ broken promise? Yes – but Jeremy Corbyn never campaigned to make it happen, either. Labour as a whole more or less abandoned the idea of giving voters in constituencies like Tiv&Hon a meaningful vote.
So – if there isn’t a plausible tactical route in Tiv&Hon, vote for whichever non-Tory best fits your views. And do take into account PR, which both the Lib Dems and the Greens support, as they do Remain. This year’s Labour manifesto only says, rather vaguely, ‘The renewal of our Parliament will be subject to recommendations made by a UK-wide Constitutional Convention, led by a citizens’ assembly.’ Not very specific, and probably not a priority – although if by some chance Corbyn does make it to No. 10, we must put pressure on to make it one.