Thirds, or all-ups?
October 7, 2013 14 Comments
Three Tory councillors all writing in support of something at the same time must mean something. I suspect they sense defeat and are doing their best Canute impressions. We shall see where we end up on this, but I am inclined to agree that we are unlikely to see enough councillors voting for a change in the electoral cycle in Southend-on-Sea.
I am opposed to all-up elections for Southend-on-Sea’s borough elections for one simple reason (although I can find other arguments against): it makes worse the effects of first past the post.
You see, I am an electoral reformer. I am a member of the Electoral Reform Society and sit on the executive of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. I want to change in the way we elect all of our councillors and members of Parliament – I want proportional representation.
Let me explain. When I was elected in 2012 I received 35.8% of the vote. I was ahead of everyone else, but still some way shy of claiming majority support. In all-up elections most voters will put their three Xs against the three candidates of their party of choice. If we had had all-up elections in 2012 we could have seen three Labour councillors elected in Milton with almost two-thirds of those voting wanting something else. In my view this would have been unfair.
At present nine of the seventeen wards in Southend-on-Sea have mixed representation. This would largely disappear under the homogenising effects of all-up elections. In 2001, when we last had all-up elections (following the boundary review and the creation of seventeen wards) and two wards went for mixed representation: Shoeburyness elected two Conservatives and one Labour councillor, Westborough went for two Labour and one Liberal Democrat.
The previous all-up election, in 1997, saw three of the then thirteen wards go for mixed representation: Chalkwell, Eastwood and Milton. This was the year of the Blair landslide that saw some unexpected results all over the country.
I should not be, but I am, disappointed in the sloppy arguments used by the three Tory councillor bloggers.
Dear Ole Nige writes:” All groups are struggling to attract effective candidates or active election workers” – which may be his experience in his party, but is not what we are seeing in Labour locally. He also states “it is hardly that our local elections have shown any great risk of galvanising the majority of the electorate” which did not stop his party insisting on electing Police and Crime Commissioners (I remind him, again, that Nick Alston’s impressive mandate in our borough is a derisory one in thirty-five voters).
The Great Leader wants an overall reduction in elected members, odd somewhat when set against a backdrop of a rising population. Is he arguing that the more people we see in the town, the remoter they should be from their elected representatives? He also makes the point that “At times we seem to be fighting an eternal election campaign” which I see as a point in favour of the current electoral cycle – by having to test the water regularly we remain in touch, properly.
Tony Cox makes this statement “I also suspect that the opposition parties will not support the move is that they would struggle to find 51 candidates.” To be fair he then says “I have no actual proof of this” which makes the assertion all the more remarkable. I can categorically state that Labour would be able to find fifty-one candidates, which makes his statement even more nonsense. However, if it were true, is Cllr Cox arguing for less choices for the voters in our borough?
James Courtenay has a crystal ball! He must have, he already knows how the vote will go, stating that the Opposition will be saying no. I can reveal that Labour is still debating its view and so his headline is untrue. It may come to pass that we also reject the change, but this has yet to be agreed (being democratic we discuss and debate on a range of issues before every full council meeting).
Besides the cost savings I think there is some cynicism in the timing. The ruling administration could have suggested these changes a year ago, but they clearly did not fancy having all-up elections next year (the cost savings would still have applied) as they would likely have received an electoral mauling. In pushing for 2015 they are hoping for a bounce in their local fortunes. The Independents and Liberal Democrats will struggle in 2015 – Independent voices are somewhat lost in the General Election chatter, and Clegg’s party is going to struggle when forced to defend their record in Government to an electoral base that is not enamoured with all things blue.
As a final point, Nigel Holdcroft hopes to inflict on the borough a change that he will not have to endure himself – he is not seeking re-election next year.