Thursday, 29 July 2010

First Socialism, Now Chartism: Labour's Gravestones

You will of course not see the word (S)socialism in any Labour party manifesto since 1992. Of course this was a result of the removal of Clause 4.

There is another precursor to the Labour party through the labour movement: Chartism. The People's Charter of 1838 laid out 6 principles, in he language and context of parliament of the day they were.

  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
  2. The secret ballot. - To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for members of Parliament - thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country.
  5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
  6. Annual parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve-month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

Now Jack Straw and Labour's argument against the change in constituency sizes is all to do with point one. As David Miliband has just written for Comment is Free "according to the electoral commission, there are currently more than 3.5 million eligible voters missing from the electoral roll, and there is no way that problem can be significantly tackled in just six months". While it may be true that not a lot can be done about in 6 months one has to ask what had Labour been doing about over the last 13 years. Years indeed that there were boundary reviews.

While Miliband is saying that "the government intends to arbitrarily reduce the size of the commons by 50 seats" this is only a 7.7% reduction. In fact up here in Scotland for the 2005 election we did see a redrawing of the boundaries roughly on equal footing while there a 18.1% reduction of seats from 72 to 59. Miliband is also talking about "the rigidity of the arithmetical formula means that traditional communities are bound to be split up".

Maybe he would care to explain to me and Charles Dundas and the residents of Blackburn how in the recent General election I was seeking to represent the majority of the northern part of Susan Boyle's village, while Charles was seeking to represent a southern segment included the Britain's got talent singer. This was a boundary change carried out under Labour and the Boundary Commission.<

What they are all missing is in point 5. The chartist realised that the only way to have equal constituencies was based on the number of electors. Believe it or not this measure of equality is part of the Labour movement's historic fight. It is part of their history just as it is the Liberal Democrats seeing as the Liberals brought that into effect via the Reform Bills are are attempting to correct it again, now that it has got out of equilibrium.

As for the exceptions of the two island seats in Scotland and 3 most northerly mainland seats. Yes four of them are currently represented by Liberal Democrats but it hasn't always been so. Indeed Orkney and Shetland was for many years the only Liberal seat in Scotland before Jo Grimond had other hard working members to join in in the extreme conditions of those large, remote, scattered, far off (even from Edinburgh never mind Westminster) seats.

Seeing as I've had Labour MPs challenge me on the size of what STV seats would mean even in my area, which would be less than these seats are currently, it seems rather two-faced of Labour to no suggest increasing that acreage.

However, I will agree with Labour on one point, the public consultation must still be maintained for the recommendations. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that the recommendations must come up with seats of equal-ish size. That is something that can be dealt with my amending the proposals rather that scuttling the entire ship though.

PS You didn't hear anyone argue for the 6th and never fulfilled Chartist ambition o annual elections to make sure MPs would "not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now" during the expenses issue. Wonder why?

No comments:

Post a Comment