Whatever we all think about politics I am sure one thing that we can all agree on is that things have not been all that peachy in respect of our relationship as ordinary people with our MPs in Westminster. Far too often our politicians seem distant from ordinary voters, preferring to listen bankers, and lobbyists in Westminster than the likes of us.
My Union is the CWU, and many CWU members who have tried to contact our MPs over the last few years about the various government wheezes to privatise the Royal Mail will have experienced the frustration that comes from this. Even “our” MPs in the Labour Party that the CWU affiliates to, who promised in their 2005 Manifesto to keep Royal Mail in public ownership treated us with disdain as we rallied against Peter Mandleson’s plan to sell us off.
As a member of the Labour Party I am proud of many of the achievements of the Labour government, I want our party to be successful. But I don’t support Labour blindly and unconditionally (like the way I support my beloved Plymouth Argyle) I support them because I want them to deliver better outcomes, for the poor, those disenfranchised and for workers and Trade Unions. And unfortunately, if truth be told, 13 years of Labour government were often a disappointment.
It is hard to make a compelling case that the position of Unions; in terms of membership, political influence or the legislative framework we operate within; is dramatically better in today than it was in was in 1997. The truth is the strictest organised labour laws in the Liberal Democratic world are still firmly in place.
And whilst there was always an element of the New Labour right immensely distrustful toward Unions or even openly hostile the truth is this wasn’t and isn’t widespread in the party. It wasn’t ideological Labour opposition that meant 13 years of Labour Government didn’t delivery properly for Unions or working people. Rather it was our political system.
Put bluntly under a First Past the Post system there is little incentive to play to “core support”. There may be votes in coming out to bat for Unions and workers, but under our current political system they are not the right ones, or in the right places.
There is only really any political mileage for our parties in seeking to please a small and narrow band of voters who tend to switch allegiance, and who tend to sit in seats that also change hands. And usually, but not always, Trade Union and workers rights are not at the top of these peoples list of political priorities.
I live in the “Plymouth Sutton and Devonport” one of three seats in Plymouth and the only marginal swing seat, it has changed hands every time the government changed for a couple of decades now. My vote really matters because the parties think the seat may change hands. I get listened to, parties spend time and money trying to get my vote. But for those living in the “South West Devon” or “”Plymouth Moor view” constituencies also in Plymouth their voices and votes count less, because the seats are “safe”. All to often those most passionately in favour of Union and workers rights sit in these sort of constituencies.
The more seats that become like “Sutton and Devonport”, and the harder parties would have to work to get to win these seats the more different views will be listened to in politics. And many of these voices will be more sympathetic to Unions and Workers. Having the fictional “Ford Mondeo Man” as the only person setting political agendas in the UK isn’t good for Unions. Changing the rules of the game can only benefit our members and our unions, and in doing so it will make the UK a better and fairer place to live and work.
Under AV there would be many less safe seats, many more places where politicians and parties would have to listen, and work for our support than they do at present.
At the moment we have an awful destructive Tory led government pushing through ruinous cuts designed to benefit the rich and hurt ordinary people like us. But in truth only about 35% of people actually voted for this. The vast majority voted against fast and early cuts (Though our Liberal Democrat chums seem to have forgotten what they promised on this).
But despite this the ludicrous voting system we have at the moment has massively over rewarded the Tories. And the net result is that ordinary people like my members in the CWU are suffering at the hands of a government that has no real democratic mandate to do the awful stuff they are doing. And we are going to suffer for generations. AV will not solve this issue but it is a step in the right direction.
This could be our last chance for a generation to make politics better, fairer and to make politicians work for, and answer to us. Vote “Yes”, I know I am.