While I’m far from convinced that British Labour’s motives in devising Scotland’s electoral system were all that ‘noble’, Eric Joyce’s phrase “a cynical abuse of a system designed for a noble purpose” does seem to perfectly describe the situation that has developed.
This is one of these situations which is personally gratifying n that it allows me to demonstrate how open-minded I am. Like Eric Joyce, I used to be quite content with the list system. While there were obvious issues with it – primarily the risk of having two classes of MSP – I regarded this as having been adequately addressed by parliamentary rules and not enough of a problem to outweigh the advantages of proportionality and diversity.
I’ve changed my mind. Once, I would chastise people for treating list MSPs as inferior. Over time, this insistence on parity grew increasingly forced and false until I reached the point where it became just too much of a denial of reality to be sustained.
That undeniable and unacceptable reality is, perhaps, most starkly illustrated by the now well-publicised case of Murdo Fraser. An individual replete with the smug pomposity and contemptuous audacity that stems from being accountable to nobody other than the sycophants in his own party.
There are others, of course. I wouldn’t pump up Murdo Fraser’s already over-inflated ego by suggesting that he was capable of single-handedly bringing Scotland’s parliament into disrepute. But he serves to illustrate what now has to be recognised as a serious issue.
A large and important part of the legacy of the first independence campaign is a more engaged electorate. The inertia of apathy, that great enemy of democracy, has been at least to some extent overcome by the momentum of the Yes movement. People have been awakened to the power that they hold. They have been given a glimpse of their own potential for political effectiveness. It would be a tragedy if this well of new-found confidence and spirit were to be poisoned by a cynical abuse of the electoral system.
It is no longer possible to pretend that list MSPs such as Murdo Fraser, Anas Sarwar and Adam Tomkins (pictured above in all his clownish British nationalist finery) can enjoy the same status as constituency MSPs. To attempt to continue the pretence is to mock the intelligence of voters who can see for themselves just how much of a charade this is. Something has to change.
But we must be cautious about throwing the bonny baby out with the murky bathwater. However flawed it may be, proportional representation has facilitated the development of Scotland’s distinctive political culture. Any reform of the electoral system must not put this in jeopardy. The aim must be to devise a system which rids us of the Murdo Frasers but allows us to keep the Patrick Harveys.
It’s a phrase which has been rendered an intensely irritating bit of politician-speak by its use as means of suggesting a policy is flawed without offering any alternative solution, but I’m obliged to say it anyway. We need to have a debate.Views: 4200
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