Julian Says…

Dear Rebecca,

Thanks for your full response, and I already see some agreement. There are also some areas where our views differ.

Clearly you and I are immune from the accusations surrounding MPs’ expenses, but not immune from the fall-out. I suspect that you, like I, have had some frank discussions on this issue on the doorstep.

You correctly pointed out that the immediate response on expenses dealt with the over-claims. However, I do not believe it fully dealt with the issue of confidence, and it does nothing to address the issue of accountability.

You have misrepresented my argument for change to the House of Commons voting system. I think you have come to the mistaken view that what I and the Government are advocating is the Jenkins formula, that is AV plus. Please be assured that I, too, believe in the importance of the constituency link and am also concerned about having two types of MP – hence my support for the Alternative Vote. This, I remind you, is the system where each candidate is ranked in order of preference, and where every MP will be able to claim that the majority of their constituents have voted for them.

The Alternative Vote is not truly proportional, and arguably leads to stronger government.

As to having some appointees in the second chamber – sorry, but as a passionate champion for democracy I can accept nothing less than a fully-elected body. Those wise heads you referred to should be able to secure nomination and election.

As for reducing the number of MPs – I confess to being happy to look into this. I worry that this will make each MP a little more remote, I would also like to examine the detail on your proposal regarding transfer of powers to MPs, which strikes me as an argument for more, not less MPs.

I am not a fan of hair-shirt politics, and want our MPs and ministers to receive proper pay. It may make a good headline to advocate ministerial pay cuts, but I do not see how it delivers better government.

As to referendums and your accusations of cynicism: I do not think this is the proper place for a discussion on the pros and cons of the Lisbon Treaty, but I do remind you that Conservative governments so far have given the British no referendums, ever.

Those with a passing knowledge of the origins of the American War of Independence will be aware of the rallying cry “no taxation without representation”. As sixteen-year olds can work and be taxed I subscribe to this two-hundred year old argument.


Julian Ware-Lane

5 Responses

  1. If paying tax at sixteen is a qualification to vote, why is is not also a qualification to drive cars, drink in pubs and a whole host of otherthings that are restricted by age?

  2. Well it is certainly worthy of discussion. Of course, cars can be driven at 17; I think motorcycles can be ridden at 16. Sixteen-year olds can drink in pubs – just not alcohol.

    Your point, if I interpret it correctly, is that there is not a flat starting point for all sorts of issues. However, my point about the rallying cry in 1770s America still holds true. There will be health reasons that relate to the consumption of alcohol, and issues about maturity and judgement bound up in the arguments over where the appropriate age for driving should set.

    Until they get the vote, the under 18s can only complain. Perhaps parity can be championed after they can vote for it.

  3. Exactly Julian. You say there are “issues about maturity and judgement bound up in the arguments over where the appropriate age for driving should set.” Do they also not apply to driving the Government as well as driving a car. To exercise the vote is a hugely responsible thing to do. With all of the pressures and angst of teenage years, are the majority of 16 year olds able to make a rational and reasoned chioce? Is not mental maturity rather than physical maturity the main difference nowdays between 16 and 18 year olds?

  4. My apologies Julian! I had assumed you were proposing the system recommended to Labour by the Jenkins Commission back in 1998 – AV +. There are different arguments against AV in the purer form.

    My overall point remains that I don’t believe the problems we’ve seen over expenses are best addressed by trying-out a new voting system.

    It will be down to all the members of the next Parliament to restore public confidence.

    Whichever party wins this election, there will also be an exceptional number of new MPs. I think that will be a real breath of fresh air. They will come in to a new transparent regime and none will wish to repeat the mistakes of the past.

  5. Rebecca you simply don’t get it.

    The MPs may be different, but the system, the culture, and the accountability will be the same. We must address the root of the problem, which is the state of our democracy.

    Please go ahead and make your arguments against AV, because they will no doubt directly contradict your arguments about AV+. You wanted a system that was majoritarian, created ‘strong government’ and maintained a direct link with consituencies and representatives. Julian proposes a system that fulfills all of those requirements, yet your party vote against it.

    No doubt you will follow the whip and also vote against it in the next parliament.

    Can we have your views on Europe please Rebecca???

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