Democracy is not a panacea, in case you were wondering. For all the freedoms we enjoy in this country, there's a lot that's rubbish. The nature of the voting system we have could be called into question, for instance, along with successive governments' attitude towards its reform.
makevotescount.org.uk has sent a trenchant e-mail round in the wake of the release of the Government's review of electoral systems. (What's with that big right-left stripe on the cover? Are we meant to be thinking about rushing back into an ever-vanishing past under the auspices of a poorly integrated Union...?!)
We had not expected the review itself to be much different from what was published on Thursday. What has taken us by surprise, disappointed, even angered, us - and will hopefully galvanise all of us in our campaigning efforts over the coming weeks and months - is the Government's determination to downplay what is actually in the report and close down opportunities for the public to have their say. Voting matters and so do the systems used. Yet the Government no longer seems to care about voters' real world experiences and opinions of elections. That was certainly the impression given by Michael Wills when he claimed (in his Department's press release) that the "current voting system for UK general elections works well". The voting system may be working well for him and other MPs, but not necessarily for voters. He would struggle to substantiate that claim - either from polling data or from the review itself - if he was looking at the issue more objectively from the voters' perspective. The Government is in danger of treating voters with contempt, by not going beyond the academic exercise of the review and now shutting out parlimentary and public debate. For us "democracy isn't deskbound". Together we need to push the Ministry of Justice to take the debate beyond Westminster and the confines of parties and politicians who have a vested interest in the status quo. And we need to encourage Gordon Brown to show the leadership needed to take this issue forward and help realise the new politics that he has said he is keen to usher in.
Sad, but vested interests (in this case the MPs themselves, though the Lib Dems are to be commended for their stand on PR) do have a tendency to arrange things to suit themselves. Conspiracy theories not necessary: greed and inertia survive Ockham's razor and explain rather a lot...