Friday, 22 March 2013

Politics and Priti Patel's 50% rule

On March 19th 2013 just 315 of our elected parliamentary representatives bothered to vote on the introduction of retroactive legislation, designed to undermine the judgement of the Court of Appeals that Iain Duncan Smith's benefits sanctions regime was unlawfully administered, and to avoid compensating the victims of this unlawful regime.

As these new retrospective rules were rushed through parliament in a matter of hours (with the collusion of the Labour party leadership), only about 60 MPs actually bothered to sit through the debates, with only around half a dozen or so on the government benches and the rest on the opposition benches. When it came to the votes, around 250 Tory and Lib-Dem MPs appeared, as if out of nowhere, to vote in favour of retroactive law, despite having completely ignored the debate.

One of these MPs that ignored the debate but turned up to loyally cast her vote to save Iain Duncan Smith's political career with an absurd retroactive rewriting of his botched rules was Priti Patel. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing this woman has ever said (other than lambasting British workers as lazy and workshy despite the fact we work amongst the longest hours in the EU) was a statement about Trade Union ballots in which she whined that "any ballot in which fewer than half of those eligible to vote do so should be ruled invalid."

Well; despite 250 government MPs turning up to swamp the debate with their votes, only 48% of MPs voted on the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Bill. Priti Patel did not criticise this low turnout.

There are two issues here. If Priti Patel wants new rules to be applied to the trade union ballots of ordinary working people, those same rules should apply to Westminster and the political classes too. If fewer than 50% of MPs vote in a debate, it should be ruled invalid. If fewer than 50% of constituents vote in parliamentary elections, the ballot should be ruled invalid, if fewer than 50% of people vote in PCC elections, the results should be ruled invalid. If fewer than 50% of people vote in local elections, the results should be ruled invalid. If fewer than 50% of people vote in European elections, the results should be ruled invalid.

We can't allow the political classes to impose one set of rules for us, yet maintain a much laxer set of rules for themselves. The problem is of course that the imposition of a 50% rule would paralyse the political system. Under the 50% rule every single ballot in the November 2012 PCC elections would have been ruled invalid. A significant number of bills passed through parliament would fail the 50% standard. Most European and Local government elections would fail this rule. In fact, many of the safe seats in parliamentary elections fail to record 50% turnouts too.

The other issue is the swamping of the debate. Without these 250 odd MPs that didn't even bother to listen to the debate the government would have lost the vote by about 52 votes to 6. I believe that if an MP hasn't even bothered to sit through at least 50% of the debate, they should be barred from voting on the bill. I mean what is the point of even having a debate at all, if hundreds of MPs simply vote the way they've been told without the slightest consideration for the issues raised in the debate?

I'd like to see the 50% rule applied to all political elections and to political debates too. If less than half of the public can be bothered to vote, the winner has no political mandate to assume their position and if fewer than half of MPs can be bothered to actually attend the debate, then the bill has no democratic legitimacy and should be scrapped.


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