Wednesday, 10 June 2015

What the response to the Fair Votes petition tells us about the Tory mentality

In the aftermath of the 2015 general election almost half a million people signed an Unlock Democracy petition calling for the replacement of the old-fashioned, unrepresentative and apathy inducing voting system we suffer in this country with a proper proportional system.

I won't detail the arguments in favour of such a reform because I've already outlined the case in this article.
In June 2015 the organisers of the petition received their response from the government.

Nobody in their right mind would have expected the Tories to admit that reform is needed to a system that works so heavily to their advantage, but the arrogance, lazy dismissiveness and intellectual paucity of the reply is still extraordinary to behold.

The only argument

The government response written by the minister for constitutional reform John Penrose, included only one single argument against the proposal, which is this:

"Thank you for your letter and accompanying petition to the Prime Minister calling for electoral reform and the possibility of changing the electoral system to Proportional Representation (PR) ... I appreciate your point, although the difficulty would be that we had a referendum on it in 2011. The result was a fairly resounding rejection of the idea ... It would be pretty difficult to argue that we should ignore the democratic verdict in the referendum and go ahead anyway"
Factual inaccuracy

It should be easy enough to see where the factual inaccuracy in this argument lies (look at the text I've made bold in the quote). If you still can't see the problem I'll explain.

The referendum in 2011 was not a referendum on Proportional Representation as John Penrose inaccurately claims, it was a referendum between the current system and a slight variant of the current system called Alternative Vote (AV).

AV is absolutely not PR because it does not create a balance between the proportion of votes cast for a party and the proportion of representatives they get in parliament. In fact AV is such an unrepresentative system that Nick Clegg (the face of the pro-AV campaign) once called it a "miserable little compromise".

It's no wonder the referendum was lost when even the leader of the pro-AV campaign thought the idea was shit!

Ignorance and arrogance

The effort to dismiss the campaign for Proportional Representation by lying that we've already had a referendum on the issue is a shocking display of ignorance, that betrays the utter arrogance of the Tory party.

When writing a response to a group of experts on a subject (electoral reform), one would hope that a government minister would at least take a bit of effort to understand the issue at hand, rather than firing off a letter that makes a fundamentally ignorant assertion about it.

The response from John Penrose is appalling because it shows that he is willing to build his entire argument on an ignorant and blatantly inaccurate assertion. To compose such a feeble response betrays a great deal of arrogance; the attitude that "I don't need to know what I'm even talking about because I'm a government minister, and we'll do what I say because I'm in charge".

Hopelessly underqualified people

It is absolutely clear from the content of his letter that John Penrose is hopelessly underqualified to serve as the Minister for Constitutional Reform because he doesn't even have the most basic grasp of the issues.

Anyone familiar with the Tory cabinet knows that they are very keen on the idea of stuffing government full of shockingly inappropriate and hopelessly underqualified people. I'll give a few examples:

George Osborne: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has no economics qualifications whatever. He's got a 2:1 in Modern History and some work experience of folding towels at Selfridges.

Jeremy Hunt: The Health minister has no experience of working in the health sector and in 2008 he co-authored a book that called for the NHS to be abolished. He's now been put in charge of it!

Michael Gove: Only the second person in history with no legal qualifications to be appointed as Lord Chancellor. The other was his immediate predecessor Chris Grayling who was also appointed to the position by David Cameron.

Priti Patel: Appointed employment minister in 2015, Patel has a visceral hatred of trade unions. Anyone would have thought it would be a good idea for an employment minister to be able to work with both business owners and employees in order to improve productivity, instead of being the kind of person to continue fighting the divisive and destructive ideological class wars of the 1970s and '80s.

Nicky Morgan: Appointed equalities minister in 2014 despite voting against gay equality!

What we learned

The fundamentally ignorant and appallingly arrogant response from John Penrose perfectly illustrates the Tory mentality. Stuff like facts, evidence
, logical coherence and reason are all irrelevant to them.

It doesn't matter that they're hopelessly underqualified people who don't have a clue about the absolute basics of their jobs - what matters is that they're in charge now, and us uppity plebs had better damned well do as we're told.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

The campaign for fair votes
Labour vs the Lib-Dems in the strategic ineptitude stakes
Why are so many right-wingers still fighting the ideological battles of the 1970s?
George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
How Ed Balls' austerity-lite agenda ruined Labour's election chances
The Tory ideological mission
How the Lib-Dems were just as compassionless as the Tories
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies


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