So the month shifted from May to June, but the surprise General Election did not clear the political slate, nor did it provide the Prime Minister with the strong mandate she desired to pull the UK through the Brexit process….May is still Prime Minister of the UK and many British citizens continue to ask why politics is so warped given the results and clear shifts in voting behaviour.
Many ask why we don’t have PR [Proportional Representation] as opposed to the “First-Past-The-Post” system which allows the candidate with the greatest number of votes to win the seat, even if they only achieve one solitary vote over their opponent. This method means that, overall, the votes cast do not result in the allocation of parliamentary seats representing the wishes of the entire electorate; the total number of votes cast for the Green Party, for example, would provide greater numbers of Green MPs to influence the decisions taken in Parliament as well as working at a local level to deliver changing attitudes within their constituency. Although Green Party voting support has dropped since 2015, it was still the choice of well over half a million adults who bothered to vote. The bizarre reality is that the 292,316 votes cast for the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party [DUP] gave them TEN seats in Parliament whilst those 525,435 Green voters are forced to make do with one solitary MP.
The situation with the DUP has historically been a useful example to illustrate the distorted allocation of parliamentary seats, to show how some voters’ choices, despite their numbers across the entire nation, are not being appreciated by the First-Past-The-Post system. However, the current political scenario with Theresa May being free to draw upon the DUP to support her minority government, underlines how ridiculous and totally undemocratic this traditional counting method really is. With their ten unearned Parliamentary seats the DUP can vote for all measures put forward by a minority government, and that is what they will do to earn their billion pound bribe. There is a sense of despair across the nation but it’s clear that there are many who wish to re-energise the fight…Of course politics provides various fields of battle but for ordinary citizens the one which counts is the election process. As I work through the decades gathering life experience I know I am repeating myself; education must include learning about the democratic process and why it is so very important to understand that there are very few corners of our lives not touched by politics.
Having studied English Social History at “O” level in the late 1970s I am grateful that the group into which I was placed at school was led by the very inspiring history teacher “Mr Lee” who cleverly revealed how present-day politics tied in with the fight for the franchise in the 19th Century; the Chartists, Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Co-Operative Movement were meaningful details which have remained bubbling away on the hob which is my brain over the last 40 years. Both “Distress and Discontent” and that slogan “We must educate our masters” still ring through my head as many argue about Brexit, the reasons for that result last year and why so many of the potential electorate repeatedly fail to claim their vote…I suggest future history books will continue to be able to draw these connections regardless of the outcome, although perhaps in the long-term it will be so evident that future history students will understand why the battlefield was so-shaped in the 21st Century.
This month of June should receive more than a passing mention in future history books, not only for presenting the expected politics surrounding the General Election on the 8th, but also for the shocking news stories which delivered sudden, and very deadly blows to ordinary people living ordinary lives; citizens and tourists walking along London Bridge and enjoying Saturday night drinks with their friends, and those who went to bed in their tower block home never to see the new dawn. Politically-controlled decisions were clearly at the heart of the spread of those deadly flames which closed the lives of 80 or more, trapped in a building where running costs were the biggest factor despite fire safety legislation and building regulations which should not have allowed such a tragedy to unfold in a modern capital city. The frame which is politics touches everyone; for the poorest it would seem that this frame is often made of razor wire, whereas for the wealthy it can be as soft as the silken fabrics associated with Versailles. A couple of days ago a, clearly wealthy, “friend” on social media posted some dubious research about people who complain…the gist of which was that anyone who complains is just a pain in the arse. In recent years I’ve learnt the power of not posting a comment…although I am still tempted to point out that for whose lives were placed in Grenfell Tower a few more complaints being heard might have meant that a young mother and her baby would have survived for mother to watch her 6 month-old move from crawling to running in one of London’s beautiful green spaces…for that mother to enjoy her baby’s babbling to become speech and for that little girl to grow up to become who she was going to be, to reveal what she might have had to give to her community and the world.
My inspiring history teacher Mr Lee did not lecture us convent girls, but in his methodical and clear manner he helped teach us to think…He was clearly elderly in 1977 so I’m sure his retirement ended possibly decades ago, but I can still hear his voice and I’m sure he would have been able to lead any group of teenagers, and adults for that matter, to understand where politics and history met in London in June 2017.