As the date for the election has been (finally) announced today I thought I would write something on elections. I visited my grandparents a few weeks ago and my granddad does like to debate, so we had a long chat about elections and voting systems. Within our current first past the post system there is an inherent conflict as a voter between voting for the indivudal and voting for the party – do you vote for someone who has a track record of doing alot for the constituency, or do you vote for the party whose policies you agree with?

Given the whip system that is in place in the UK so that MPs are told how to vote, how much can an MP actually take account of the feelings of their constituents on any issue? If they aren’t in the cabinet then all they are there to do really is to vote as they are told to. If you take away from MPs their remit to represent their constituents, which they can’t do as they are told how to vote, then why do we have MPs for specific regions? And how should we as individuals engage with the process of making laws and contribute or comment on them before they are made into law?

For example, the digital economy bill is currently being discussed in the Commons, and has spurred alot of controversy and comment, culminating in a series of adverts printed in the Times and Guardian (an interesting comment on the newspapers that MPs are thought to read?) expressing concern over the possibility that it will get passed as part of the ‘wash-up’ process before Parliament is dissolved for the election. The fact that the Early Day Motion asking for this bill to be properly discussed has only 2 signatures is not hopeful that it will get a proper debate, as it is unlikely that any large number of MPs are going to revolt and vote against this bill so close to an election.

So I am listening to the debate in Parliament with little hope that it will avoid being pushed through as part of ‘wash-up’ even though there has been little debate and thousands of people contacting their MPs to complain about it.I wrote to my MP (for the first time ever) about it last week and I am waiting for a response. Liam Green-Hughes also contacted our MP (earlier than I did!) and has posted his reponse on his blog. Whilst Mark Lancaster does share his concerns about the billĀ  he doesn’t make any comment about ensuring that it is discussed. 38 Degrees are collating a list of responses from MPs when concerns about this bill has been raised with them – amusingly many of them comment that they have been contacted by a number of other people about the same issue. It would be interesting to know the number of contacts made to MPs by their constituents about this issue compared to any other issue that has been debated in this parliamentary session? (I also wonder what sort of comments would have been made on the digital economy bill if it had been put on Write to Reply?)

I hope it won’t get agreed as it is, but I’m not holding my breath. No wonder there is increasing disenfranchisement with the parliamentary process – how low will the percentage of people voting at the election be?

I’ve heard all sorts of figures about the balance of MPs in Parliament – men v women; black v white; working class v middle class v upper class, but what about the age balance? All I’ve seen is a comment about the lack of older people, who have alot of experience that they could bring, which is undeniable, but there is also a role for more younger people. How many MPs are under 30? Let alone Net-Gen? There is a lack of interest in politics in this age group who generally don’t vote, which is exacerbated because none of the main political parties try to engage them; they don’t try to engage them because they don’t vote. Catch 22. There is alot of expertise within these age groups, especially on digital and online subjects, that could be better used to inform government, but how to do that…

Again, another post with more questions than answers!