The date shorthand 5.5.5 would have tripped off the tongue just as readily as 9/11 or 7/7. But the one good thing about 5 May 2005 was that no real blood was let. So, many people did not regard what happened on 5 May 2005 as anything very disastrous for a democracy. ‘5.5.5’ never caught on. Probably only a minority of people who read New Labour under Tony Blair was returned to power with a splendid 66 seat majority were horrified when they saw it was achieved with only 21% of those entitled to vote. That something so unrepresentative could occur right at the crucial point of electing a democratic western government for a period up to five years leaves some of us very baffled. And this feeling is compounded when many, after being made aware of the facts, seem willing to accept them with barely a shrug. It gets worse still when people argue we have to keep our distorted electoral system because it has, according to them, a number of exceptional qualities. Besides, we’re British and it’s the way we have always done it. But if the deep unfairness of 5.5.5 strikes a chord with you, please contribute to the blog on this website. The 5 May 2005 election is our main theme and our headline topic but note you can link to a number of other key issues. Quirkiness is a word sometimes used in connection with the way things are done in the UK. But quirkiness is a bit like common sense or flexibility – when you try and put a real definition on it, it slips away. We explore the idea that a kind of parental control leaks into many aspects of our culture and it is both expected and accepted. In our post National Dynamic we discuss evidence for such a trait and why it is likely to stand in the way of electoral reform.
5.5.5 shouldn’t be forgotten any more than 9/11 or 7/7 will ever be. But since 2005 things have moved on. With the ongoing media focus on terrorism, who of us has any outrage to spare for electoral systems? The miserable failure of the misguided AV referendum in 2011 hasn’t helped much either. It could well have set the prospects for electoral reform back by several years. Also in recent years we have seen the unprecedented financial crisis caused by bankers gone crazy, rigged TV phone-ins, MPs expenses, phone hacking, corporate tax avoidance, HSBC-assisted personal tax-dodging scandals and other depressing falls from grace. They all reflect today’s scant regard for fair play, low levels of integrity, the willingness of one group to take calculated advantage of another. And it goes on and on. Writing this in early November 2015, it looks like the VW emissions cheating scandal is poised to reveal a second layer of corporate deception. Society seems to have lost its qualms about indulging values that only a few decades ago we were brought up to think of as sneaky and low-life. Now if you can get away with it it’s okay and if the system you’re working in lets it happen, what’s the problem? Any moral or social consequences are ‘out of our individual hands’. This has led to a grave sense of distrust in our society. Have we, for example, arrived at a point where never before has:
- trust in wider society been at such a low ebb
- the call of establishment politicians after such a devastating economic crisis to get back to ‘business as usual’ sounded so hollow
- respect for the leadership and judgement in pillars of the establishment become so deeply damaged?
If so, we urgently need to ask where this is leading. Is it really about getting back on track or will that just give the nod again to the top-down processes that have left tens of millions of ordinary people so negatively affected in the last few years? What if the real prognosis for the majority of us is the high price already paid, getting higher and higher as time goes by rather than easing? Is what we see now the momentum ratcheting up on the way to a point of no return? Or can ordinary people find ways to alter the course of events and get things heading in a direction that’s a little more inspiring? A lot of questions but we are sure of one thing on 5.5.5 & Counting. With inequality worsening; with a growing sense that it’s the ‘one-per-cent’ who are in it together while most of the rest of us are ‘out of it’; with more and more people at the bottom end of society being blamed for its problems and being hit hardest while the ‘protected species’ which precipitated the real hardship holds onto untold wealth often unearned or obtained by deception and dodgy practice; with the two largest establishment parties, Tory and Labour, having shown at every turn how committed they have been to keeping everything chugging on pretty much as it is: WE HAVE NO CHANCE OF GETTING A FAIRER SOCIETY UNTIL WE GET A FAIR VOTING SYSTEM. To believe that progressive politics can start working for a fairer society without a proportional representation system of voting is a false hope. There is simply no greater priority.