Why I’m Backing Fairer Votes? – Stephen Glenn NI Organiser

9 Dec

Stephen Glenn out campaigning for Fairer Votes

As I am heading up the campaign for Fairer Votes here in Northern Ireland I thought it was only fair to let you know my story as to why I feel strongly about this issue.

 

Back in late 1985-6 we had the mass resignation of Unionist MPs across Northern Ireland and the subsequent by elections in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The bulk of January found me off school on study leave for my mock exams, which is why on one Wednesday morning I found myself in Bangor’s market. Through the mêlée I suddenly found myself facing the rather familiar figure of one of Northern Ireland’s leading politicians, alongside the local recently resigned MP and then mere Unionist candidate for North Down Jim Kilfedder. A familiar voice then asked me:

“Young man, can Jim here rely on your vote on January 23rd?”

I replied:

“No.”

Then seeing a startled look on both politicians faces expanded with:

“I don’t think I should vote for something or someone I don’t believe in, and I don’t believe that what you have done is correct. So if I were old enough to vote on the 23rd, I would not be voting for Mr Kilfedder.”

Being only 16 at the time and studying for my O’levels it was quite a brave response to Ian Paisley. But it was something that once I had the vote was something I have always stuck to. In each general election that I have voted in since that date I have gone to vote and placed an ‘X’ my only allowed mark next to the candidate that has most closely matched what I believe in. Sadly not once what that vote elected a member to Parliament, nor has it even gone to the person in second place.

Does it mean my views are any less valid that the many people who do get a say in the handful of close contests across the country? In my opinion yes. In the six Westminster elections I have voted in three have been tight races for the top spot, one involved 3 candidates none of whom were the candidate I voted for. Not one of the winners in those races had a majority of the voters backing them.

So half the time I have voted in Westminster elections people around me have been some of the few thousand who get to make a decision about how our country is run. Sadly the only way I could have done that would have been to vote, not for who and what I believe in but for whichever of the front-runners was least bad.

For the other half of the time I have voted in a constituency where the MP has what is pretty much a job for life. They may not necessarily have over 50% of the people voting for them but enough more than anyone else that there is no clear competition for their place. This can lead to the MP not giving all that they can do for all the people that they represent, because they only have to do enough to not upset those that are going to vote for them anyway.

AV will make your MPs work harder to get and keep their jobs. It will do away with the dilemma of do you have to vote tactically and not for who you believe in with you first preference. It will also go some way to tackling the jobs for life culture as it will shake more of our MPs out of complacency.

Join me in making sure that the people of Northern Ireland Vote Yes in May. Go to the Yes to Fairer Votes website and sign up to help. If you can spare an hour or two (or even more on a regular basis) either before Christmas on in the New Year make sure you sign up for the phonebank, and get involved telling people why you too want to see fairer votes for Westminster.

I look forward to hearing from and seeing you help out on this campaign for a small change that can make a big difference.

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