The need for a fairer more representative democracy is not hard to understand, however finding ways of improving what we have or complete alternatives is a bit more complex. My first weekly column for the Argus Newspaper begins with the following few thoughts as to how the system we currently have needs improving. I live in Brighton & Hove, represented in Parliament by Caroline Lucas who in my opinion stands head and shoulders above many of the 650 MPs in Westminster. Amongst the three Councillors that represent my Ward, I have worked alongside Tracey Hill in a local charity and as part of the Fairtrade steering group. I have huge respect for Tracey and would happily vote for Tracey and Caroline in future elections. However whenever I have a problem with the way the Government is operating I can complain to both of them till I am blue in the face but neither of them has any influence on the party running our country although Tracey does have influence over the group currently leading the Council. I could contact Simon Kirby as the one Conservative MP in the city and who has always been very approachable, however our current system makes it clear that the only MP who I will get a meaningful response from is my one constituency MP. This can be frustrating for those of us in Brighton and Hove, but the residents of Sussex are faced with a very different set of challenges. At present out of 16 MPs in Sussex 14 are Conservatives. This means that most people in Sussex can contact their MP and if he or she is prepared to listen, they may be able to influence what the Governing party does and how its policies are set. However if these people want to see someone from a different party elected and a different government in power, the antiquated first past the post system means that most are out of luck. There have been Labour or Liberal Democratic MPs elected in Eastbourne, Crawley, Hastings and Lewes but in the rural heartlands such as Mid Sussex and Wealden along with places such as Chichester and Worthing anyone selected by the Conservative Party will arguably get elected no matter how capable they are. Whether we want to vote for a candidate from a different party or someone who is Independent of all parties, the current system does not work unless of course we want the Tories to continue to dominate the whole of Sussex outside of Brighton & Hove despite the views of thousands of frustrated voters. Imagining a system that could improve matters may seem like a waste of time. After all it is unlikely that anyone will pay much attention to these words, however unless we do demand something better, arguably change may never happen. I would personally like to see a system which removes the sterile link between one MP and their constituency in a way that would allow residents from a place like Brighton and Hove to contact any of the MPs in the city and for the MP to be free to speak on behalf of the person concerned. I would also like to see a system which meant that if I was living elsewhere in Sussex, that my vote would count and instead of a boring sea of blue, that even in places like Horsham and Battle a vote for Labour, the Greens, UKIP or the Lib Dems or even an Independent would stand a real chance of changing the balance of colour as well as introducing politicians from outside of the dominant party.
Probably the best way forward is for some form of Proportional Representation. I have signed the petition here, you may wish to do the same.