Angela Smith MP

Penistone & Stocksbridge

We need PR, says Angela

 

Politics is broken, with both Labour and the Conservatives no longer fit for purpose and utterly unfit for power.

Evidence is also showing voters are losing confidence in our democracy. For example, at the 2015 election less than 50% of 18-24-year olds voted, as compared to nearly 80% aged over 65. Turnout generally in elections is also falling, giving a sense that ‘neither of the above’ is an increasingly attractive choice for British voters.   

We are also seeing dramatic divides in terms of how people vote. No longer is social class the driving force.  For instance, the recent British Social Attitudes Survey found only 8% of voters strongly identify with a political party, whereas 40% identify very firmly as either Remainers or Leavers. 

It is against this backdrop we see the decline of the ‘broad churches that once represented the Labour and Tory traditions. Both parties have lurched to their extremes and are deeply divided. Both have demonstrated that their own survival is more important to them than the national interest.  

I have always supported the First Past the Post voting system, but no longer.  Our broken politics has finally persuaded me that we desperately need reform.  I had always bought into the rhetoric that it is the only system capable of producing strong and stable government. Yet it is 14 years since a party won an election with a sustainable majority and even then, it was with only 36% of the popular vote. And just look at Parliament now, where we have a minority Government paralysed and fractured by events and the most ineffective Official Opposition of the post-war period.

It is now clear that many voters have been rendered electorally homeless by the political decline which characterises both Labour and the Tories. These alienated voters are desperate for an alternative but know too that First Past the Post works against giving them the power to exercise a meaningful choice. It a discredited system which limits the options available in an election and which effectively gives the two major parties the power to manage the choices available to the electorate.  

It is now vital political parties recognise the scale of the change needed because if we don’t there could be long-term damage on our democracy.    

If we are serious about changing politics, we must recognize the need for a more pluralistic electoral system which gives voters control over the kind of politics they judge best for the country.  

No longer can excuses be made to avoid change. Indeed, every new legislature created by Parliament uses some form of PR.    In Scotland, for example the Additional Member System is used to elect MSPs, Single Transferable Vote is used for council elections, as it is in Northern Ireland for the Assembly.   Indeed, even the Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons are elected by Single Transferable Vote .  

If we are serious about changing our politics, then we must recognize the need for a more pluralistic electoral system which gives voters control over the kind of politics they want in Westminster. It should not be in the gift of outdated, tired political parties to make that choice for them.

 

 

My latest Farmers Guardian Article

 

After almost 3 years of debate and with Brexit sucking the life out of public policy, the country should now be starting a brave new journey as an independent nation outside the EU.

Indeed, we should now be starting the negotiations on the future relationship with the EU, according to those who championed this agenda.  Instead, we’re in the midst of a national crisis with the Withdrawal Agreement failing to gain Parliamentary support on three occasions. Such a situation is surely unprecedented in the history of our democracy.

Given the uncertainty at the present moment, it is difficult to see what the future holds for the country.  We have an extension until the 12th April but what happens after that is still unclear. If we can’t find a way forward, we could fall out of the EU on the 12th without a deal, unless Parliament acts to stop such a thing. 

Given the Parliamentary arithmetic, it looks increasingly likely the Prime Ministers deal won’t get a majority unless there are changes to the Political declaration which Opposition Parties can agree to, given some on her own benches and the DUP seem determined to be set against the Prime Ministers Withdrawal Agreement.   

What is clear more than ever is people want clarity, industry desperately needs it, farmers desperately need it. Both need to know what sort of trading environment they will face next week or next month, never mind next year. Both need to know what rules will apply. Yet at the moment there are no answers to these or the myriad of other concerns people have and that just isn’t good enough. The only thing we can say for certain is that any deal negotiated will be worse than the deal we currently enjoy.

I have been consistent that any deal agreed by Parliament should be put to the people, including the one negotiated by Theresa May. I still believe if she had offered this some time ago there would have been a Parliamentary majority for it, a point I have made directly to her on numerous occasions.

I think now more than ever a confirmatory vote by the people is needed. given that the simple Brexit promised in 2016 doesn’t now seem possible. If Theresa May can change her mind, if Parliament can change its mind, then surely the people have the right to change their mind too.

 

 

My Brexit voting this week

Yesterday evening, I am pleased to report that MPs, including myself and all members of The Independent Group, rejected leaving the EU without a deal by 321 to 278 votes.

Today there will be a vote on a government motion which could see a delay to the UK’s departure from the EU. The motion can be viewed here:   https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmagenda/OP190314.pdf

As expected, multiple amendments to the motion have been tabled by MPs across the House. The precise wording of all the selected amendments can be viewed on the order paper here:   https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmagenda/OP190314.pdf

Here follows an explanation of the amendments to which I have added my name in support and have been selected by The Speaker.

Amendment H – Sarah Wollaston

This amendment instructs the Prime Minister to request an extension of Article 50 at European Council for the purpose of legislating for and conducting a public vote. It requests that the public vote enables the “people of the United Kingdom [to] give their consent for either leaving the European Union on terms to be determined by Parliament or retaining the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.”.

Amendment I – Hilary Benn

This amendment gives Parliament the ability to take control of the order paper next Wednesday for a series of indicative votes. The indicative votes would allow MPs to debate and vote on multiple options and establish what holds a majority in the House. Parliament will be able to voice their support or oppose matters such as alternative trade deals and a second referendum. 

I strongly believe that the reason we are just 15 days away from leaving the EU without a deal, is because the Government has failed to reach out across the House to find consensus. Such an approach was vital, given the narrow referendum result and the disastrous result of the Conservative 2017 General Election which revealed no majority for the hard Brexit strategy being posed. In all this time, backbench MPs have not been allowed to express their opinion nor vote on the different options, preventing a general consensus being determined.

The only way we as a country can move forward is if MPs are allowed to try and find which option holds a majority in the House of Commons. Aware that even when given the opportunity, we still may not be able to reach consensus, I believe we should also begin preparations for a second referendum.

This is why I will vote in favour of both these amendments tonight.

Your neighbourhood

Penistone & Stocksbridge Wards Dodworth West Ecclesfield East Ecclesfield Penistone East Penistone West Stocksbridge dodworth ward penistone east pen west stocks east eccles west eccles

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