There has been much talk in the last 48 hours about voting reform and the type of reform which is necessary for every political party to be fairly represented in Westminster. The Libdems say reform is essential. They mention nothing about the process of voting - not a word.
But, what is the point in reform if the actual system is rotten?
In the past few days we've had international observers say our system is a 'recipe for corruption'. Most of us with an interest in politics would agree. We have a postal voting procedure which is abused and continues to be abused because no one is accountable.
Jenny Watson (pictured above) is the chairman of the Electoral Commission, a quango set up by Tony Blair, and it was her job to ensure the vote could run smoothly. Ms Watson earns £100,000 for a three day week as head of the election quango and is what I would dub a 'quangoite' - she has noved from quango to quango fronting, among others, the Equal Opportunities Commission, where she earned her 'Modern Militant' epithet. She's a seasoned 'it wasn't me' individual. '"We provide guidelines but the responsibility for the organisation of elections rests with returning officers," she twitters.
Each of the five returning officers in charge of polling stations where people were denied their right to vote earn from £112,956 to £227,500 per annum.
David Monks, chief executive of Huntingdonshire District Council, said a large surge in voters was one factor, but argued that extra staffing at polling stations would not have helped because each station had just one register, with one person ticking off names. He said part of the blame was due to a high number of new returning officers with no experience in running elections. "It is not something you can learn from a book." If these officials are unable to learn a new procedure they shouldn't be in the job. I'm sure most of us could learn the system with a little effort and some consultation with those more experienced.
What needs to happen is that we must have some form of identity to be provided with a ballot paper. Secondly postal voting should be stopped except in the most exceptional cases which, as it used to be many years ago, are supported by medical evidence as to why the voter cannot attend in person.
In part of my source article Heather Brooks gives an account of her investigations into election officials. One of her disturbing findings was that officials charged with compiling electoral registers and running elections were accountable to no one. You can read her discoveries (found out only through FOIs) here.
Politicians can talk all they like about STVs, AV, AVplus and any other reform they like but none will be democratic or free of fraud or incompetence until we have the people in charge of the whole process of elections accountable to the electorate. Only then is it worth spending time on reform.
There are far too many highly paid officials within government and arms of government who are responsible to no one. This culture must change before we can be called a fair society.
The present desire of the Libdems to have STV in the country is not in the interests of the country, it is only in the interests of smaller parties. What they should be pushing for is a complete reform of the whole system. That's in the interests of the country.