TAG | Westminster
By ignoring reform of the House of Lords, George Brown’s recent announcement of a referendum on replacing the first past the post system for the House of Commons does not go far enough.
Whilst I personally believe that there should continue to be a strong link between constituencies and their MP, voters need to be appropriately represented in parliament.
Brown’s proposed Alternative Vote has some strong merits. In Angus, Mike Weir MP was elected with only 33.7% of the vote, so twice as many voters voted against him than for him. Alternative Vote ensures that MPs will have the backing of a majority of their constituency. It will also end tactical voting, by allowing people to vote for the candidate they really want, and not have to worry about blocking a candidate they do not want.
However, this still means that many Angus residents will be represented by someone who was not their first choice. This is the reason that the Liberal Democrats support a Single Transferable Vote in multi member constituencies. To translate that jargon into English, the Lib Dems propose have larger constituencies where there are several MPs and they are voted for in a fully proportional way. STV, like AV means that you vote for the candidates in order of preference.
In Angus, the Council elections already work this way. For parties which have at least some minimum level of support, this means that local people will have at least one representative from the party they voted for. So, for example, in Kirriemuir & Dean, there are 3 councillors, one Liberal Democrat, Alison Andrews and one SNP and one Conservative. This way local people can be comfortable when raising and issue with their local councillor, that they can speak to someone who was their first choice to represent them.
What then of a strong link between an MP and their constituencies? On the one hand, multi member constituencies will still have that link, only the constituency will be larger.
However I personally feel that with a combination of reforming the House of Lords and the House of Commons in a co-ordinated, joined up manner, we can get the best of both worlds. Between the two Houses we can have both single constituency MPs elected by AV, multi member constituencies voted by STV and if necessary, some national or at least regional proportionality.
That is why the House of Lords must be reformed along with the House of Commons. It is incredible that after 13 years and 3 Labour Governments we still have an unelected House of Lords. Few would have believed that was possible back in 1997.
I would also strongly support standardisation of the voting method for UK, Scottish, European and Local elections, so that in all elections, you vote for candidates by order of preference. This will avoid the considerable confusion we currently have of separate voting systems for different elections, sometimes held on the same day. If some proportional element is required, using the top up system used in the Scottish Parliament will be ideal. Personally I am not a fan of voting for a party and feel that voters should always be given the opportunity to vote for an individual to represent them.
With the cold weather returning to Angus over the weekend, I want to remind pensioners that they may be eligible for Cold Weather Payments. However I am disappointed that up to 3,000 pensioners in Angus may miss out on the payment due to the complicated application process.
Cold Weather Payments are due if the temperature drops below zero on seven consecutive days. A payment of £25 is due for each week. Through the cold spell at the beginning of the year, this was triggered 3 times across large parts of Angus.
However, pensioners must have applied for the Pensions Credit to get the payments automatically and current estimates suggest that up to 1/3 of pensioners may not have done so, leaving 3,000 of Angus’s most vulnerable residents unpaid.
It is a scandal that pensioners on the breadline are missing out on these payments. Fuel prices are at an all time high, making Cold Weather Payments all the more important to people already struggling on a poverty pension.
Labour has failed pensioners by creating a complicated system that makes it difficult for them to get the help they desperately need. The Government should be making every effort to identify pensioners who are missing out and get them this extra cash.
Sanjay encouraged pensioners who believe they may be eligible to call their Pensions Office free on 0800 99 1234 or textphone 0800 169 0133. Alternatively they can send a letter to The Pension Service, PO Box 3, Edinburgh, EH91 5AF. Silver surfers can contact them online by clicking here to go to The Pensions Service Contact Form.
Angus residents on other benefits may also be due to receive cold weather payments and they can find out if they are eligible online by clicking here for the Government Direct Website information on Cold Weather Payments or alternatively contact their local Job Centre.
I was very honoured that the Angus Liberal Democrats selected me as the their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate last night. I will be proud to represent them in the forthcoming Westminster General Election.
I am looking forward to hearing from Angus residents about their concerns, campaigning on local issues on their behalf and championing Angus at Westminster.
I believe in strong communities and am secretary of Alyth Community Council and chair of the “Alyth 2020″ committee, consulting residents about the future of their town and how to make best use of a £2.5 million development fund.
If elected, I would be independent minded, responsive to residents’ concerns and will get to the heart of issues quickly. I will always stand up for what I believe is best for Angus residents and businesses.
I will campaign against huge government waste on projects such as the NHS IT programme, which will be 4 years late and a staggering £8 Billion over budget. I will promote children’s welfare, say “No to ID Cards” and support small businesses stifled by red tape and tax rises.
I believe the Angus deserves an MP from a party that offers a genuine change of direction. One that understands how to get us out of recession, is free of the scandal of second home flipping and tax avoidance and has real influence in Westminster.
The Liberal Democrats have won justice for the Gurkhas, presented a fair tax plan that will get us out of recession, bucked 400 years of tradition in calling on the Speaker to resign and launched the debate on our mission in Afghanistan. The Liberal Democrats are the only party that can make a difference at Westminster, on behalf of the people of Angus.
Liberal Democrat PPC for Angus
Angus Liberal Democrats adopted Sanjay Samani in Arbroath on Monday as their prospective parliamentary candidate for the Westminster General Election.
Cllr David May commented “I am delighted that we have adopted Sanjay as he has an excellent record of local campaigning and will be a first class MP who will work hard for all the people in Angus”
Sanjay is married to a Fife girl and has a 3 year old son. He lives in Alyth, where he is Secretary of the Community Council and Chairman of the “Alyth 2020″ committee, consulting residents about the future of their town and how to make best use of a £2.5 million development fund.
A believer in strong local communities, Sanjay gets involved whenever he can, whether on Alyth Community Council, as Chair of Alyth 2020, parading at the local Gala day or demanding local produce in local shops.
Sanjay is independent minded, responsive to others and gets to the heart of issues quickly. He is always willing to stand up for what he believes in. Working hard for his community and business customers he has promoted innovative, unconventional solutions at work; blogged for customer rights and championed residents’ concerns with the Council.
His political goals are to eliminate Government waste, improve children’s welfare and tackle environmental damage. He has campaigned hard on huge budget overruns in the NHS IT system, and called for scrapping expensive projects doomed to failure, such as the National ID scheme.
As a small business owner himself, he is fully aware of the pressures they face when stifled by red tape and tax increases by a government hostile to small businesses.
Having worked in the high pressure environment of the City, Sanjay will comfortably manage the demands of being an MP. As a Project Manager, overseeing multi-million pound budgets, he needed to motivate colleagues, ease tensions and handle constantly changing and conflicting requirements. His time in the City has given him a rare insight into the current recession.