I have just finished the London Assembly AGM where once again a Lib Dem/Labour/Green stitch up has excluded Conservatives from all the key positions. None of us on the Tory side lose any sleep over this, it is what we have come to expect but it is a timely warning as we consider how we plan to vote in tomorrow’s AV referendum.
The Yes to AV campaign spend a lot of their time (and a lot of ERS money) talking about fairness in the electoral system. But what is fairness? Is it fair that the political party which traditionally comes in a distant third at the London Assembly elections gains effective control of the body to which they are elected? I would suggest that it isn’t.
Since the London Assembly was created the Conservatives have been the electorally most successful party, we have always had the largest number of members and the largest share of the vote. One would have thought that under the quasi PR system that we were elected the popular will of London voters would be taken into account. Far from it.
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As these two graphs show not only has control of the assembly not gone with the flow of public opinion but a perverse situation has occurred where Chairmanship of the Assembly has regularly gone to the party that has come third. Through post election, back-room deal-making the Lib Dems have turned their 16% of support into 50% of the Chairmanships.
Clearly the Chairmanship of the Assembly is not the only key position at City Hall, much of the direction and tone of the Assembly’s work is driven by the committee chairs but the situation is even worse when the Chaimanships of the key Assembly committees is analysed. The Transport Committee, Budget Committee and Economic Development committee scrutinise the Mayor’s largest spending areas and have been chaired by either the Lib Dems or Labour for 89% of the time since the Assembly was created.
The message that one can take from this is that it really doesn’t matter who wins, who comes second or who comes a distant third, the Lib Dems are the winners. I don’t really blame the London Lib Dem leadership for what is a poke in the eye to the London electors, they have always tried to negotiate the best position that they can, what I blame is the skewed electoral system which give such disproportionate power to a party with so little electoral support.
If you want to see the reality of the political landscape post a Yes to AV vote look no further than the London Assembly.