Friday, August 29, 2014

How To Prevent Change

A few years ago, we had a referendum on changing the voting system (the so-called Alternate Vote). This returned a "no" vote, putting the idea of changing the voting system to bed for a generation.

A few years before that, the north of England had a referendum on a form of devolution for the region. This returned a "no" vote, putting the idea of devolution for the north of England to bed for a generation.

In both cases the people were asked, they said "no", the end. Any further discussions on the topic inevitably meet with the response that we had a referendum, it wasn't wanted, so why are we still having this discussion?

Here's the thing: the Alternate Vote was a terrible compromise. Indeed, it was sufficiently bad that even people who passionately wanted change to the voting system felt forced to vote against it because, while it was change, it manifestly wasn't change for the better.

Likewise, the form of devolution offered to the north of England wasn't the same as that enjoyed in Scotland, or even in Wales (where the Assembly has far less power and influence than up here). It was an offer, certainly, but it was a bad offer.

So that's how it's done: if you want to be seen to be responsive to people's calls for change, but don't want to actually change, engineer matters so they do get a choice - do they want the status quo, or do they want this horrible compromise alternative that you've fought hard to win for them?

(Incidentally, this post comes about following a guy from the Campaign for an English Parliament appearing on Good Morning Scotland this morning. He was, alas, talking about something else, and was therefore talking mince, but his core point is a good one - there almost certainly should be some measure of devolution for the English regions, especially if Scotland votes No, and double-especially if the UK government then really does grant significant extra powers to the Scottish government. Though it does need to be the English regions - the needs of the north are significantly different from those of the south-east, so simply having a single body for the whole wouldn't really help much.)

Of course, there's also a corollary to this: if you want change, then you should probably vote for the change that is offered, even if it's a bad one. Because once you've achieved some change then it's easier to get good change, while rejecting the change you can get will make it that much harder to get the change that you want.

#44: "Pathfinder: Fires of Creation", by Neil Spicer
#45: "The Ocean at the End of the Lane", by Neil Gaiman

1 comment:

Kezzie said...

Interesting points and yes you're totally right x