Byline: Julie Morgan
TODAY marks the celebration of the International Day of Democracy, established in 2007 by the UN General Assembly to be marked every September 15. As such it seems a good day to look at democracy in this country, after a year when expenses and scandals have shaken the image of Parliament, and to list some of the changes I would like to see that I feel would improve our democracy and make it more representative of the people it serves.
The first change I would like to see is the introduction of a voting system that makes more and better use of proportional representation. Our current, first past the post, system is certainly one that works and that produces stable governments with generally workable majorities. However, it is fundamentally unfair. How can it be reasonable that when the Conservative Party consistently polled approximately 20% of the vote in Wales at both the 1997 and 2001 Westminster elections it failed to have a single MP elected from a Welsh constituency? Proportional Representation is often presented as being something that would favour Labour and other left-of-centre parties.
However, it is worth remembering that in Wales it would favour the Conservatives more than anyone. This may seem to go against the interests of Labour, the party I represent, but it seems to me that some form of proportional representation is the only way to ensure that we have a truly representative democracy. Another argument used against proportional reppeople resentation is that it would allow small parties such as the BNP to gain seats, and gain legitimacy, whilst allowing them to play kingmaker in coalitions. The first thing to say about this is that some other states which use a proportional representation system impose a cap, meaning that a party must gain a certain proportion of votes - say 5% - before it gains seats. However, the second point is that are voting for parties like the BNP - as we saw in the European elections - and we must confront and challenge their policies. Democracy is about tolerance and we must use it to confront prejudice and bigotry wherever it is found. I would like to see a referendum about a form of proportional representation held at the same time as the next election.
Secondly, I would also like to see greater representation for both women and black and minority ethnic people in our democratic institutions. Currently, women are poorly represented in Parliament but things have improved immeasurably since 20 years ago. The use by Labour of all-women shortlists and twinning seats has allowed women to really make their mark in Westminster. However, things have stalled and seem to be backsliding. In the Assembly, though, things are much better. Indeed it was the first legislative body anywhere in the world to have equal numbers of men and women. Black and minority ethnic people are also very badly represented in Parliament and …