Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tuition Fees, NUS and political point scoring

Throughout this article, I intend to make clear what I see are the facts on this highly debated topic of current affairs. I will begin with the facts, starting with party manifestos of 2010.

Facts of party manifestos:
The Labour Party manifesto said this about the Browne report into Higher Education funding:

"The review of higher education funding chaired by Lord Browne will report later this year. Our aim is to continue the expansion of higher education, widening access still further, while ensuring that universities and colleges have a secure, long-term funding base that protects world-class standards in teaching and research."

The Conservative Party manifesto said this about Browne report into Higher Education funding:
"We will await Lord Browne's final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to: increase social mobility; take into account the impact on student debt; ensure a properly funded university sector; improve the quality of teaching; advance scholarship; and attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.We will review support for part-time students in terms of loans and fees.We will publish more information about the costs, graduate earnings and student satisfaction of different university courses.We will ensure that public funding mechanisms for university research safeguard its academic integrity."

The Liberal Democrats manifesto said this about Browne report into Higher Education funding:
"Scrap unfair tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, including those studying part-time saving them over £10,000 each. We have a financially responsible plan to phase fees out over 6 years, so that the change is affordable even in these difficult economic times, and without cutting university income. We will immediately scrap fees for final year students."

The Green party manifesto said this about Browne report into Higher Education funding: 
"Phase in the abolition of student tuition fees in higher education."

The UK Indpedence party manifesto said this about Browne report into Higher Education funding: 
"UKIP believes the introduction of tuition fees and loans has been a retrogressive step. How many of those of us who benefited from a grant would have had second thoughts about further education if we had known we would be saddled with such a large debt on leaving university? In 2009, the BBC estimated that students who started University that year could expect to graduate with a debt of £23,000 with the Government spending five billion on student support. The UK Independence Party intends to restore student grants in the form of ‘Student Vouchers’ for a substantial element of student costs, particularly tuition fees (rather than living costs).
Our proposals will result in fewer students than at present spending so long in full-time education. Therefore extra funding will be available which, over a period of time, will enable the student loans scheme to be replaced by grants, and the Student Loan Company can be scrapped. Considerable additional finance will become available when Britain leaves the European Union, and no longer has to fund large numbers of  non-UK EU students at British universities. Indeed, the number of EU students at UK Universities has risen from 91,000 in 2007 to 112,150 in 2008. Under EU laws in a ‘country called Europe’ it is illegal for UK universities to prioritise UK students. Also, instead of having to pay the full overseas student fees of between £8,000 and £20,000 per year, these, non-UK EU students only need to find the £3,000 top-up fee. Like British students they are eligible for a student loan to cover this and, so far, little attempt has been made to trace foreign students once they leave the UK to recover these loans. Indeed, Boris Johnston asks in the Daily Telegraph if ‘we are really going to pay to send British tax officials tramping up dusty tracks in Sicily or knocking on doors in Warsaw to find out whether or not a former EU student at a UK university is earning
more than £15,000?’24. From the 2008 figure, the UK would have gained £1.12 billion extra by charging EU students the overseas rate after leaving the EU."

The Scottish National party manifesto said this about Browne report into Higher Education funding:
"In the year ahead, Scottish students will get new financial support, with a £30 million package to increase their income through grants and loans. The SNP will not introduce tuition fees or top up fees and will oppose any changes in english fees arrangements that have the knock on effect of reducing funding for Scotland through the Barnett formula, as we have done previously."

The Plaid Cymru party manifesto said this about Browne report into Higher Education funding:
"We will not support any further increases in tuition fees, and will seek the abolition of tuition fees as and when public finances allow."

Facts of who signed the pledge:
265 out of 631 (42.0%) Labour Candidates signed the NUS pledge to keep the cap
17 out of 631 (2.69%) Conservative Candidates signed the NUS pledge to keep the cap
531 out of 631 (84.2%) Liberal Democrat Candidates signed the NUS pledge to keep the cap
313 out of 330 (94.8%) Green Candidates signed the NUS pledge to keep the cap
259 out of 572 (45.3%) UKIP Candidates signed the NUS pledge to keep the cap
50 out of 59 SNP (84.7%) Candidates signed the NUS pledge to keep the cap
10 out of 40 (25%) Plaid Cymru Candidates signed the NUS pledge to keep the cap

Facts on how many MPs signed the Pledge:
92 out of 258 (35.7%) Labour MPs signed the pledge
3 out 306 (0.980%) Conservative MPs signed the pledge
57 out of 57 (100%) Liberal Democrat MPs signed the pledge1 out of 1 (100%) Green MPs signed the pledge
1 out of 3 (33.3%) SDLP MPs signed the pledge
0 out of 6 (0%) SNP MPs signed the pledge
0 out of 3 (0%) Plaid Cymru MPs signed the pledge
0 out of 5 (0%) Sinn Fein MPs signed the pledge
0 out of 8 (0%) DUP MPs signed the pledge
0 out of 1 (0%) Alliance MPs signed the pledge
0 out of 1 (0%) Speaker signed the pledge (NB: the speaker cannot vote unless there is a tie)
0 out of 1 (0%) Independent MPs (Sylvia Hermon) signed the pledge
154 out of 650 MPs (23.7%)  from all parties signed the pledge

So if one were to rank parties in the race for which party would be the greatest supporter of stopping any rise in tuition fees, the results would look something like this:

1st Place: Liberal Democrats, for all of its elected MPs as pledge signatories
2nd Place: Green Party, for gettin of its elected MPs as pledge signatories, but were pipped by not having as many MPs as the Lib Dems
3rd Place: Labour, although they got the most MPs elected signed, NUS could only convince 35.7% of its MPs to support keeping the cap. Well to give Labour some credit, it is a 0.5% improvement on the vote for them in 2005 general election.
4th Place: Conservative Party, the less said the better
5th Place: SDLP, so close to coming 4th, and could have easily come second if NUS had convinced all their MPs to sign up to the pledge. Now wouldn't that have been embarrassing for Labour!

But hold on for a moment, nobody wins a majority of MPs, so what happens, after 5 days of talks the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives form a Coalition Government.

What does the Coaltion document say on Tuition Fees and the Browne Report?
"We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to: increase social mobility; take into account the impact on student debt; ensure a properly funded university sector; improve the quality of teaching; advance scholarship; and attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote. We will review support for part-time students in terms of loans and fees. We will publish more information about the costs, graduate earnings and student satisfaction of different university courses. We will ensure that public funding mechanisms for university research safeguard its academic integrity."

The crucial sentence in that report is: "If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote."

Currently there are 650 MPs
640MPs have the opportunity to vote (5 Sinn Fein refuse to sit in the Commons, 1 Speaker, 2 Deputy Speakers (1 from Labour and the Conservatives each) and 2 tellers, again 1 each)
So in order to reach a majority (assuming everyone votes), the government needs 321.
The Conservatives have 305 voting MPs, 3 of which have already declared they will stick to the pledge, and since renewed that pledge. This gives the Conservatives a total possible of 302 in support.
Labour have 256 voting MPs. Harriet Harman suggested strongly in Prime Minister's Questions on 10/11/10 that Labour would fight against the government proposal on fees, but no party line has been visably formally set, and the Labour Party website has no declaration either way as such, so we cannot be sure as to what their stance is. Assuming the 92 stick to their pledge vote against, that still leaves 164 unaccounted for.
The Liberal Democrats have 57MPs all of which have signed the pledge. 5 of which are now in the cabinet, and are probably going to vote with the government. 20 are junior ministers or PPS' meaning they if they vote against the government, they must resign. Both sets have the principle of collective responsibility applied to them. the remaining 32 MPs will probably have a free vote, but most will either abstain or vote against.
Plaid, SNP, SDLP, Alliance, Green and Independent MPs will either abstain or vote against, in line with their party's manifestos, even though no Plaid, SNP, Alliance or Independent MP signed the pledge. The DUP however, might vote for it, as they are closely alleigned politically with the Conservatives.

So we have a
probable 307 for, with another possible 8 for.
a probable 141 against, with another possible 184 against.

This gives us:
315 for a rise
325 against a rise
640 total

Anyone who has read or seen any coverage of NUS's view on fees will note that their main target has been the Liberal Democrats. This would be understandable, if one could be sure that Labour are going to vote against any rise whatsoever, along with the rest of the opposition parties, as taking even as many as 32 Lib Dem MPs to vote with the opposition (assuming all the opposition MPs are voting against the matter), would give the following vote result (assuming all MPs actively take a stance):

20 LD PPS' abstaining
8 DUP unknown voting intention.

However, NUS has recently launched a 'right to recall' campaign, in which it urges people to pledge not to vote for any MP who votes to scrap the EMA, and who votes for higher fees. The petition of getting voters to pledge that they will not vote for their MP if their MP votes for those two things to occur, would be spot on IF it was not done under the headline banner of 'right to recall'.

The whole point in the right to recall pledge made by the Lib Dems, is that it allows constituents to call for a by-election if they believe their MP has be involved in "serious wrongdoing." A video, even on NUS's own website advertises the DPM Nick Clegg declaring that legislation on this will be brought forth in the New Year, yet above this video, NUS is already declaring that the Liberal Democrats have broken their promise on bringing forth this right for the people. I hope you see the slight hypocrisy by NUS in stating this claim and then having such a clip of Nick Clegg.
The other factor is, and this is still undetermined, what constitutes as "serious wrongdoing?" If it was what NUS are suggestion, and is merely a broken promise, then how does could it work? MPs are elected by their constituents on a cross basis of what national (or Federal in the case of the Lib Dems) party they belong to, and its respective promises, what regional party they belong to (or national in the cases of the Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish Parties) and its respective promises, as well as then the local party, and the local needs of the constituents to which the MP stands for and may even write as a manifesto of his or her own. Often, the various levels can conflict, and while it may be in the national interest for say, a Coal Power Station to open in the hills of Powys, it may not be in the interest of the people of Montgomeryshire and Brecon and Radnorshire to have it because it would destroy the countryside there, as well as pollute it. While it may be the party's UK/federal manifesto, it may be against the view of the MPs there and the Welsh section of their party.
Equally, as what has happened this year, MPs sign up to a pledge on behalf of a pressure group like NUS, and then enter into a coalition, where politicies have to be traded off in order to form an agreement for government? MPs on all sides of the chamber signed the pledge. Conservative party policy before and after the coaltion was formed, was to see what the Browne review recommended. Liberal Democrat policy, changed between the two to allow MPs to abstain if they did not like the recommendations of the Browne review, and the government's response to it. Conservative party policy is now clear post-Browne review, 9k fees. But what happens to the three Tories who declared they will stick to their NUS plege, but yet at the same time, they break their party's manifesto pledge, to which they effectively signed in accepting the Conservative Party's name next to their's on the ballot paper, and the pledge that they agreed to as part of the Coalition document. Which pledge do they break? And which one counts as serious wrongdoing, if they are broken? Do both count?
In this blogger's view, an MP should always do what is right for their constituents by serving them first and foremost, and the only call for serious wrongdoing would be a breach of Parliamentary standards/regulations or the law.
The second, and perhaps more poinient flaw in their call for people and students to pledge to declare that they will sign the following:

If my MP votes for higher university tuition fees, I want them recalled, and I pledge not to vote for them at the next General Election.
If my MP votes to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), I want them recalled, and I pledge not to vote for them at the next General Election
Is that only 154 MPs signed the pledge in the first place, so how can any of the remaining 496MPs do anything close to 'serious wrongdoing' no matter which way they vote? And therefore, why should any of those MPs face any sort of challenge under the logic of a recall? Yes, you may not like which way one of those 496MPs vote on the issue of fees (if one so happens to be your MP), but then again, I'm sure you could find another fellow constituent, that is as irate as you about a completely different matter. In either case, what makes you think that now you should have the right to get rid of them before the next general election, compared to previously?

I would also like to point out briefly, that while the Lib Dems have not got their way on the cost of uni, they have got their way in the proposal on everything else in their manifesto for student funding. This includes removing part-time students from paying upfront fees, which can only be good for part-time students. There was also some agreement with the Conservative party manifesto on this matter, but nothing from the Labour Party manifesto.

It is clear from the past that out of the UK's 3 largest parties (in terms of MPs), and Plaid Cymru, the Conservative Party is the only party not to have broken, or to have had any suggestion of a breech, of their party's manifesto promise on fees. Labour breeched their manifesto pledge of 1997 in 97/98, and their 2001 manifesto pledge in 2004/5, Plaid breeched their Welsh Assembly manifesto pledge of 2007 as a result of coalition with Labour in 2009. It has been suggested that MPs will break their pledge, but it remains to be seen as yet. 

On a regional/national note, the Scottish Liberal Democrats managed to abolish fees for Scottish students altogther, and hold off from top-up fees for other students, in Scotland as part of their coalition deal with Labour in the early part of this decade. This was part of the Scottish Liberal Democrats' manifesto.

My view has, and always will be for the foreseeable future, anti-fees. I also believe that NUS is right to campaign against the raising of fees to 9k, however I feel part of their rhetoric and the way they are going about it, is slightly mis-directed, and clearly too partisan, especially when you have the NUS Wales President, Katie Dalton, who is partisan personally, praising the Liberal Democrat MP for Ceredigion Mark Williams, for his efforts, and his clear stance against 9k fees. This is an example of how uniting across party lines is the way forward on issues. I praise both of them on this topic for their cross party efforts.
This is the situation, and the facts as I see it.

Thank-you for reading.

The sources I used were:
BBC News Website
NUS Website and their list of vote for student MPs as of 04/05/10
Political Party Manifestoes from their individual party websites.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Yes people, its that time of the year, when journalists travel around the country, and spend lots of their company's money on chatting to and viewing various parties in action, its CONFERENCE SEASON!

First up of the big UK parties, its the Lib Dems. Now for those of you who know me well, and know what I am like, Conference to me, is a culmination of all of the eccentric aspects of Matt King, rolled into one, at once place and at one time. BARGAIN!

First, however I am going to start off with the negative, cost. Now sadly these things cost. Cost of entry, accommodation and transportation. My personal best on transportation was Brighton 07. Door to door, return I spent less than £13! My rail ticket was a disgustingly cheap £10.60 each way. Young-person's discount of course, and then there was the connecting bus on the way bk from Temple Meads, as I was not gonna hang around for over an hr for a connecting train to Sea Mills, a journey that takes 20mins once the train is leaving BTM. This year, its a little bit further to go, and because I only realised i could just about afford it, I thought, what the hey, I'll treat myself, as I haven't been to a single Lib Dem Conference in over a year and half. So through virtues of the internet, I worked out that it was cheaper to go by public transport, and that going on a MegaBus to manchester, and then grab a connecting train from Piccadilly, would get me there for a reasonable price, around the £13 mark. On the way back, its train all the way, changing at Birmingham. Now if i had booked this as a single ticket, it would cost me £30-61, booking at two tickets cost a little less than £17. That my friends is what they call a bobby dazzler!
The next cost is conference itself. Now, the early bird booking is before the 28th July. I didn't know then if I was going to be employed at that stage, and so couldn't book as I couldn't know if i could be classed as a claimant or not. Since I did not get the Derby Job, and York have not corresponded with me at all, I know that do qualify to be a claiment, so that cost is £34. For that, I get, well you'll see.

So, moving onto the positives. WO! Hold your horses Matt, what about accommodation? What is that gonna cost you this year? Well dear readers, this year it will cost me £0, zilch, zip, nowt, nothing. How come? Well, I have a family friend who lives in Liverpool, who other than being a brainy Dr, good looking, charming, and just as much of a chatterbox as I am, is also a saint for offering me this virtue. So there's the first positive of the week.
The second one is, its conference. It a collection of several thousand lib dems all in one place. I shall say no more on that.
The third, all the food and drinks at all the fringe meetings, is, well quite frankly, complimentary. BARGAIN! I am a man who is known for loving food, is known for loving drinks, and is known for loving free stuff. Here I have three for the price of, well, none! I am what is known as a proud fringe-troffer! (See for details. NB: if the link is not clickable, just copy and paste into the address bar of your browser)
the fourth and final positive, conference for the Lib Dems is where we make our policy, where we outline who we are and what we stand for, and while for the first time in years, I shan't be a voting rep, I shall still be letting my representatives know how I feel on each of the policies up for debate, and I shall probably put in the odd speakers card for things too.

My fifth and final reason for loving conference is, its a break from all mundane aspects of normal life, its like a holiday that you do important stuff on, and hopefully, and although i don't like the its not what you know... philosophy, I will hopefully find someone who is in need of someone like me for a job!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Elections and their consequences

Now we all know how we felt about the 2010 election 6 months ago. The UK was entering into new territory and unfamiliar ground. All the polls were predicting it was going to be a close race, and the extra publicity the election received and the, shall we say, interesting tactics used by some candidates displayed both fear and hope about what they thought was to come. In this blog, I am going to touch upon my views about the different aspects this election brought us, and taught us about UK political life, and to finish off, I will ponder about what I think is in store for the future of UK politics.

I will start with the newest of election features, The Prime Ministerial Debates.
Now, whoever you supported, even if you were undecided, right til election day, the UK has been waiting a long time for our system to catch up with the US, and have these as part of our election season. While they were a good move I am going to address the main contentious issue regarding the debates that was especially relevant to the seat I was voting in, Ceredigion, and that is who should be allowed to have a platform at the debates?
My response is this: any leader of any party that theoretically can form government based on the number of candidates that stand across the UK. It is my view that any party who can field a majority of candidates in the 4 constituent nations across the UK (ie half +1 of all the seats in England, half +1 of all the seats in Wales, and half +1 of all the seats in Scotland, and for NI, have an NI party in alliance to field half +1 there, or themselves) should be allowed to have their party leader at the debates. Why, not have just half +1 across the UK? Because that neglects the devolution rules of the UK where powers are separately held for these regions, and you would have English only parties debating over NI, Wales and Scotland, which would not be right or fair to the people of those lands. It is also why I back the decision by the BBC not to allow the SNP or Plaid in on their debates. Why? Because they will never have a leader who will be PM of the UK, until they stand in seats outside Scotland or Wales.
Now this many mean having a leader from the BNP or UKIP, or the English Democrats, or the Christian Alliance, etc etc, or all of the above. While those parties in all realistic terms have no chance of forming government any time soon, it is not right to shut them out in the manner we did, because it firms up the belief of the wider UK population that UK politics is only for a political elite, and not for the whole nation. Its about being democratic and open to the people, and defeating people like the BNP on the basis of argument, logic and reasoning, and not because you don't like them. The best way to defeat a weaker argument is to do it in the debating arena.

Now the trouble with the national debates, is the differing laws of the devolution settlements. I believe it is right for the parliamentary debates not to debate on laws they cannot change in those areas, but equally not to debate on how such areas of law will effect England by their own policies. They are setting out to be PM of the UK, and so in all such debates, there should only be policies debated that are relevant to the entire of the UK. This is where I think there should be a fourth debate over England only issues. What about NI Wales and Scotland? They should have 1 debate with members of the devolved assemblies reflecting on how each of the leaders' policies in the UK PM debates would reflect them, and how it would work, also what is best for the people of their area.

I see the theme of the whole debate structure should be about equal treatment to parties, and fair representation of what will effect the voters, being shown to them. I also think that at the beginning of each debate, the voting system should be explained, so that voters know how this relates to what they will do on polling day. I also feel that sky should have shown their debate on freeview.

The fear of a Hung Parliament
A hung parliament on the type of scale that we were expecting has not been seen since the emergence of the Labour Party as a strong political force almost 100 years ago. The last time the UK had a coalition government, was during the years of the great depression and WWII when Labour and the Tories worked together. The last time a general election produced any form of a Hung Parliament was February 1974 when Harold Wilson formed a loose Alliance with the Liberals and the Lib-Lab Pact was signed. Wilson then called an election for October 1974, and Labour gained a very slim majority. This was at the time when Labour was labour, and defended the working classes. It just so happened that they needed the Liberals throughout the 5 year term as 3-day weeks occurred, there was an Oil Crisis, the speed limit was reduced to 50mph to conserve fuel, and the party lost enough by-elections to make it a minority Government once again.
My prediction was that the Tories and Labour were going to be closer than they were, and that if they were both shy of 300 seats, a coalition was going to have to be formed. The day after the election, when it was clear that the Tories got more, and the Lib Dems actually lost seats, I thought anything could happened, that is except for a Labour led government, because it would simply be too weak. Labour had 258 Seats, Lib Dems had 57 seats. Add the two together and you get 315, which is 6 seats shy of a working majority, and 11 seats shy of an actual majority. This government would require the support of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, but still leaving it requiring 2 of the following: Green (1), SDLP (3), DUP (8), Alliance (1), Independent (1), to form a government with an actual majority. Well, DUP, traditionally ally with the Tories, so that leaves a government with Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid, and the SNP, with a maximum majority of 5 seats, and needing to satisfy the needs of a minimum of 5 parties, and a maximum of 9. A cabinet usually has 25 members max. While I really love the idea of all of those parties working together, If any one of them decided to join the opposition, it weakens the whole thing dramatically, or if that government had lost 5 by-elections in that term, which is highly possible. In fact, by-elections would be highly volatile, especially if it was for a former minister's seat.
As we saw, Labour had no enthusiasm to form any sort of agreement with the Lib Dems, which threw the whole option of a rainbow coalition out of the water.
The options left were either a Tory minority government, or a Tory led Coalition. The first political move to happen on May 7th was for Cameron to offer a full Coalition with the Lib Dems. After a few days of talks, there was progress, but the natural party allies of the Lib Dems, are Labour, so the Lib Dems opened up negotiations with Labour. As I said earlier, Labour seemed disinterested, and the Tories offered further to add the agreement electoral and political reform, a huge part of Lib Dem goals for the party. This was agreed, not to the full extent that the Lib Dems wanted but it was agreed.
What was offered, was a shared legislative agenda, the Lib Dems, had made in-rodes to moving the point of entering tax £1000 closer to their target of £10k, they had got reform of the house of lords to be elected proportionally, they had got fixed term parliaments, and a Referendum on the AV-system. There was more, but also, the Lib Dems were to have 5 Cabinet Ministers, and 15 additional junior ministerial roles in Government. The MPs and Federal Executive met and voted upon it. The result was clear, a coalition it was. When the Lib Dems had their Special Conference, I was there, and this time, I voted for coalition. Why? Because I felt that for a party who wants to move the country to a voting system where one party government is not the rule but the exception, the party would have effectively shot itself in the foot, in not forming some sort of agreement with one of the parties. I felt it was an agenda that reflected a fair share of both parties' policy based on the results of the election. Yes this means I disagreed with most of it, as it wasn't what I had wanted out of a governmental agenda for the election, but it was the closest the Lib Dems were going to get of their manifesto as governmental policy as possible considering the situation. Also considering how uneasy the markets were at a Hung Parliament, it was better for the markets that stable government be formed, to which this was the only option. Those of you who know, will know that I went to Welsh Special Conference in 2007 on the formation of a Coalition with Plaid and the Tories. My view speaking, (despite heckles), and my vote was no, because I did not believe the moral authority was there for the Lib Dems to be part of such a Coalition. I felt that for the Assembly consensus politics, was and still is a viable option, as the SNP have shown in Hollyrood.

The Election Online + Registration rules
Every party had witness Obama's revolutionising of engaging the internet through the medium of social media like never before. This election was also true with groups and pages springing up all over the place on different issues, partisan or otherwise. Combined with that the new Electoral registration rules that weren't in effect for 2005, allowed people to register up to 11 days before. This benefitted the youth vote more than any other age group, and the result was a massive upsurge in turnout for the 18-24 bracket. Engaging young people in Democracy is fundamental for their education about their future. Sadly we saw election officials impose illegal segregation in polling stations, lining up students in one line and other residents in another. This also led to some not being able to vote. I would like to applaud those Polling Station Officials who initiated lock ins, allowing those who had arrived before 10pm to vote; the time at which polling stations must close by law. It is no-one's fault if there is a queue at any time, least of all the voter's fault, and therefore the last thing that should occur is to deny the voter their democratic right.

The Future
Well, one thing is certain, the outcome of this week's election Court in Oldham East, is going to be one for the history books, regardless of which way the decision goes. It is a first in 99 years, and therefore the very first to take place when the entire nation of adults has been enfranchised. For those of you who know your history of Representation of the People Acts (I thought there would be a few of you), it was in 1918 that women over 30 got the vote, and all remaining men yet to be given the vote, to the age of 21 and over were granted this right. In 1928 all women to the age of 21 were granted the right to vote, and then in 1969, the voting age for both sexes was reduced to 18. I look forward to seeing where this court ruling will take us as a nation.
TV debates are here to stay I believe, and I think all parties in Westminster who have more than 1 MP should be following the Labour Party's example with televised debates. I hope to see at least 4 parties having platforms in both Scotland and Wales in 2011, and hopefully at least 5 in NI, providing there is no safety concerns of course.
I hope I have voted in my last Westminster election by the means of FPTP, and the country moves to AV come 2015. I also believe that unless you are pro FPTP, you should vote for AV, even if you would prefer something else like STV or AMS or pure PR. Why? Because the anti-reformers will say that if the AV vote is lost, then the nation clearly does not want electoral reform now, and the issue will be dead for 30 years, and no other progress will be made to make our system more open, accountable, and fairer to the people of this nation until the next referendum comes along.
Hung Parliaments, well, i prefer them to elective dictatorships, and in reforming the voting system i also hope we can reform the whip system as well to make an MP's constituents their main influence on how they vote on Bills and not their Party holding that power.

Thank-you for reading