River Wissey Lovell Fuller


June 2005

Rn takes a jaundice view of the recent election


With so much written and said about the election I hesitated to add my pennyworth but since I didn't have any other thing to moan about this month I have done so.

Certainly we have the same old situation as always where we have an all powerful government elected by a minority of the electorate, even a minority of the voters. The actual figures were 36.2% Labour, 33.2% Conservative and 22.6% Lib. Dems. How can we claim to be a true democracy? With the exception of North Norfolk it is also true that in every Norfolk parliamentary constituency more people voted against the successful candidate than voted for him. It is high time that we had some form of electoral reform. Tony Blair promised that when he first campaigned to be elected but has conveniently put it on the back burner ever since. I am not sure that the alternative of proportional representation applied in a simple manner is the correct way forward since I fear that it might result in a weak government with endless parliamentary debate over every move. It might also lead to the end of an M.P. being identified with a particular constituency. Some form of alternative or transferrable voting system seems preferable to me in which we all vote for all the candidates in an order of preference. In that way we could be sure of avoiding a situation where we obtained an M.P. that the majority would have put as their very last choice.

Another aspect of this election that bothers me is the way in which the present system results in the outcome for the majority of constituencies being predictable in advance. This produces a situation where the overall result is determined by the results from a small number of constituencies and those results depend on the decisions by a few thousand uncommitted voters. So when it comes down to it, the government that we get is actually determined by a tiny proportion of the electorate. The consequence of this is evident in many constituencies where, when the result is seen as a foregone conclusion, very little effort is put into canvassing for votes and the turnout is very low.

It is not only electoral reform that is needed: Reform of the House of Lords was promised and is much talked about but nothing much happens. The position and status of the Royal family should be reconsidered. We are to be asked to vote on a European constitution but it is high time we had a constitution for the UK, we have muddled along without a proper constitution for far too long. The legal system is in need of overhaul. And there is a need for some review of the manner in which the power and immense wealth of some people is inherited by generation after generation, probably going back to the time when the land was seized by the Normans. Such matters should be very high on the agenda for political debate, especially at the time of an election, but it is not surprising that they are not.

A political matter that should be of concern to all of us is the way in which central government is dictating to the regions the number of homes that are to be built. This may not be unreasonable since there appears to be a genuine shortage of homes, and certainly the rate of building around Ely, Lynn and Downham is remarkable, but what is being done to cope with the consequences of this rapid growth in population? Are we getting the extra schools, doctors surgeries, hospital beds, local services, car parking spaces, improved roads etc? There is not a lot of evidence of that. If central government is going to dictate housing developments it should also takes its share of the responsibility for providing the necessary support services. You would have thought that these matters would have been of concern to any prospective parliamentary candidate, but I did not hear them mentioned. I know that Gillian Shephard was concerned and would have strived to ensure that the building expansion was supported with an improving infrastructure, let us hope that Christopher Fraser will take a similar line, whoever he is. Where does he come from does anyone know? I never saw much effort on the part of any of our candidates to encourage me to vote for them. It is a pity that Marion Clarke did not stand, on the basis of the outline of her manifesto in last month's Village Pump she would get my vote.

Soft on Crime

Continuing my theme of the failure to pass sentences on offenders that will deter others: Did you see the report on the case of the 19 year old driver who crashed his car causing 'horrific facial injuries' to a young girl? He was well over the limit for alcohol and he was driving without insurance. It transpired also that he had been convicted of drink driving in 2003 and had recently completed a 'drink drivers rehabilitation course'. What a joke that is! What sentence did he get? -- a 200 hour community punishment order, a three year driving disqualification (Will he obey that and what punishment will he incur if he does not?) plus £60 costs. What would the insurance premium have been for a 19 year old with a previous drink driving conviction?

Road Safety

It was good to see our editor drawing attention to the continuing carnage on our roads. Most of these 'accidents' are the result of bad and irresponsible driving by a minority, most of us see evidence of this every week. Harsher punishments could deter others and might help reduce this tragic loss of life. It is also true that between 60% and 70% of all fatal accidents occur on roads outside of towns, other than motorways, mostly on single carriageway roads. Since that covers most of the driving experience that we have in this area it is clear that we need to be particularly careful and vigilant.

It is disappointing to see that we still have so much objection to, and complaints about, speed cameras. One can debate the suitability of speed limits in some locations but, as long as those speed limits are there, they should be obeyed, especially in our villages. The cameras are there to try to ensure that speed limits are respected. If you get caught it is your own fault.

Ron Watts

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