Putting forward the case for political reform

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Everyone can see from this General Election result that there is a big change happening in the political landscape.

The two main parties, Conservatives and Labour, have dominated the political scene for decades, but now we are witnessing a resurgent number of many smaller parties jockeying for positions of influence.

Despite the surprise Tory victory of gaining a small overall majority over all other parties I see the result shows that multi-party politics is here to stay with all its imperfections unless there is a will to change the system by the government in power.

Many will question the need for change when the “first past the post” system has worked so well in the past. Well, it may have worked well in the past but it is doubtful it will always be the case.

An example of how skewed the present unfair political system is can be seen where 3.86m votes produces one UKIP MP compared to 26,000 votes for every SNP MP.

The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have similarly have been affected by this result.

We cannot carry on with the old system of elections where the minor parties get a disproportionate share of the votes cast.

Proportional representation has to be adopted whatever system is decided to be used. The reason for this misrepresentation is because the concentration of support is never spread equally across the country.

The UK voting system was designed for a time when people voted for two parties. What we see now is grossly unfair and bad for democracy.

We need political reform that more fairly represents voters’ intentions. Sadly though I cannot see the Tories embracing such reform whilst the possibility exists that their party can win an overall majority, but the pressure is undoubtedly on for change.

It is all change in Rother District Council too. The prominence of the Tories remains the main feature of the election with their party now having 31 councillors with the Liberal Democrats reduced to just two.

Perhaps there is a similar case for local councils to change the voting system but the chances I guess for that to happen are highly unlikely as turkeys do not vote for Christmas!

However, there is a need for more power to be devolved to Town and Parish Councils. It was this apparent need that brought about the formation of the Campaign for a Democratic Rye ten years ago.

It fought to see created a system of Area Committees as had been adopted by many councils in England.

The group fought long and hard, but its efforts fell on deaf ears with neither Rother District Council nor the parishes showing any enthusiasm for such a radical change.

Eventually local support waned, and the Group realised it was never likely to succeed, certainly not for the foreseeable future, and the Group earlier this year decided to dissolve.

Meanwhile the Rye Neighbourhood Plan has now taken centre stage, and I join others in supporting its efforts to see it taken forward and approved.

Perhaps this will be a half way stage to greater autonomy for Rye in the future.

Rye Town Council sees a new intake of councillors following the Town and Parish elections on the 7th May.

As has been reported I have retired from the council after serving 16 years. During that time I have seen many changes.

My main interest had always been to seek better traffic management in Rye, and was pleased to have been asked to chair the newly formed Rye Highways Forum.

The position of Chairman of the Forum is now vacant following my retirement, but I hope it will continue under its new chairman when outside appointments are made on the 26th May.

I continue to feel concerned about the continued traffic problems in Rye. In the absence of my proposal to create the post of a Community Warden, which was rejected,

I agree with Lord Ampthill that the only way left is to decriminalize parking.

Much praise must be given to Cllr Bernardine Fiddemore, who has given such good service during her term as Mayor, in particular for promoting action on the iconic Landgate Arch which is in so need of refurbishment.

She was also a great support to me during my term as Chairman of the Highways Forum when much time and effort was given in seeing the loading bay created in the High Street.

I wish whoever is elected the new Mayor, and Rye Town Council a fair wind for the forthcoming Civic year, and hope more and better things to come for our little town.

Since the dissolution of the CDR a new Group has taken over calling itself Campaign for Action in Rye (CFAiR) which is in the process of forming a committee and a constitution.

I am asked to say that if anyone is interested in knowing more about this group’s aims, and perhaps wish to be involved, there is to be a special meeting on Thursday, 21st May at 7.00pm in the Board Room of the Tilling Green Community Centre.

This will be the last time I shall be writing this column which I started in 2006.

My reasons are simple. I shall not be in the loop as an ex-councillor for news and views the same way, and wish generally to retire gracefully now having reached the age of 80.

I have other interests to pursue, not least by twin hobbies of cycling and gardening. Also, since my wife, Mona, has retired from the Care Home for the Mentally Ill where she worked for many years, I naturally wish for us to have more time together.