So today is the four-yearly London mayoral voting jamboree. Whoopee! Vote for the lizard of your choice! Or not! Maybe!
Nevertheless we have just returned from doing our civic duty for the year.
And what a farce it is!
I don't mind walking round to the local scout hut, which has been our local Polling Station for some years. Or the local school (which was used before they started using the scout hut when the school was rebuilt). Or the church hall. What I mind about is the daftness of the voting system.
We are voting for (a) the Mayor, (b) a constituency member of the London Assembly and (c) party list members of the same Assembly.
The Mayoral vote is easy. You have a first choice vote and a second choice vote. If, when the votes are counted, the first choice votes give anyone over 50% they're elected. If not, all but the top two are eliminated and the second choice votes of those eliminated are (re)distributed. The one with the most votes then wins. It's a sort of buggered up Single Transferable Vote system. I don't have a problem with this; I'd prefer STV but that's too hard for Joe Public (it taxed the brains of students when I was an undergraduate!).
The London Assembly however is different; and in my view a shambles. There are just 25 Assembly members. That's less than one for each of the 33 London Boroughs and one for roughly every three of London's 73 parliamentary constituencies. That's leaving aside the fact the the Assembly has no real power: what the Mayor wants done, gets done.
First one has a single vote for a (named) constituency member. There are 14 constituencies, where "constituency" means two or three London Boroughs. What sort of constituency is that!? It is the equivalent of dozens of local councillors and some five or so parliamentary constituencies. As such the Assembly constituencies are so big as to be meaningless.
Lastly there is the party list. Here you vote for which of the list (of about a dozen) parties you like; you have one vote. Eleven party members are elected to the Assembly from a prioritised list provided by each party for the whole of London. Seats are allocated to parties pro rata to the number of votes received, with any party getting 5% or more of the votes guaranteed seat(s).
All three of these ballots are counted separately, so that's three A4-sized ballot papers in different pretty colours all of which go in the same ballot box.
I agree with having an elected Mayor for London and a London Assembly. But in God's name who thought up this shambolic way of doing it?
In my view the Assembly (or whatever you want to call it) has to have some teeth to actually control the Mayor's possible excesses. And it has to have a sensible number of members elected directly to represent people; that probably means a member for each parliamentary constituency perhaps arranged as two or three "members" per Borough. And the voting system needs to be simple: "first past the post" will do, but STV would be better.
Whether Londoners — well at least the small number who bother to vote — return the current Mayor, Boris Johnson (Conservative), for another term or re-elect the previous Mayor, Ken "the Newt" Livingstone (Labour), remains to be seen. It is very unlikely to be any one of the other five candidates. We'll probably know sometime tomorrow. It'll be close.