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One may not mention the name of one's company or business. The only proper name which may be included is a geographic place name. So in a famous case which has been quoted to us on a number of occasions, one would state, "Garage owner, Haringey". That is all that would be permitted.
At the next stage one has to get together a nominating petition. In the city of Los Angeles, all the main officers--not only the mayor--must provide large numbers of signatures. If one is not willing to pay 300 dollars as a deposit then one has to accumulate a larger number of signatures. Those various provisions gradually enforce the fact that one must be a solid candidate in order to start the process going, particularly as one must have at least 500 but no more than 1,000 signatures on one's nomination form. You and other residents of Los Angeles may circulate your petition. The advice is rather charming. It states,
Lord Dixon-Smith : My Lords, this is an interesting idea. We should be grateful to the noble Baronesses for, at any rate, provoking us to think for a few moments about something else. However, I have a dreadful feeling in my bones that if this is pursued, yet another local government Bill will come along. If one includes the Greater London Authority Bill, which is a kind of local government Bill, we have had three in the past 15 months. That is knocking local government about a little.
However, we need to think carefully about how we arrive at our candidates. This point flows logically from those I raised about people's names on nomination papers for mayor. However, as regards the existing selection procedure, it is fairly easy to see how one can arrive at a mechanism to select a London-wide candidate for mayor. One would be able to include everybody in that machinery, if one had the strength of character to do so. One could have "one man one vote" or one could be slightly redistributive, if so inclined, which would be up to the party. It is also easy to see how one arrives at a candidate for a particular area within a city.
However, there is a lacuna concerning those on the party lists. Whether or not it is satisfactory, the Government's candidates emerged from Walworth Road and ours emerged from a secret enclave of senior constituency officials. Given the present timescale of the operation, that was the way things were done for this election. However, I have to say that I hope that my party--I cannot speak for others--will learn from the experience of this election and that we will do rather better next time.
I return to the "guts" of the matter; the primaries. The idea is worth studying. The amendment would create the background and pave the way for a study to be done. To that extent, I am happy to support the noble Baroness.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, this has been an interesting and somewhat novel entrance to debate. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that we do not intend to incorporate the idea into another local government Bill. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, should overcome her diffidence and embarrassment about talking on electoral politics. I had not noticed such embarrassment and reticence before. However, I shall look out for it in future.
The amendment contains an interesting idea. However, we believe that, provided a candidate can meet the nomination requirements, it is for the candidates themselves to decide whether to stand for mayor. Where a candidate is to represent a political party, it is for the party concerned to decide how to select that candidate. We do not believe that that is an area where Government should be involved.
In response to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, I agree that much can be learnt from looking at electoral systems and structures in other countries. However, I would perhaps argue that this particular example is alien to the political tradition and culture of this country, and there are concerns about it.
As all noble Lords will readily accept, the Government would not want to become involved in state sponsorship of primaries, which could focus attention on candidates from political parties to the possible detriment of independent candidates. The system in the United States, even in the example and detail given, militates against poor candidates. Why
In the United States, some of the costs of primaries are met by the taxpayer. We do not yet have evidence that taxpayers wish to fund the internal decisions of political parties. As I have said, any state sponsorship could militate against independent candidates.
We do not believe that this is an area where the Government should have a role. We believe that parties should make their own decision about selection of their candidates. We are totally happy to use a system which produced our leader, deputy leader, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Therefore, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
As regards the cost of primaries, one has to accept that there is a cost to democracy. I should like the country to debate further what cost should properly be met. The noble Baroness says that we do not yet have evidence that the taxpayer wants to fund internal selections. In proposing the amendment I attempt to suggest that the selection process should not be quite as internalised as that we have just witnessed, but that it should be broadened. I am not sure that the problems we witnessed will make the taxpayer more or less interested in funding the activities of parties. One could argue that either way.
I am sad that in what is almost their first attempt at the Bill--we have discussed the introductory version--the Government are so sure that everything is right. I believe that much can be learnt from other ways of doing things. As regards the argument that we should reject the idea of primaries because they are alien to the traditions of this country, I do not believe that gets off the ground. So, in spades, are the proposals for elected mayors. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
With this group of amendments we return to the mechanism for electing mayors. The government amendments propose a first-past-the-post system. Our amendments propose, once again, an alternative rather than supplementary vote. That system will allow people to vote, as far as they wish, down the list of candidates, ranking them in preference rather than having their choice restricted to only two.
The main plank of the Minister's argument against our proposal, as put forward in the debate at the last stage, was the difficulty in explaining to voters the need for a different system for the election of authorities other than Greater London. He talked about the election for mayor of London being a high profile event and suggested that it may be thought that the Government were somehow letting other communities down by having a different system.
There is an answer, though not one that politicians are very good at giving; that is, "We have reflected and have decided"--they do not need to say that they were wrong--"that another system would be better". There is no shame in that. Indeed, there would be great credit in politicians who could show themselves to be open-minded.
There is a lesson to be learnt from what is happening at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, was clear in his explanation at the last stage that, given the candidates who may be standing for the position of mayor of London, it would be right to allow the electorate to vote for more than two candidates, indicating their relative preferences, which may include putting some of them low on the list.
We on these Benches have always argued that politics is not a game of "Buggins' turn", though I accept that some more old-fashioned politicians feel that that is a cosy system for the two larger parties. The presence of Mr Ken Livingstone--I hesitate to say the "ghost" thereof--points up the desirability of allowing people to vote one, two, three, four and so forth if they wish.
The argument for a supplementary vote is that the votes count and there is more chance of "ownership" (to use management jargon); that people will feel more involved than in the first-past-the-post system. Again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, that allowing supplementary votes is a better system than first past the post. People feel that they have a real stake in the matter. But it is not as effective as voting as far down the list as one wants.
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in advocating the first-past-the-post system at the last stage, described it as having both simplicity and brutality. I agree with him to that extent. He suggested that we should treat the GLA as something of an experiment. I hope that the Government will accept that, having designed a system for one election, the read-over to other elections is not automatic. We do not want elected mayors throughout the country who may be elected on what may be a minority vote. It is important
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