Clause 1 — Referendum on the alternative vote system

Part of Royal Commission (London) – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 12th October 2010.

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Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles Conservative, Grantham and Stamford 8:00 pm, 12th October 2010

It is with great nervousness that I rise to speak, because we have heard so many brilliant speeches-sincere, passionate, beautifully constructed speeches-from senior Members. I think in particular of my hon. Friends the Members for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh)-my own particular colleague in Lincolnshire-for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) and for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing). We have also heard some passionate, well argued contributions, in particular from Members who represent parties in the other great nations of the United Kingdom than the one from which I come. It is with perhaps even greater nervousness that I speak as a new Member of the House, here for only a few months, when so many distinguished people, who have sat on these Benches for five, 10, 15 or 20 years, speak against the Bill and in favour of the amendments.

It seems that I will be the lone voice on these Benches to speak in favour of the Government's proposals and against the amendments. This debate, which we have all sat in now for more than four hours, has been a classic case of politicians talking to politicians about matters that interest only politicians and that matter not a jot to the people whom we are meant to represent. It is entirely understandable that this debate should be of such great moment to politicians, because we are discussing the process by which we apply for and interview for our jobs-the electoral system. So it is no surprise that we are all so concerned that we are willing to sit here for interminable hours discussing the finer detail of the funding of elections and of the broadcasting balance.

One would imagine, listening to the contributions from all parts of the Committee, from people of great seniority as I have said, that the process by which people determine their vote is that they empty their diaries, clear their social lives and spend a full four weeks reading every leaflet, considering every proposition, listening to every programme, weighing up the arguments and being influenced by the precise balance on every programme of the political views expressed. That is not the case. I am humble enough to know that 90% of the people who voted for me last May do not have the first clue who I am and that 90% of them will not have the first clue who I am when in five, 10 or 15 years' time I leave this place. They will never have had the first clue who I am or any interest in that subject, and all power to them.

The way in which people-normal people who are not interested in the finer detail of political machinations-make up their minds is by getting glancing reactions from the 10 o'clock news. They turn on their television sets to watch "The X Factor", but it is not quite time, so they have to watch some boring programme in which someone is talking about something. In other cases, they have read the sports pages, or their wait for a meeting is dragging on and on, so they read a bit of political coverage. Then they make up their minds relatively quickly. That is not to suggest, as some have suggested, that people are unsophisticated; far from it. Unlike us, who require five hours to churn endlessly through these issues before making up our minds and voting in the Lobbies, they make up their minds quickly. They make judgments about our character, our motives and our arguments quickly. They do not need four weeks separately for all of us to go round and round the issues. They do not need more than four minutes to make up their minds.