Following on from writing about this on my website I thought I'd also put this on here too. Most of the text is the same as on my own site, but as I wrote it I don't think that matters it's still my own opinions and words after all.
So on May 5th you get to go into your local polling station, and vote on whether or not you want the voting system to stay the same as it is now, or to change to the new system.
So what is the new system? And, how does it compare to the current one? What has amazed me is how few people seem to actually understand how the new system would work and why some people think it's fairer and others don't.
At the moment, when you vote, you put a single X in a box and that is your vote. All the votes are counted, generally speaking, the party with the most votes wins. It does occasionally pan out that we get a 'hung parliament' which is where the leading party doesn't have a big enough winning margin over the others to allow it to rule alone, and that's when a coalition government is formed - this is simply where two parties agree to work together to rule.
The new system won't work the same way. Instead of putting a single X in one box, you'll be able to put numbers in there instead to show your preferred choices in order. So, if you decide that your favourite party is the Green Party, you'd vote for them as your number 1 choice by putting a 1 in the box against their candidate. Then you decide that your second favourite is the Liberal Democrats, so you'd put a 2 in the box against them, and so on down the list choosing them in your preferred order.
At the end of the ballot, all the number 1 votes are counted in the normal way. At this point if the party with the most votes doesn't have at least 50% of the total, then another level of voting is looked at.
What they do now, is they eliminate the party with the lowest number of votes - let's assume for a moment that it's the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Ok, so all the voting slips with this party listed as number 1 on the list get re-looked at, and instead of looking at the number 1's, they look at the number 2's. The votes that WERE for this party now get divided up amongst the remaining candidates to increase how many votes they have, and then the list is looked at again. If one of the remaining parties now has 50% or more, then they win and are elected. If they still don't, then once again, the party with the lowest votes is knocked out (this time lets assume it's the Green Party who you voted for as your number 1).
So, this is the next round and the cards with the Green Party as number 1, are looked at again. And everyone whose vote is currently with the green party have their paper re-checked, and all the number 2's on the list are looked at, and the cards are divided up into the remaining parties again. So your vote would now be with the Liberal Democrats. Someone else, who'd voted for the Lib Dems as 1 and the Monster Raving Loony Party as 2 OR someone who'd already had their paper moved from the Monster Raving Loony Party to the Lib Dems, would have their THIRD place preference looked at instead as the Monster Raving Loony Party has already been knocked out of the game.
In this way, the votes are re-counted IF NECESSARY several times with the votes being re-counted until any one of the parties has AT LEAST 50% of the voting cards in their pile. At this point, they are elected as the party which will rule the country for the next few years.
So what happens to the parties that got knocked out? Well... the original 1 votes are what give them their seats in parliament. This means that in fact we could see coalition governments formed far more frequently, and that for many people who want one of the smaller parties to be in power they'd feel able to vote for them rather than feeling the need to use 'tactical voting' - Tactical voting is where someone opts to NOT vote for the party they really like, but instead to vote for one of the larger parties because they know that the party they really like doesn't stand a chance of winning enough votes.
Many people feel that this type of voting system would be fairer because it would mean that everyone's vote would count. Here's what I mean... In the current system if you really wanted to vote for the Green Party, but knew that overall they didn't really stand a chance in a general election, you might instead look at the big three and decide which of those parties you think is the best and cast your vote for them instead - perhaps deciding on voting for the Lib Dems. With this old system the Green Party would get 1 less vote overall. With the new system, you could vote Green as 1 and then Lib Dem as 2 so that IF the Green Party didn't get many votes and got knocked out of the race, your vote would be re-counted and would then be awarded to the Lib Dems, but everyone would still know that you REALLY wanted the Green Party in place and it would help them to be more visible and to have more seats in parliament.
Some people are against this new voting system. One of the main reasons they give as their reasons is that they feel it would mean that the votes for the smaller parties like Monster Raving Loony, UK Independence Party, British National Party, Green Party and others would get a bigger say in how the country is run because they would have more seats in parliament. Technically this is correct, but the way they describe it can be a little misleading making it seem like they get more say in the election which is untrue. Another thing they say is that it would produce 'weak' governments - but all this really means is that these governments would have a smaller majority, so in voting within parliament they would need more support from opposition parties to make changes.
I personally believe that the new system is fairer. I think it means that people can vote the way they REALLY feel inclined to vote, and that we will see that reflected in Parliament. It also means that we all get to list our preferences in order rather than just getting one chance. Within Parliament it may well mean that we'll get more coalition governments over the years, but to be honest I don't think this is a bad thing. I think it means that WE the people who ARE this country will be more fairly represented and we're more likely to get a government that has to work hard to make things right for US instead of for themselves. I know at the moment some people are thinking coalitions must be bad because this coalition is screwing with the finances of the country, but to be fair, whoever had got in they'd have needed to do something to try and sort the mess out I think. What I like best is that most of the parties would have seats in parliament rather than just the big ones doing so. This would mean that everyone in the UK would have some people there representing what they want. The leading party who is in power wouldn't be HUGE, and they wouldn't be able to make big changes without caring what other parties (and the people of the country generally) want, they'd need support from smaller parties to carry things through.
1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule...
1. The greater number or part; a number more than half of the total...
(The Free Dictionary - www.thefreedictionary.com)
So, by these definitions, Britain is not a democracy! Can it become one? Well, that depends on you!
On 5th May the nation goes to the ballot boxes to cast its votes. They (well, most of them - London won't) will be voting for the candidates who they would like to represent them in the local (as opposed to national) political chambers we know as the Councils. These are the people to determine what sort of local services you will get over the subsequent years, four in the case of our constituency. They will decide how much money will be extracted from your pocket and how it will be spent. In this election I am standing for the first time for councillor of the ward in which I live. Wish me luck; I'm going to need it.
Voters will also be voting in a referendum to decide if the nation should continue to use the First Past The Post (FPTP) system of electing our Members of Parliament (MP) or whether the system should be changed to one called the Alternative Vote (AV). AV is a form of Proportional Representation (PR). It is not full PR, where winners are selected more by the total votes cast either nationally or regionally. Even I admit that that would probably have been a giant step too far.
I think we all understand FPTP. It's the system where currently an MP can be, and usually is, elected even though he (or she, but lets not be pedantic) may be rejected by more actual voters (as opposed to registered voters) than support him. AV is the system where an MP has to obtain more than 50% of the support (a majority) before he is elected.
The main difference is that whilst under FPTP you vote for one and only one candidate to receive your support, under AV you rank the candidates according to which you would like to receive your vote, in order of preference. You still only get one vote though. What is being proposed is not the form of AV used in Northern Ireland, where more than one candidate per constituency will be elected and so voters have more than one vote.
Sorry, did you not know that PR/AV is already in use in Britain? Apart from Northern Ireland, members of the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are elected by a form of AV. The Mayor of London is elected by AV. Further abroad, Australia uses AV, which is important because it gives us an idea of how it works in practice and, in the light of the "No" campaign's claims over the financial costs of adopting an AV system of election, how much it actually costs to hold an election (about the same as it does now).
Remaining in politics, the Tories choose their party candidates by AV. The leader of the Tory Party is elected by AV.
"What? That Cameron guy? But, isn't he opposed to AV?"
Ironic, eh? Under FPTP, Cameron would have lost the election and would not today be PM! David Davies would be! Sounds a bit like, "AV is good when it's good for me, but not when it's good for you!"
Apart from Cameron, there are massive forces opposed to and in favour of change. The "No" campaign is being very secretive about where its funding is coming from whereas the "Yes" campaign openly reveals that 95% of its funding comes from The Electoral Reform Society and the Joseph Rowntree Trust. One wonders just what the "No" campaign has to hide. Could it be that a number of backers are either non-UK resident and maybe even non-UK tax payers? Why else would they be so secretive?
So, what has prompted this opinion you are reading?
It was the appearance through our letterbox of a leaflet from "NOtoAV" exhorting my daughter to vote No in the upcoming referendum. For some reason they didn't send one to either myself or my wife!
I'm sure my daughter won't mind me reading this leaflet. She will probably consider it, as I do, just about the biggest insult to the intelligence I have read in a long, long time. She does, after all, have more than one brain cell (She's currently taking her second degree course, this time in Mental Health Nursing :-) ). But, let's take a look at their arguments anyway.
The front makes it clear what the major platform is: it states "KEEP One Person, One Vote", as though AV gives the voter more than one vote.
Under AV your vote still only counts once. You just have a choice as to where that one vote is counted. If you don't want a choice and cannot stomach any of the alternatives then it is still your right to assign your one vote to just one candidate, just as at present. You just fill in a "1" instead of an "X" and leave it at that. It's your choice. No one's forcing you to vote for anyone you really cannot support. As now, that choice may or may not be the winner.
Turn the page and we come to the next lie: "THE COST OF AV IS £250million" the leaflet bellows.
Note, it says: "...IS...". Not "...may be...". Not "...could be as much as...". "...IS...".
One of the principal costs it claims is "£130 million on electronic vote counting machines". Now, Australia has had AV for years and has never found the need for "vote counting machines". They count their votes the same way we do. And don't forget, in Australia, voting is a legal requirement so the turnout in elections there is, unlike here, as near 100% of voters as damn it. In the 2010 UK General Election, one in every three of the electorate didn't bother to vote at all, despite all the LibDem furore.
The next claimed cost is "£26 million on explaining the new system to voters". Really? How much of that is being spent by the "No" campaign? Most of it? Sorry but this is all hogwash.
What next? "THE SECOND OR THIRD BEST CAN WIN UNDER AV".
Excuse me! Who are you to say who is best and who isn't? Who are you to say that the winner is merely the Least Worst candidate? The electorate will decide who is best, in their opinion. They don't need the "No" campaign telling them who is or isn't best. At the Oscars, the Best Film is now chosen by AV. It's still called the Best Film, not the Least Worst Film.
The argument is that as second or third preferences are counted it could mean that the level of support for each individual candidate could result in them moving up or down the list. Well spotted! That's the whole point. What we end up with is the candidate who has majority support. That's democracy. Once elected, only time will tell if he turns out to be the best candidate, just like now. One thing is for certain: the winner will have to convince the voters he's done a good job of representing them and next time won't get an automatic shoo-in regardless, like most currently do.
So, what other bizarre claims appear in this highly questionable document? That only Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji currently use the AV system and that "...Fiji has plans to ditch it...". No mention of the impact of the military coup in Fiji! Anyone know of any military dictatorships that use AV?
Anyway, Fiji doesn't use AV. In Fiji, voters still only cast a vote for their preferential candidate, not candidates ranked by preference. The "No" campaign calls it AV but overlooks the fact that it is the LOSING CANDIDATE who reassigns his votes to another candidate; a recipe for political corruption if ever I heard one! The sooner they get rid of that the better in my opinion.
So, what is missing from the leaflet?
The biggest claim that has quietly been swept under the carpet by the "No" campaign is that AV will inevitably result in the "lunatic fringe" having a far better chance of getting elected than under FPTP. Red faces all around at "No" HQ when the BNP came out against AV! The BNP know that they have a far better chance of getting candidate elected under FPTP than under AV, simply by energising the lunatic fringe supporters and relying upon general electorate apathy. That's how Hitler came to power, and he didn't have AV!
Another argument that the "No" campaign once trumpeted that I am surprised to now find missing from this document is the Tradition argument. Those for whom change is anathema always trot out the "That's how it's always been; why change?" angle. Well, if we had stuck with tradition, women would not have the vote today. Women only won the hard-fought battle for the right to vote in the UK in 1918 and then only for certain women over the age of 30! The UK was only some 25 years behind New Zealand!
Perhaps we should go back to the tradition where only property-owning men are allowed to vote? Living in rented accommodation? Sorry, no vote for you then.
The other missing argument that the "No" campaign seems to have quietly forgotten is the one about AV inevitably resulting in the greater likelihood of hung parliaments. Maybe it's that Australia has just had it's first hung parliament in 38 elections. Australia has used AV since 1918. Canada uses FPTP and seems to have nothing but hung parliaments. They are not alone.
The most disgraceful part of this document is the final section which makes AV a personal issue about Nick Clegg. Now, whatever your opinions about Clegg, and I admit he's been a bit naïve, this is not a referendum on Nick Clegg, no matter how much the "No" campaign would like so to make it. This is not about university fees.
It's about making your vote count for more than it does today. It's about giving everyone a reason to vote when in many constituencies far too many voters say they don't bother to vote because nothing is going to change. AV can't guarantee the outcome will be different: there will always be those constituencies (my own is one) which is either True Blue or Blood Red and is never going to change. However, there are far more constituencies that under AV will, for the first time, give every voter a chance to make a difference.
On 5th May I will be voting "Yes". In my case I don't expect it to make any substantial differences to the outcome of elections in my constituency. Hopefully for you it will be different. Most of all I am looking forward to seeing the look on Nick Griffin's face when the UK adopts AV. There's a Facebook page, "IF 500,000 PEOPLE JOIN I WIL (sic) RUN UP AND KICK NICK GRIFFIN (BNP) IN THE NUTS".
Vote "Yes" on 5th May and we can ALL kick Nick Griffin in the nuts. Can you think of a better reason?
Proportional representation (PR), sometimes referred to as full representation, is a category of electoral formula aimed at a close match between the percentage of votes that groups of candidates (grouped by a certain measure) obtain in elections and the percentage of seats they receive (usually in legislative assemblies). PR is a democratic principle rather than an electoral system in itself.
An MP once said that spending just five minutes with a constituent is reason enough not to have a democracy. An MP also ordered a sun bed on his expenses from those very same voters' taxes. We would be hypocrites if we said we wouldn't have done the same thing if it was legal and then moaned at others for doing it. But the system is clearly broke and even the Iranians are mocking our political corruption as the world shakes its head a us. But if we change the voting system to something like proportional representation to get rid of career criminals then would it make any difference? Well as we saw in the European elections as the old guard were swept away and the new parties rose up the answer is an indefectible yes.
The vulgar ethnic cleansing in Belfast that saw some 'organised' local morons forcing some Romanian gypsies from their homes in a rough area of the city is the start of why proportional representation is so volatile. The 'community' said the Romanians 'were committing crime and taking our jobs', although they couldn't work out which it was. It now appears neither parties had jobs and probably had no real intention of getting jobs. The same yobs didn't attack the Polish community in the same estate at the same time. No, this was about the underclass of the world rubbing up close to hold their place in the pecking order and why that PR vote is going to boom for the right wing parties. The PR vote means you can vote for fringe parties that you actually believe in and the parties actually believe in their policies and that can be a very dangerous mix and bad news for the established parties as we saw in those recent Euro elections. Morons can vote for parties run by morons.
Extremist parties like the BNP and the Greens (well, they have some nutty ideas) picked up huge votes through PR because they were allowed to have a voice, as did their followers who were offered one, as did the joke parties like the local fellow trying to save his market square or hospital in the Midlands to the students in Sweden who were protesting about file sharing being illegal on the internet, bizarrely picking up two European seats for the 'Pirate Party', demonstrating the quirky fun of PR. Under the rules the Swedish students got ten percent of the vote and so got those two seats. Under first past the post system they would be nowhere and the Swedes would have taken that vote more seriously. PR allows for the vote to be spread across many parties and groups with similar policies and so throws up freak results like this. But what it is, of course, is a pure democracy and so means pretty much anyone can run for office on any politics with no big deposit needed and so you get pure results. I like the sound of that and so should you.
Europeans have been voting less and less in the European elections since their conception in the late 1970s and so the protest right wing vote has swept the board this time because they came out to vote as liberal polices fail. In Hungary a seriously nasty right wing party came second and even in supposed liberal Holland the anti Muslim coalition also finished runner up. Their vote was simple-immigrants are here to take our jobs or take benefits, nothing in-between. How is that good for the country in recession asked the politicians...Holland has bared the brunt of the recent Muslim tide of immigration and the small country acts as a stopper for the massive tide trying to get to Britain and onto our plentiful black market for employment and, if statistics are correct, the safety net of our world famous benefit system. 51% of Muslims in the U.K are currently classed as 'economically inactive' and that number is inevitably rising. In Holland it's far worse and so they reacted through the democracy of the European parliament they were being offered and voted on immigration. PR allowed them to do that. In France, Le Penn's right wing party took a huge chunk of the vote in the 1990s because of stats like 40% Muslim unemployment and 70% of the prison population being Muslim. LePenn said he couldn't see how Muslim unemployment and crime would fall because the intrinsic reasons for it in France wont change - be it that racism from the whites or apathy from the predominately North African communities responsible for the damaging stats. The French right feared what Holland fears now. It's noticeable that the right wing resurgence has moved across Europe from East to West with that Muslim immigrant serge, ironically a huge and predominately right wing Eastern European immigrant wave was just behind them. Do all sign posts lead to Great Britain we wonder?
What the proportional representation vote did do is hand Europe over to the centre-right parties for the next decade or two, parties ironically apposed to the European Union. The reptilian instinct during recession is for the people to turn on those who are different from them and so see as a threat, whether they are or not. The Islamification of Europe is nothing new and that's what the Crusades were all about a thousand years ago. But when you see that 25% of migrants babies born in the U.K in the last year were from foreign mothers and around 15% had both parents foreign you can see why people get nervous. British women's fertility rates, on the other hand, are collapsing. The only increase in British women pregnancy rates was over 40 mums, the women that put off babies for work and career, perhaps the ones raising taxes to pay for those more fertile foreign moms. Muslim families are by far the most productive at around 4.7 kids per unit but the most likely to be unemployed and in-need of social housing. Is that really what opening the borders was about? The people of old Europe say NoN!
Immigration affects every aspect of our lives, good and bad, even the recent global warming hype and increased flood threat is really about the need to build more houses on concrete near to rivers to house people than down to extreme weather. But immigration, inevitably, has the most negative effects on fellow immigrants and the white working class they are squashed in with and its 'they' who have seized PR to make that point.
In the local and general elections it's still first past the post in the U.K. although there is an all-party group looking at changing that. But the fact the BNP got one million votes and UKIP got three times that in the European poll suggests Brown can't be keen. The BNP now get three million quid for their two Euro MPs and they will use that money to employ professional people and spin doctors who will soften the message and win lots mote votes next year in the domestic polls. For me UKIP are the middle-class BNP vote and if you combine the votes they polled it was far more than labour. Bung in the Tory vote and the country is clearly right wing like the rest of Europe now, reflecting the conversations we all have at work and in the pub on things like immigration and crime, the two inexorably linked, something the government frustrating refuse to address to no ones advantage.
Traditionally it has always been the Liberal party in its various guises that have been in favour of a proportional representative (PR) system of voting which is understandable as under the traditional first past the post system (FPTP) they have had little chance of ever gaining power having to rely on a hung parliament (no one party with an overall majority) to stand any chance of getting power and having a say in the government of the country. It is no real surprise that the other two parties do not entertain thoughts of changing as the current system serves them well as ultimately both parties know that they will be in power at some point in time even if they may have to wait a few years the time for a change voter attitude will surface as Labour may find out at either the next election or the one after that.
So what are the different voting systems and what are the key benefits and disadvantages of each?
FPTP is the voting system that has been in place in the UK and also in the USA whilst it is more common to find PR systems in operation on the continent.
In a FPTP system the electorate is typically split into a number of constituencies based upon geographical and population demographics with candidates standing for election in one particular constituency. The winner is simply the person who gets the most votes; a one vote win is as good as a ten thousand vote win for the elected member who will take their place in the legislature until the next election. The party with the most elected members is typically the one who will form the government provided they have an overall majority in the house.
Benefits of FPTP
It is simple to understand. This is one of the big benefits of this system.
Once the votes have been added up the winner is announced therefore it tends to produce quick results and allows the elected government to get on with the business of governing the country.
Votes are cast for one individual member so effectively you are voting for the person you want to represent you. Often these people will be identified with a particular party so indirectly you are also voting for that party to run the country and you know who that party has as its leader.
Historically FPTP produces a clear cut electoral winner on a national scale allowing for a party to rule without the need for compromise and can get through the agenda on which it has been elected.
Disadvantages of FPTP
A candidate will often be elected to parliament without a majority of their electorate voting for them. There will have been more votes cast for the other candidates rather than the eventual winner.
If you live in a traditionally strong area for one particular party where they always have a large majority if you support one of the other parties your vote is effectively meaningless as it has no influence on the outcome.
Electoral systems that produce clear winners often lead to government without consensus and as such you can find that one party spends much of their time repealing the legislation of the previous government. This occurred a lot in the 60s and 70s but is less common now as all parties have merged in the centre ground.
With FPTP small parties are marginalized on the outside of the system of government making parliament less representative of the population.
So what is a PR system then?
Well there are a number of PR systems in operation however fundamentally the number of elected members in a parliament is related to the percentage of votes received by a particular party. One of the easiest systems to explain is the simple List System.
Each party will publish a list of the candidates it wants to stand for election. If there are a hundred seats in the parliament and the party gets 40% of the vote then it will have 40 members in that parliament and these will be allocated from the published list. This system works equally well on a national scale or again the voters can be split into constituencies each providing a number of elected members each with a number of candidates from each party being put forward in each area so that there is at least some local identity for the elected members and the voters.
There are other more complicated systems of voting where electors put forward their first second and even third choice and these votes are then allocated to arrive at a number of winners. Typically you will find this method of voting to be used when electing company directors to the board at the time of annual shareholder meetings with shareholders casting multiple votes.
Most of the advantages and disadvantages are the opposite of the FPTP system.
One of the main advantages is that every vote counts as it contributes to the percentage of vote gained which has a bigger influence on the outcome.
Smaller parties tend to get a voice in parliament and therefore Green issues are better represented in some European parliaments.
The fact that such a voting system tends to promote more government by consensus. There is a tendency for parties not to get an overall majority and hence they form coalition governments which can generally be more moderate.
One of the reasons both Italy and Germany have PR systems in place is to reduce the chance of another dictator rising to power following the Second World War. If only America would have the same approach.
Even though a party will stand on an election manifesto the fact that they have to negotiate with other parties means that often you get a political agenda that actually no one voted for.
Extremist parties can have a disproportional influence on the direction of a government as effectively they hold the balance of power, examples of this can be found in Israel at various times in history and also in post war Italy.
There can be a constant state of flux with little actual government going on. It is not uncommon for governments to fall apart resulting in elections taking place on a regular basis. In the end voters become fed up with the process.
The outcome of an election need not be clear for some time after votes have been cast. The last election in Germany saw a number of weeks pass before a Government was formed under Merkle; this is time when the country is effectively without direction and treading water.
In conclusion I have not set out to say definitively which system is best as there is no definitive answer. The voting system that is best will depend on the objective of the vote and ultimately will be influenced by a persons own political agenda. PR has produced a system of political chaos in Italy while FPTP elected George Bush twice.
Personally I want my own little island where I rule with absolute power, all hail King Freediveheaven.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.
Inherent in the question, is a glaring problem, which is that there are so many forms of PR, which one do you mean? No one is suggesting that Britain ought to have the Additional Member system of voting, as in Germany, for example. Even if you assume that the type of PR used is some variation of the theme of AV top up, as suggested by the Committee set to investigate, one is still not really sure which type would be the preferred option, as the report was very controversial and appears to have been sleved for the time being. One other factor which needs to be considered, is that with a new House Of Lords around the corner (It seems a terribly long corner I know!)we might need a new system of voting to add a different dimension to our system of Government. For Example, the House of Lords could be chosen completely by appointment from some Panel, with no elected members. In the instance, I would stick to First past the post for the Commons. I think it insulting when some journalists write that they don't think the British people would get to grips with a new system, and this would reduce turnout due to confusion and apathy. I think a new system, where people feel that true democracy is taking place, would increase turnout at the ballot box, and to suggest that a new system would baffle the nation is very insulting. PR can create unstable governments, Italy has had more than 50 different governments in the last 50 years, yet these can be fully accountable. Progress does not always have to come about due to one person taking the bull by the horns, it can come about by reasoned argument and thoughtful deliberation. One of my (and others I believe) main problems I have at the moment with the British political scene, is its adversarial nature. If you could do away with all this banter at PM's Questions, the constant point scoring, and personal attacks, I think people would start to trust politicians again. A weak government would lead to d
ecisions having to be taken across party lines simply to achieve a majority. I think this could end scapegoating as well as buck the recent trend in naming and shaming the civil service when all they were doing was their job. Accountablity is a strange beast, which at the moment I think could be augmented by a change in voting system. For example, if you had larger constituencies which each elected three MP's, this would give people a choice of candidate within each party. More choice is surely desirable? The point which I wish to make above all others, is that First past the post (FPP) is simply unfair. How can the Liberals still have so few seats? Look at the alliance figures in the '87 election: I believe that they got more than 28% of the vote, yet only a handful, under ten, seats in the Commons. That is simply undemocratic, and when a system can so completely distort the voters wishes, it is time for a change. It is not only that FPP is not 100% proportional, I could forgive it a few percent, but it is so far from the mark, that one election actually went to the party with the second highest number of votes overall. I believe it was the 1951 election. The Status Quo is not always desirable, and when so few people are now bothering to vote, a shake up I think would do no end of good. We should not still have essentially the same system which was used to elect MP's from Shires when there were still Lords' of the manor. The system has not advanced as it did simply becuase there is nowhere further it can go. It is a basic system which cannot deal with the complexities of the political process, and really produces very similar Governments. Finally, I think a system of PR could increase the quality of politician. Being an MP should be a great honour, yet when all these very able people are more concerned with image, spin, and point scoring than quality of legislation, weak government could be the answer. Now all I need to do i
s convince the nation that PR is the way forwards before there is a referendum, if there ever is one!
Before you talk about whether PR is better or worst than FPTP you have to talk about all the different kinds of PR. The PR systems used are Alternative vote (AV), List, Single Transferable Vote (STV) and Additional Member System (AMS). Then you break each of them up individually and discuss their positive and negative features. Firstly List PR, this is a good means of democracy as you can vote for a political party or a single candidate, choose more than one party or reorder the party list. This system is used in Israel and Namibia. With List PR you proportionally get the number of seat with the votes you won, so if you won 40% of votes and the party had 200 members the top 80 names on the list would get elected. Also List PR allows minority parties to be represented in parliament, which could eliminate tactical voting. But I believe there are more disadvantages that come with List PR, as you need 50% of the popular vote to get elected which will probably result in coalitions being formed which can be weak and break up. The elector cannot influence the party lists, so the leader will just chose yes men at the top of his list, which could result in elected dictatorship. With List PR there would be a constituency link, which would be lost, which could result in local issues decreasing and national issues become the parties priority. The final issue is that List PR can give the balance of power to smaller parties, and extremist parties, which is the case in Israel. Then next PR system is additional member system (AMS), which gives the elector a chance to make two votes, one for the party and another for the constituency. AMS was used to elect the London Mayor. With AMS there is a 5% threshold to be represented in parliament, which can prevent extremist parties holding all the power. AMS sustains the constituency link. Like List PR, AMS you need 50% to maintain power yourself which would result in coalitions which can break up and change over nig
ht. You can be elected through defeat as if hold a high position on the party list you can be elected no matter what. The next PR system is Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is used in Ireland. This gives the elector a chance to choose their representative by listing candidate in order of preference. This gives the voter a wider choice as they can vote for both a candidate and party. This can result in better constituencies representatives, as at least one person would share your political views. STV represents smaller parties better, and this is the system the Liberal Democrats favor. Yet STV encourages individualism minimizing the chances of a strong government. STV is very confusing for voters and officials. Finally STV would probably result in coalitions being formed. The last PR system is Alternative Vote (AV), which candidates are listed in order of preference. AV encourages single member constituencies. You have to vote for the same party as the candidate unlike STV. AV would result in tactical voting being eliminated. Like FPTP there are two main parties run against each other without smaller parties slipping in. yet you again need 50%+ of the vote, which can result in an elected dictator. There is an uneven distribution of seats in which smaller parties are under represented. Finally there could be governments elected on the second vote. So there all the different systems of PR, and bow to talk about FPTP, which is, are current system used in this country. It’s the easiest way to vote by just placing an X next to the political party of their choice. All you need is a simple majority to win and not 50%+. This system produces to main parties and a few seats go to smaller parties. So FPTP produces a clear winner and a strong government, as there is one dominating party in power. This enables voters to be focused on clear options. Local MP’s are able to voice their concerns on local issues in parliament. Yet FPTP doe
s not reflect public opinion as smaller parties are under represented. And finally with FPTP it is possible to win even if to do not have a majority. So to debate whether we should change to a system of PR, I think we should keep FPTP. Why? Well with all the PR systems it produces coalitions, which personally I hate and would never like to see England under a coalition because they are weak and can break up easier. In England the coalition would probably be Labour and Lib Dems, which has happen in Scotland and who would join up with the conservatives no-one apart from the BNP (if they had enough support nationally), which most people wouldn’t like to see happen. Also I am not a fan of changes and Britain has used FPTP since 1872, so why change now. I know England is one of few countries in Europe who still use’s FPTP but so do America and India, which is the biggest democracy in the world (has a population of 7million, largest population). Now PR is used in Scotland and a coalition has formed which sees tuitions fees being abolished which was a strong Labour policy and they had to cave in over it. People think that if you introduce PR would increase turnout, but that is not the case because the European elections only had a turnout f about 20%. I will now admit that FPTP is not a prefect election system but none of the PR systems are as well, so why change and confuse are electors the system is fine the way it is. Rory
I won't explain the systems here, they have been explained before by many people. I am in favour of First Past the Post over Proportional Representation. Let me explain why: Proportional representation is a great idea, in theory. A bit like communism. However, in my opinion, neither of them work. With PR you get many parties and the people are truly represented. A great idea surely? Almost all PR governments have been coalitions. So basically with proportional representation, you get governments that represent the people, but are too divided or weak to actually get much done. There are exceptions i know, but everything has an exception. FPTP may not be particularly fair, but the party in power has always received the most votes, so people are properly representated. Minority groups may not get much of a say, but to be frank, if minority groups with a few main aims had more of a say then whenever a party suggested anything, another party would block it and so on. Therefore nothing much would happen. With FPTP, one party is entirely within power, the party which the nation has voted most in favour of. They are free to make their own decisions within their party and stick to what they believe in. Imagine if a coalition PR government has factions within it which both want something totally different? Either the coalition will fall apart or one party will lose voters if it changes its policies. So, to sum up my beliefs with the two systems, i think that Proportional representation is very fair, very just and very good, just that the usual coalition governments are not strong enough to make the really big decisions. With First PAst The Post, the governemtn is usually not a coalition and is free to do what it likes in the best interest of the nation during their term of power in which the country have vested their interests in the party. I hope that makes sense.
I am broadly in favour of PR. My main reason for this is that it is the only way to give anyone beyond labour and the tories a fair crack of the whip. However, there are many valid arguments against it. So let's look at some of those first. The biggest argument against PR is that it can lead to instability. If the last UK general election had been based on PR, then assuming the percentages were roughly the same, we would have ended up with a Labour / Lib Dem coalition government. Now this may well work fine, as there is plenty of common ground between the parties. However, what happens if the Lib Dems decide they don't want to dance to Labour's tune anymore? Well, either Labour has to find new partners, or else we have to have a new general election. Maybe a new general election is just what we want, but what if it keeps happening every 6 months? We could end up with a situation like Italy, where there have been more changes of government since the war than this country has seen in 200 years. Another argument against PR is that it can give extremist parties more of a vote. This can happen in two ways. Firstly, in the above scenario, where the party in power needs to find new partners, it may well be that they find these partners from the extremist parties. This has been a problem in Israel, where the centre-right parties can only hold power by joining forces with the extreme right. The other way in which extremist parties can gain is that if you have a party like the BNP, who may poll at most 1% of the votes, except in a few areas, then under the current system, they don't get any MPs. Under PR, 1% of the vote gives them 5 or 6 MPs. The flip side of this is that it could be said that this is good for democracy - I may not like what the BNP has to say, but maybe if they're polling 1%, then they have a right to be heard. And while PR may allow parties I don't like to have a say, it may also allow minority parties th
at I do like to gain some MPs. And who's to say it would be a bad thing if 'single-issue' parties, such as the Greens or the UK Independence Party were to get a say in how the country is run? These parties may not be to everyone's taste, but in a true democracy, maybe they should be heard. For me, the biggest single argument in favour of PR is that it makes it far less likely that we'll end up with a Paliamentary Dictatorship. One thing that Blair's current government and Thatcher's 80s governments have in common, is that both won well under half the votes cast, yet both had huge parliamentary majorities, meaning that the only real opposition comes from within the ruling party's ranks. While it's always a pleasure to see the Beast of Bolsover setting off on a rant, I'd far rather the opposition was coming from the other side of the house, like it's supposed to! Under PR, a party would have to have a true mandate, with more than 50% of the vote, if it wanted to do whatever it liked. If it was in coalition, it would have to take the other parties' wishes into consideration, in order to hold the coalition together. Having said all this, it may be that the best option is neither PR nor first past the post. In Ireland, the single, transferable vote is used. The way this works is that, rather than picking a single candidate, the voter ranks the candidates in order of preference. Then when the votes are counted, if candidate X comes last, then all votes for him are excluded,and instead the 2nd preference of these voters is used. This continues until 1 candidate has more than 50% of the vote. It's a lot more time-consuming, but it does have the advantage that people's true preferences are more represented. For instance, if I'm a Lib Dem in an area where only the tories or labour can win, then there's no point in me voting Lib Dem. Under this system, I can vote for my true preference, but ca
n also pick a 'lesser of the evils' for my 2nd vote. This way my voice is heard at least to some extent. Another variation would be the German system, where a party must gain a minimum vote to gain MPs. I believe the minimum is 5%. This is aimed at keeping out the extremist parties. The only trouble is that this can exclude perfectly valid parties - for example, the SNP and Plaid Cymru would probably struggle to have any representation uder this system, despite being locally popular. In all, I'm in favour of electoral reform, but seriously doubt that it will happen any time soon, because ultimately, it's the decision of the Labour and Conservative parties, and both parties have a deeply vested interedst in keeping the system as it is. So I believe that electoral reform will reamin a pipe dream for a long time to come.
The reason, ladies and gentlemen that I back PR with such vigour is that it is quite simply the most fair way in which a country in which a party system opperates can choose its government. The reson for this is in the discription giving to the style of voting 'Proportional Representation' ie. Representation by proportion. In true Lloyd Grossman stylee, lets look at the evidence: 1st past the post - let us say, for arguements sake, that there are 100 seats in our house of commons. To form a working government, a party would have to win 51 seats. If the party to form the govt. won those 51 seats by 51 percent of the vote and a single other party won all the other votes in those seats and won all the other seats up for election by 100% of the vote then although the governing party won more seats, the party that ends up in oppostion won far more votes yet still does not control the country. It is a simple principle of democracy that the person/organisation that wins the most overall votes in a poll should win... But we seemed to have missed this somewhere along the line. Now I hear al those independat MPs (yes all....... ummm 1 of them) saying that this would spell the end of local representation and that constituencys would no longer be able to chooses their own representative. Well, yes this is true, but if you are voting for a political party, their representatives should follow the same sat of ideals more or less so, I don't really see the problem. Also, people tend to tell me that PR would pen the door for extreme minorities into parliament. Well, quite frankly if the wise British public vote for them, then thay should have them in parliament. Like it or not Democracy is about the representation of ALL the people facists, racists and the people of mainstream society. If we deny a facist his right to representation, then we become the facist, denying a peron their rights on grounds of their beliefs.
I know I haven't gone into all the aspects of this debate, but it would be impossible, people have written books on the situation and still haven't weighed up everything. But all I know is, One person, one vote add them all up and see who wins seems the fairest and simplst ways of doing things. If only!
I am afraid straight away that I disagree with the patter in the dooyou summary about Scotland 'having a goverment it didn't vote for' Scotland is a part of the UK, - and a well-represented one at that, and clearly wishes to stay that way, so if the UK as a whole vote Tory/Labour, that is who the UK government will be. You don't hear people talking about the SW of England having a government they didn't vote for, because, like us and the rest of Britain, they must stick with what the country as a whole voted for. (painful though it is....) Both systems have their pros and cons, and I speak from experience, since Scotland uses both systems to elect her parliament. I am generally more in favour of the status quo, but I shall give the ads/dis for each system. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ First Past The Post As many have probably guessed, I am a Tory, and on June 7th, we got thrashed under the present voting system. Tories got 32-35% of the vote, and yet only hold about 20% of the seats. Labour got 44% of the vote, yet hold about 65% of the seats (I cant figure the maths exactly) I'm not going to do the Libs, but the figures are similar in proportion to the Tories. It's far worse in Scotland. SNP got roughly 25% of the Scots vote. Seats=5 out of 72 Tories vote=15% Seats= 1(!) Liberals manage a bit better with 17% and get 11 seats. Labour vote=45% Labour seats=55!!!(54 if you exclude the Speaker) Figures are approximate, but you get the idea here. However, on polling day, we vote for OUR MP. Not a party but a person. We get to choose the individual who represents our area. True enough, in Carrick, Cumnock + Doon Valley (CCDV - my constituency) unless about 20,000 Labour voters take ill, everyone knows what the result will be and what's the point? But there is a point. If the people of CCDV want a Lab MP, they *get* a Lab MP. Not a mish-mash of different people from differe
nt parties. One person, one party. Another advantage of FPTP is that it nearly always produces a majority government, rather than wishy-washy coalitions. Although this is more an advantage for the major party rather than the people, it simlifies things significantly, and means minor parties do not hold balance of power. With FPTP, we get a clear majority party and they rule. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Proportional Representation There are so many different systems, but I will stick with the one used in our parliament, the Additional Member System, or Regional Lists. This is also used for the EU parliament. With this system, you elect FPTP members plus 8 members for your region e.g. South of Scotland, Glasgow. The AMS vote gives you the names of the parties, and you vote for your party. If 50% vote Labour in the regional list vote, there will be 4 Labour members in your area, if 25% vote Tory, you get two Tory members and so on. However, even this is not truly representative, because the majority of the time, votes for minorities will rarely count (there are only two in the Scottish Parliament) and in areas like Glasgow Tory votes still count for nothing. Also, if a member quits or dies, you do not get a chance to elect a new member, the party just pick someone and you have to live with it. And hardly anyone really understands the system ('I just vote Labour whatever') and find it confusing having 9 representatives in the parliament. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Conclusion FPTP Pro- Someone for your constituency An individual Simple system Majority government Con- Disproportionate results Two-party system PR Pro- More respresentative More minorities elected Con- Complicated Parties pick individuals Not 100% representative Minorities in power
When this debate is raised there is always talk revolving around democracy. Is our present system undemocratic? Well, I intend to turn the whole argument on its head. I will answer the question. Yes, our system is undemocratic. Around 40% of people get the government they want and 60% don't. In plain numbers that is undemocratic. The real question is...is this a bad thing? or, is there a better alternative? Those in favour of PR would suggest that PR is better. I do not believe it is as simple as that. First of all, what type of PR are you talking about? There are many differnt kinds, some definitely more effective than others. I do not want to get drawn into that debate. The question is, should that 60% get some say in our government policy. Common sense would say yes, on the surface, and in theory, but what about in practice. Let us say you had a PR system of sorts. No one party in this country would achieve a majority, i.e 50% of the vote. Therefore to form a government there would have to be teamwork between two parties to go over that 50%. The nature of that teamwork? Who knows? They will sit in a room in Westminster and barter. They will reach compromises and trade policies until they reach an agreement in private. You might say that is good. Parties working sensibly together to find common ground in policy and thus reflect the variation in opinion in the country. But will they? They will negotiate according to their own desire for power. They may compromise ideas that you voted for. For example if you vote Liberal Democrat because they will add a penny on tax for education. Then they sit down with the Labour Party and form a coalition goverment on the condition they drop this policy. Where is the democracy there? Secondly, at any time, two sides can form an alliance behind closed doors and bring down a government if they so choose. You may not want them to, but they can if their interests are served. F
inally, will anyone really get what they vote for in PR. At least the 40% get the government they want. With PR it is conceivable that no one gets what they really want because no one votes for a coalition. I can see one form of PR to be very useful. The priority system where you give a candidate in a constituency a first, second and third choice vote. This eliminates tactical voting and could definitely streamline the elctoral system so people could really vote for who they want. I can understand why in these days of a huge majority government that people would think about PR, but I think the point is missed. If we safeguard democracy so much why didn't more of us vote? Some blame the politicians for not engaging the public, well I would take issue with that. It is up to us to vote. If a general election, deciding the government, does not engage your interest you can't very well blame the politicians, it is an event that arguably is part of civic duty. If you choose not to vote, then that is your right, but you have rejected your democratic power by choice and should take responsibility for that. If you object to the current government you are given a chance to show that objection. The real obstacle to democratic change in this country is people's steadfast mentality. The vast majority vote for the party they have always voted for and will always vote for. These diehards make up so much of the vote that the Lib Dems are never going to win a general election. If there was a dynamic electorate, if Tony Blair could not rely on that bedrock of support then the government Tory or Labour would be far more accountable.
The 'Mother of Parliaments', 'a stable democracy', 'a democratic country' - all labels attached to the UK and her institutions - but in reality what a load of rubbish. Look seriously at the Government we have today - who voted for them ? By whose consent do they govern ? Not only was this present Labour Government elected with only some 28% of the possible votes, but it is assumed that because we have the right to the vote that we accept the 'democracy' we have and accept the power exercised over our lives. So do we really have democracy in this country, and if not could we improve it in any way ? Well, if we went back to the election and said that those who didn't vote had effectively cast their votes for 'no MP' then perhaps we would see a radically different shape within the House of Commons - there would be loads of room for a start as in many seats the 'didn't votes' outnumbered the votes cast for the winning candidate. We could then extend this further - these 'Non MPs' could have an effective vote in favour of the status quo in Parliament - so the rump of 'Real MPs' would have to co-operate to 'outvote' them. I haven't taken many soundings on this idea - but those I have think it seems interesting at least. Perhaps it is an angle we should look at rather than spend our time looking at how we count the votes in a PR v First Past the Post debate. Just because people don't vote doesn't mean they shouldn't count in some way or another !!
Yet another election has passed unnoticed in my household. Colleagues express shock and horror at the fact that I have not bothered to exercise my democratic right to vote in national or local elections over the last decade or so. This was not always the case. In my student days, I would not only vote, but would also spend days (and nights) working as a volunteer in the local campaign headquarters of the party I supported. Gradually, however, idealism was replaced by realism, or some might say by cynicism. It dawned on me that the effect of my vote on the outcome of an election is precisely zero. In our present system, it is the voting of the marginal constituencies which determines which party wins. More than that, it is actually the behaviour of the floating voters in those constituencies which makes the difference. A miniscule unelected minority of the politically uncommitted is able to decide whether it will be Labour or the Tories who will impose their policies on the rest of us for the next term of government (because let's face it, no third party is in with a chance in present conditions). I think it is possible to challenge the lack of true democracy in our society on a number of counts, but surely this is one of the most important: that the majority of the electorate has no real means of making its voice heard. It is for this reason, that I support the introduction of one of the various systems of proportional representation. I agree that PR has its own problems. For example, it is less easy to vote for or against a specific individual. That may have some importance, perhaps more so in council elections, where the day-to-day effectiveness of a local councillor may be of more significance than his/her political affiliation. Nevertheless, that is a relatively small price to pay in order to give us true democratic rights. The turnout for the last election was one of the lowest ever for a general
election. I predict that, if the system is not changed, it will become even lower in future years, as more and more people realise the true impotence of their voting power.
Much has been written over the last few days about the British general election. From Hague’s resignation and the embarrassing Mandelson speech to the saccharine soaked Blair family pose. But in the eyes of the media the one thing worse than all these in the percentage of people who actually voted, down from 71% in 1997 to 59% in 2001. Young people are the worst “offenders”. This significant drop has been attributed to laziness, a rather ironic choice of explanation when you consider how little time and thought went into concocting it. Now, let’s look at the other reasons. First of all the timing. Currently A-Levels and university exams are going on, which affect a large proportion of young people who simply can’t afford the time to vote. If people were truly passionate about politics they wouldn’t let anything stop them for voting. So what does this tell you about the political parties? They simply don’t cater for them and don’t deliver on issues they think of as important. Young people obviously don’t feel that they are represented by the parties and don’t care enough to vote. No one likes to be labelled. By voting Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem or any other party you are being put into a box and judged because of this. There is no one party who truly represents the voter's view. It is easy to admire Labour’s policy on education and yet disagree with their lack of interest in the environment. Perhaps you like the Tory idea of keeping the pound but wish they’d take a modern stance on gay rights. Until parties can ask people what they really care about rather than what they think will grab headlines, the percentage of voters will fall. Another possibility is that people simply don’t trust politicians. They are very aware that the promises sprouted in the run up to the election are often conveniently forgotten about when the party gets into
power. But could it just be laziness? Could the nation’s youths just not be bothered going out to vote? Well perhaps that has a little to do with it but take the case of the Big Brother 10. All they had to do to vote was cross the kitchen and into the diary room, much simpler than any obstacle people outside have to contend with, and yet three of the ten didn’t vote. I don't want to preach, there's been enough of that in Britain in the run up to the election, but look beyond this perceived laziness and see the real reasons for a lack of voting. Here lies the real problems the government will face and here also lies the key to solving these problems.
I have been prompted to rewrite this opinion as it was pointed out to me that I had not taken all forms of Proportional Representation into account in my original opinion. So I have listed below the various forms of the electoral system that may be considered and my opinions of how they may affect our political system. First let us examine the system in use at the moment which is the first passed the post system. We are all familiar with how this works, the country is split up into constituencies and each party puts its candidate forward for each and also anybody else who wishes to stand for parliament can on payment of a deposit put themselves forward for election in a particular constituency. The result of this is the person with the largest number of votes in that constituency is elected as the member for the said area. If he is a member of a particular party he will join other members in the House of commons and if the largest party has an overall majority they will form the government Each member which ever party they support or if they are independent are responsible to all of the electorate in their constituency and are there to represent them should they have either personal or constituency problems. They can also take up a cause, which may be a problem particular to their constituency but not necessarily a problem to the rest of the country. The first passed the post system has more times than not resulted in an overall majority and in the main strong government It has the advantage of being strongly based around the constituency and although an MP may feel an allegiance to his party he still has to answer for his actions to the members of his constituency. It also has the advantage of producing a government that(although perhaps only elected by 42%-52% of the electorate)that percentage at least get exactly the government that they voted for. It has the disadvantage of not producing representation in the correct proportions for the minori
ty parties and in many cases any representation at all. It is because of this that many people advocate reform to a P.R.System. The first of these is the List System This is the system used in Israel and is operated using either very large constituencies or even the whole Country. Each party nominates a list of candidates in order of priority, the votes are counted and a proportion of MPs are allocated to each party depending on their percentage in the poll, If party A get allocated 200 M.Ps they will take the first 200 starting at the top of their list. Party B will then take their allocation and so on, so that each party will get a number of MPs relevant to their percentage of the vote. The only advantage that I can see in this system is that it is entirely representative of the way that the electorate have voted. The disadvantages are in my opinion that this system almost always leads to a hung parliament and the largest party will need to get support from either a third large party or a mish mash of smaller parties who will all want their pound of flesh before agreeing to form a coalition, This nearly always results in a government who cannot push through legislation that perhaps it has been elected to do and the smaller parties usually weald un-proportionate power and are sometimes able to insist that some of their members are given ministerial posts and can sometimes insist that some of their minority views are taken into account by the government. At the first sign of disagreement in the coalition the government is usually forced to call another election and the whole process would start all over again. Had this system been in use during the last two elections it would have produced a hung parliament on both occasions and almost certainly have produced a Labour/Lib Dem coalition whereby the liberals would have tried to insist that a non proportional amount of their policies be adopted before they gave the government their suppo
rt. Any issues that the Labour party wished to follow would have to be abandoned if they proved to be contentious to the liberals or the government would risk being brought down and another election would have to be called. The Alternative Vote System This is another form of P.R that is under consideration and is the System used in the Australian House of Representatives. Under this system we would retain the constituency system but instead of voting for one candidate you would list them in order of preference e.g. Labour 1 Liberal 2 Conservative 3 Greens 4 etc.etc. Under this system if a candidate gets more than 50% of the votes cast he is elected if he gets less than 50% then the votes of the bottom candidate are reallocated taking the 2nd preference into consideration and so on until a candidate has over 50% and then he is elected. I can see even less advantage in this system than the first as although it retains the constituencies it would have ended up in the last two elections with an even larger majority for Labour and less proportionate representation for the remainder of the parties. Also the constituency MP could be elected by the 2nd choice votes cast by the minority. In this case you would have a constituency MP that was nobody’s first choice. Although this system could still retain majority support at local level instead of Nationally it would not produce P.R and would produce even higher majorities in parliament than we have now. AV plus This works in much the same way as the above system with the exception that after all the constituencies have been settled the second preference votes are counted and top up MPs are allocated to each party to enable them to be more representative of the electorate in the country as a whole. This has the advantages of retaining the constituency system whilst giving more representation to the smaller parties. The disadvantages are that although this system would have produced
a Majority government in 1997 it would have been a small one and would probably end in coalition in the majority of governments. It would also give representation in parliament to extreme right or left wing parties such as the BNP or NF or Communists who would otherwise not be elected into parliament this could give them a certain amount of respectability in the eyes of some and could increase their votes next time giving them an even bigger representation in the house. It would also lead to weak government in a majority of cases, as the largest party would need to gain support from the smaller parties to be able to form a government. This could lead to the extreme parties wielding even more power than they ever could under the present system. The additional Member system This system of PR is the one that has been adopted for use in the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly and is therefore one of the systems that would get great consideration should the government decide to adopt a PR system. It is also in use in Germany and New Zealand. Under this system each person has two votes one to elect a constituency MP and one, which is cast for a political Party under a list system. The votes are then counted and each party is allocated top up MPs from their list depending on the percentage of votes cast for their party. The advantage of this system is that it still retains the constituencies whilst at the same time gives proportional representation to parliament as a whole. The disadvantages are that this always ends in a coalition and allows the third party to weald such power that they could play 1 major party against the other and form a government with whoever offered them the most. This could result in the second largest party forming a coalition government with the third largest party and therefore ending up with a government that nobody had voted for as a preference. It would also have the disadvantages of the AV plus system that would e
lect minority extreme party members and give them some sort of respectability. The remaining system that is under consideration is the system used in the Northern Ireland Assembly and in the Republic Of Ireland and is called the single transferable vote system or STV. This still works on a constituency system although each one is much larger and would have several MPs elected from each. This system is the most complicated of them all as you would have several votes and cast them in order of preference for each candidate. The total number of votes are then counted and divided by the number of seats in a constituency plus one. This gives the number of votes a candidate needs to be elected and each candidate would be selected if he exceeded this quota. If there were not enough candidates elected to a constituency due to the fact that they had not reached their quota of votes then the other preference votes would be distributed until all the seats had been filled. The advantages of this system are that it would to a certain extent be proportional representation but only in the constituency and not necessarily in the country as a whole. You would not have minority parties getting seats so often as the other systems and you would probably get at least one MP of your choice elected to serve in your constituency. The disadvantages as far as I can see are that this would not be proportional Representation throughout the country as a whole only in the constituency. Although this system would have produced a majority government over the last two elections this would only have happened due to the collapse in support for the conservatives, if you take the results of most other elections in the last 30 or 40 years most of these would have been coalitions under this system. Had this system been applied to the last two elections this would of produced a Labour majority of about 40-45 seats but in both these elections the leading party has had an almost unprece
dented lead of 12 –14%. Under more normal voting patterns a coalition with the LIB Dems would have been almost a certainty thereby producing all the problems highlighted in the other PR Systems. In Conclusion I would agree that the present system has its faults and does leave certain groups of the electorate feeling disenfranchised but the alternatives are weak government, un-proportional power wielded by a third party or minor parties, Parliaments not lasting their full course due to disagreements between coalition partners, constant elections and governments that could not get a mandate to carry out the legislation in their manifesto. At least under the present system we usually end up with a strong government able to govern for a full term and at least 42-50% of the electorate get what they want. The present system has worked for many years and why alter something if it works especially as the alternatives will cause even more problems. Mick Gray