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On Principle, PR
PR vs 'first past the post'
Member Name: AidanLawes
PR vs 'first past the post'
Date: 29/05/02, updated on 29/05/02 (105 review reads)
Advantages: PR -Fair, FPP-Simple, PR-may increase turnout?
Disadvantages: PR-change always feared, FPP - undemocratic, FPP-maintains adversarial party political lines
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!