Electoral Reform and PR

#1
I haven't found anyone recently who doesn't believe we need some form of Electoral Reform, so what is the best system for the UK?

The First Past the Post system has worked reasonably well for hundreds of years. However, it is open to abuse by cynical boundary adjustments providing the current mess where results are skewed to benefit the Labour Party. The Tories on 36% only get 306 seats, whereas Labour in 2005 got 35% and 356 seats and were able to continue to ruin the country for a further 5 years.

Cameron seems to favour having fewer MPs. Since 1802 we have had around 650 constituencies and the Boundary Commission's guidance says no significant variance from 620 (+30 is considered on the limit of variance). How many does Cameron envisage - would 300 be too few? 500 not a significant change? Basically, he wants to engineer a system where the Tory vote in the larger countryside constituencies is reflected in a higher proportion of seats to the detriment of Labour's smaller urban constituencies.. It could work, but would it be any fairer?

If we're sent down the Lib Dem route of PR, which system works best and again is it any fairer? The open or closed List systems are operated by most democratic Governments but opens the door to more career politicians. I actually like having a local MP who I feel is accountable to me every 5 years. If I was suddenly foistered with the likes of Jacquie Smith, Hazel Blears or even Edwina Curry, I'd be mightily p*ssed off..

Do any ARSSERs have views or experience of what works and what doesn't in other countries they'd like to share? I do believe we need to change but don't want to see us all pushed down to route of a fudged compromise. PS The question relates to HoC representation - the reform of our 2nd House is a completely different can of worms!
 
#2
I does seem a bit stupid that our system of government is based on the ownership of a horse,as that was the reason the first past the post system came in to use, MP had to have a means of travel to get to Parliment. In this electronic age the fact we need MPs is outdated, surely there is a better alturnative to haveing 646 thieving cnuts in Westminster. We, the British invented Parliment, and I think that it is now the time for some other form of democracy
 
#3
Sniper_bob. Every eletoral system is rigged! For all the spin, hype and faff every system is there to serve the powers that be, and preserve the status quo, this includes PR. I know, it's the system they use here in Oz. Boundaries are still fixed, nothing changes! The only thing that does is explaining the voting system to all people (which you don't have at present in the UK) as in PR, preferential votes count! Can you imagine re-educating the entire British voting public about this! I wish you luck.

I am not sure when this sudden love affair with PR began in the UK, however, I can assure you it is an affair doomed to disaster, and to be honest I cannot see any form of electoral reform taking place there in the near or distant future.

The fact is, regardless of your location in this world, the only way you can effect true change is to be active at the grass root level. In other words, you have to become one of them to effect change, and that may I add is no easy task, as they will fight you tooth and nail!
 

seaweed

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
One problem with the boundaries is that they don't keep up with the dynamics of today's society. Changes take ages to analyse and put in place, which is understandable, and the present boundaries are necessarily based on the 2001 census, since when of course the flight of people with at least half a brain from the northern Labour Soviet republics has continued apace.

Clegg needs to accept that there is no instant answer to PR as it can take so many forms, and if there is to be any change there needs to be a deep, country-wide debate as to what is finally to be put before the electorate. What in my view we DO NOT want is the Euro-election system where we are grouped in huge areas that make no sense, and the lucky winners are selected by the party leaders - who have thus been handed a huge new slice of patronage; any accountability of the MEPs to their electorate has totally vanished.

One change I believe we need is for Scotch and Welsh MPs to be constitutionally barred from speaking or voting on issues that only affect England, particularly education and health.
 
#5
There's been a lot of discussion on this in the other post-election threads, notably the most recent pages of "Will Gordon go quietly?".

Do we really need a separate thread?

FWIW: I'd stick with FPTP in it's current form. The issues with unfair boundaries only became significant in the last decade, and thus should be pretty straightforward to adjust.
 
#6
zazabell - the current trend to PR is being pushed by the Lib Dems. Ever since they lost their position as the second party of choice to Labour they have been whining about how unfair the FPTP system is. Now we have a hung Parliament both Labour and the Tories want to make concessions to them on PR. I think you've answered my question though - PR doesn't provide a fairer system.

Given that the combined BNP/UKIP vote was about the same as the DUP/SNP/Plaid/Sinn Fein/SDLP vote - we'd have about 25 BNP/UKIP MPs under a PR system. There is a freedom of speech argument that favours givng a platform to extemists - but I certainly wouldn't want them in Government!
 
#7
seaweed said:
Clegg needs to accept that there is no instant answer to PR as it can take so many forms, and if there is to be any change there needs to be a deep, country-wide debate as to what is finally to be put before the electorate. What in my view we DO NOT want is the Euro-election system where we are grouped in huge areas that make no sense, and the lucky winners are selected by the party leaders - who have thus been handed a huge new slice of patronage; any accountability of the MEPs to their electorate has totally vanished.
A lot of sense in that seaweed. A further point on the Euro election system is that Prescott should be held accountable for the enormous waste of the unelected Regional Assemblies, entirely based on the EU regional system - with one exception "Yorkshire & Humberside". That was created purely to satisfy Prescott's ego, when geographically it should have been lumped together with the rest of the North East Assembly.
 
#8
vampangua said:
There's been a lot of discussion on this in the other post-election threads, notably the most recent pages of "Will Gordon go quietly?".

Do we really need a separate thread?

FWIW: I'd stick with FPTP in it's current form. The issues with unfair boundaries only became significant in the last decade, and thus should be pretty straightforward to adjust.
This thread is specifically a debate about Electoral Reform rather than a piecet of mudslinging - so yes, I think we do.
 
#10
I am inclining to the single transferable vote (STV) system. However, I am undecided about how many members there should be per constituency.

Single-member constituencies simply avoids the vote splitting problem. Multi-member constituencies gets a degree of proportionality, the more members the more proportional.
 
#11
sniper_bob said:
zazabell - the current trend to PR is being pushed by the Lib Dems. Ever since they lost their position as the second party of choice to Labour they have been whining about how unfair the FPTP system is. Now we have a hung Parliament both Labour and the Tories want to make concessions to them on PR. I think you've answered my question though - PR doesn't provide a fairer system.

Given that the combined BNP/UKIP vote was about the same as the DUP/SNP/Plaid/Sinn Fein/SDLP vote - we'd have about 25 BNP/UKIP MPs under a PR system. There is a freedom of speech argument that favours givng a platform to extemists - but I certainly wouldn't want them in Government!
I agree with you 100% sniper_bob. My hope is that the Lib_Dem's don't get their way.

To be honest I can't see any way that the people back home would ever adopt PR. It's what I have here, but I confess to hating it. The thought of putting a X next to 'One nation' or any other 'loony tunes' party in order to make my vote count fills me with dread!
 
#12
I'm trying to recollect my experience of STV. :? I think? that was what was used to select the Labour Party leader following the death of John Smith in 1994? I can't remember whether I voted as a Unison member or as a Labour Party member .... or both? I do remember that, being on the left of both organisations, I didn't want Blair. I recall having a single transferrable vote for both leader and deputy. So I voted 1) Leader: Margaret Beckett, 2) Deputy Leader: John Prescott. I'm not saying that my vote made any difference. 8O And I don't know how many others voted the same way. And, due to some lack of understanding, hadn't thought it through. :oops: I'm assuming that many people voted for Beckett ..... she seemed to be the canditate most representative of the left. I guess I needed to have voted for Beckett for leader AND deputy, for her to be in with a chance of deputy? Because voting for Prescott for Deputy didn't give Beckett a vote for that position.

I suppose what I'm saying is that, if you only has ONE vote for ONE position, it might be OK. But to vote for a 1st and a 2nd seems damned confusing.

My thoughts are that, in order to get some Socialist representation in Government, we need a system of PR. I think I must do some reading on the various systems. There are many people who would vote Green. But, under FPTP, we only have one Green MP.

EDIT: Speaking with a friend about 20 years ago, who had lived in various countries ..... he told me that European socialists were very envious of the UK's FPTP system. The situation does NOW seem to have changed and FPTP appears obselete.
 
#13
Hope this helps because it still baffles me :)


Voting system for the Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliamentary election uses two systems:

* A Constituency vote - First Past the Post (FPTP)
* Regional vote - Additional Member System (AMS)

The Scottish Parliament has 129 Members of Parliament (MSPs).

Of these, 73 Constituency MSPs are elected via the traditional FPTP method. The remaining 56 are nominated via a proportional representation system known as the Additional Member System (AMS).

Scotland is split up in to 8 regions for the AMS vote. Each region has 7 MSPs.

Perth and Kinross is in the Mid Scotland and Fife Region which has 7 MSPs, and has two constituencies - Perth and North Tayside - which have one MSP each.

For further information on both these systems, see www.votescotland.com

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Voting system for local government (council) candidates
The elections on 3 May 2007 saw a change in the way councillors are elected, and new larger ward boundaries within Perth and Kinross.

These changes were brought about by the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004.

Councillors are now elected under Single Transferable Voting (STV), a form of proportional representation which replaced the previous 'First Past the Post' system.

This means that instead of the previous system where only one councillor was elected for each of the existing 41 wards in Perth and Kinross, there are now 3 or 4 councillors for each of the new, larger 12 wards in the area (see ward map below).

During a local government election, voters will be asked to indicate their preference by numbering candidates in order of their choice, marking the ballot papers with a '1' for the first choice and a '2' for the second choice and so on. Voters can choose as many candidates, either from political parties or independents as they like.

Counting your local government vote
If your first choice has already won enough votes to be elected, or is eliminated because of having the least number of votes, then your vote is transferred to your second choice and potentially on to your third choice and so on, until enough candidates have been elected for the ward.

For more information on how votes are counted, see http://www.votescotland.com/

As far as the council elections, the meant there were a lot of hung councils.
Only five councils in Scotland are now controlled by one party and 27 councils have no one party in control.
 
#14
They are discussing this on "The Big Question" on the BBC as I write
 
#15
tropper66 said:
I does seem a bit stupid that our system of government is based on the ownership of a horse,as that was the reason the first past the post system came in to use, MP had to have a means of travel to get to Parliment. In this electronic age the fact we need MPs is outdated, surely there is a better alturnative to haveing 646 thieving cnuts in Westminster. We, the British invented Parliment, and I think that it is now the time for some other form of democracy
Althing?
 
#16
Having lived in Norn Iron for the majority of my life, I am very used to the Single Transferale Vote System which is used in all elections except for the General Election.

This is where you vote for your candidates in order of preference. I think that this would prevent votes being 'split'. I'll use the example of that smug git Ed Balls in the constituancy of Morley and Outwood:

Ed Balls (Labour) - Votes 18,365 - Percentage 37.6%

Antony Calvert (Conservative) - Votes 17,264 - Percentage 35.3%

James Monaghan (Lib Dem) - Votes 8,186 - Percentage 16.8%

Chris Beverley (BNP) - Votes 3,535 - Percentage 7.2%

David Daniel (UKIP) - Votes 1,506 - Percentage 3.1%

Majority 1,101 - Percentage 2.3%

Turnout 48,856 - Percentage 65.8%

Ok, so under STV, they look at everyones first preference and count the ballots accordingly. If no candidate for example has reached at least 50% of the vote ( which no-one did in this instance), the the candidate with the least amount of votes is then ruled out. In this case it was the UKIP candidate. Their 1,506 ballot papers are then looked at again to see what each voter has prefered as a second candidate. Let's imagine that alot of these voters are Tory ChIHUAHuas ( Conservative In their Head, UKIP At Heart). With STV, let's say they get the chance to vote for the Tory candidate as their second preference ( with a couple of BNP votes thrown in the mix somewhere) . Their votes would then support the Tory candidate, meaning that Ed Balls would potentially be ousted.

This means that no-one's vote is 'wasted' and would potentially have the added effect of higher voter turnout. There has been much apathy when people don't feel that their vote counts and this leads to protest votes. With STV, if you want to vote for the monster raving loony party you now can and your vote will still count if your candidate doesn't get in. Because of First Past the Post, George Galloway's Respect party got into power in Bethnall with only about 18% of the vote!!.

I direct you to the Electoral Reform Society's Website where they have different PDFs explaining the different methods of PR. It is quite informative and explains even how the House would have potentially looked under PR.
 
#17
sniper_bob said:
I haven't found anyone recently who doesn't believe we need some form of Electoral Reform, so what is the best system for the UK?
I would be happly with STV, I would be happy with preference voting, and many years ago Richard Clutterbuck (then head of politics at Exeter) convinced me that the German constituency and list system had a lot going for it. However, almost anything would be better than what we have now.

sniper_bob said:
The First Past the Post system has worked reasonably well for hundreds of years.
"Reasonably well"? In my lifetime we have had Home, Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown as PMs. I'm too young to remember Home, but Wilson and Major were the only two whose governments I would characterise as rising to the level of "adequate". You must be very easy to please indeed, at least where politicos are concerned.

For a grossly unfair electoral system such as ours to work at all, it needs constitutional conventions and "checks and balances" built in to moderate the amplified power of the party with a Commons majority. These include an active reviewing chamber in the Lords, and cross-party respect for the traditions of liberal democracy and vigorous debate. These conditions no longer apply; New Labour have emasculated the Lords and shamefully filled it with party apparatchiki, and the degree of respect for liberal democracy can be judged (see the latest "Private Eye") from the fact that Jack "Boot" Straw (the abolisher of habeus corpus, thankfully no longer an MP) has, on a third try, and without the approval of a vote in the Commons, succeeded in introducing secret inquests into this country.

In another post:
sniper_bob said:
I think you've answered my question though - PR doesn't provide a fairer system.
Simply untrue. You have obviously made up your mind that you dislike PR, but that does not entitle you to redefine the meaning of the word "fairer". It is not possible (Arrow's theorem) to have any perfectly fair voting system between more than two choices, but it is easily possible to compare the fairness of voting systems to see which is fairer than another, and FPTP scores badly against anything the electroral Reform Society are likely to mention.

sniper_bob said:
Given that the combined BNP/UKIP vote was about the same as the DUP/SNP/Plaid/Sinn Fein/SDLP vote - we'd have about 25 BNP/UKIP MPs under a PR system.
Under a completely proportional system -- however operated -- on the basis of the votes cast in the recent general election, the numbers of seats for each party would be as follows:

Con 237 instead of 306
Lab 190 instead of 258
Lib 151 instead of 57
DUP 4 instead of 8
SNP 11 instead of 6
SF 4 instead of 5
PlCm 4 instead of 3
SDLP 2 instead of 3
Grn 6 instead of 1
AllP 1 instead of 1
UKIP 20 instead of 0
BNP 12 instead of 0
UCU 2 instead of 0
EDem 1 instead of 0
Resp 1 instead of 0
TUV 1 instead of 0
Xian 0 instead of 0
ICH 0 instead of 0
TUSC 0 instead of 0
SSP 0 instead of 0

That's 20 for UKIP, 12 for the BNP.

Notice how under a strictly proportional scheme, the DUP and the Shinners would have fewer seats that they do under FPTP. While I don't like the idea of a voting system that favours the BNP, disenfranchising their voters is an even worse idea. And I don't like the idea of a voting system that favours the DUP and Sinn Fein, as our current system does.

sniper_bob said:
There is a freedom of speech argument that favours givng a platform to extemists - but I certainly wouldn't want them in Government!
Bob, 32 seats doesn't get you into government, it gets you into opposition -- and not a particularly influential part of the opposition, either.

All the best,

John.
 
#18
cent05zr70 said:
tropper66 said:
I does seem a bit stupid that our system of government is based on the ownership of a horse,as that was the reason the first past the post system came in to use, MP had to have a means of travel to get to Parliment. In this electronic age the fact we need MPs is outdated, surely there is a better alturnative to haveing 646 thieving cnuts in Westminster. We, the British invented Parliment, and I think that it is now the time for some other form of democracy
Althing?
But only for "FREEMEN" at a time when there were a hell of a lot of UNFREEMAN in Iceland

And the Tynwald is probably older
 
#19
PR = the tail wagging the dog. You think there are problems now. Imagine having the same issues continously for perpetuity with the larger parties trying to pursuade the smaller parties to support them to form a government. The smaller parties end up ruling the roost, not exactly a great model for democracy when a smaller group of people get to dictate how a larger group has to behave on every matter that comes before them. While it doesn't happen very often in national politics, it's a much more common occurance in local authorities and I have seen at first hand, the effects of hung Councils and, I have often asked myself in the past, is it right that the minority get to call the shots over the majority. I personally don't think it is.

P.R. also means that your vote will be counted towards a panel of candidates with each candidate being allotted a certain number of votes according to the preferences indicated by the electorate. That may sound good in theory but it also means that you loose the ability to vote for an individual person. Many M.P.'s of all parties are extremely hard working and get re-elected on the basis of their work in their communities. Why should we lose the ability to support someone that we know is a very hard worker for their electorate in exchange for someone who has not got that record.

It also means that the boundaries would change considerably to support the panel of candidates in the electoral process. Candidates would lose the local connection. For example at the moment, candidates in the major parties are chosen by party members in each constituency. If the boundaries are enlarged, those local party members would lose the opportunity to choose their preferred candidate and if the local connection is not as explicit as it currently is, what incentive is there for the successfully elected politician to provide the level of committment to local communities that we do have under the existing first past the post system.

P.R. is the dream of the Liberal Democrats simply because it would propel them centre stage into the driving seat of government without them having to actually win the election. The small party becomes the big party without actually getting any larger. I would say to Nick Clegg and anyone else who supports P.R., nice try but I can see what you are trying to do there and no thanks.

By all means, look at the existing system and see how it might be tweaked to improve it but, lets not let the tail wag the rest of the dog.
 
#20
rgjbloke said:
..... That may sound good in theory but it also means that you loose the ability to vote for an individual person. Many M.P.'s of all parties are extremely hard working and get re-elected on the basis of their work in their communities. Why should we lose the ability to support someone that we know is a very hard worker for their electorate in exchange for someone who has not got that record.
I take your point with the ability to vote for an individual person. Most of the results surround 'safe' seats. This means that if a particular party want their candidate to be MP, they will place them in that constituancy and they are (almost) assured of a seat.

There is the system of AV+ where you can either vote simply for the party or tick which candidate you want representing you out of a choice of say three candidates. I had never heard of this system before I went hunting on the tinterweb for explainations of exactly what was being discussed. I'm still more in favour of STV, although I hadn't considered whether there could be an element of voting for an individual candidate. Very good point.
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads