Electoral Reform - The Main Issue for 2005 Parliament

The statistics are quite striking:

Labour: 36% of the vote cast led to 356 seats (or 55%).
Conservative: 33% of the vote cast led to 197 seats (or 30%).
Liberal Democrat: 23% of the vote cast let to 62 seats (or 10%).

Add to this the disastrous postal voting system, with many people not being able to vote and with the threat of ballot rigging. John Humphrys turned up to vote and found that a postal ballot had been issued (to someone else) in his name!

Any Questions/Any Answers on Radio 4 today stated that they were overwhelmed with telephone calls about the electoral system.

I think this will be a priority issue in the minds of the public for the next Parliament. I am sure Bliar would like to see the status quo continue, but with a majority of 64 he is on shaky ground! The Electoral Commission are sure to investigate the problems with the system and it sounds as if the public at large do not agree with the view of the media pundits that the bloody nose for Labour was what the electorate wanted. I think the electorate wanted Bliar out and are now angry at the skewed anf failing electoral system.
A large part of the problem is how long it takes the Boundaries Commission to redraw the constituency boundaries. Despite the reduction in Scottish MPs, Labour's safe seats, on average, are far smaller than those of other parties - which means that it takes less votes to elect a Labour MP than a non-Labour one.

It's not a party political thing, but a demographic thing - people move around. Constituencies should all have approximately the same number of voters - but currently, they don't. If the Boundaries Commission did its job properly (and that might be party political - does anyone know how its powers are conferred, how members are selected, etc?) then we'd have a much fairer system.

The Boundaries Commission's task is complicated by local loyalties and connections.

This does actually make some sense. For example, it is much more efficient to have a constituency whose boundary corresponds in some way to local authority boundaries. But with many local authorities also having changed in recent years, the jigsaw which the Commission have to try to fit together has been getting more and more complicated.
It is difficult to disagree that electoral system in this country is blatantly unfair. According to a story in the Daily Mail today, the election gave the Tories the majority of votes in England - but they still got 92 LESS seats than labour. Very strange.

And although I don't doubt that the electorate (including myself) are thoroughly pi55ed off by it, I very much doubt it will be a priority - for either Tony Blair OR Gordon Brown. After all, a fairer system would have returned a Tory government. (Or at the very least, dramatically reduced Labours majority in Parliament to an almost unmanageable number). And no political party that isn't Tory is going to support that! (Turkeys and Christmas spring to mind!) Maybe this is something else the Tories can start campaigning on that will gain widespread popular support.

We can only hope the Tories recognise how this would benefit our democracy as a whole, and not think of how it might not benefit them when they next get into power.


A fairer system of political representation in the Commons is to my mind the most pressing political issue, as pointed out by the topic. I think the whole British electorate can see this quite plainly. The only people who now stand against a form of PR are against the democratic process. The lame excuse that 'nothing would get done' doesn't stand, in times of emergency we have mechanisms to secure defence of the realm, and if the Commons couldn't agree on something...maybe that would be a good sign that it was not the right time for such legislation.
I am against PR as I don't get to choose my MP. With PR a set number of candidiates are listed and according to votes cast selescted top down. With PR the Bliar's of this world would never get thrown out. Keep the current system but ensure each MP has the same number of voters.


I think the actual version of PR would surely be moot. I always imagined it would combine some of the present system, with MPs assigned as of present, and then further seats assigned by a type of PR (of which there are many) related to votes cast nationwide. I'm pretty sure that this wouldn't fit into the present chamber at the commons, but hey its the 21st century, a circle would be good....there's got to be room for that in the Palace of Westminster?
I read an artical on the subject in the Sunday Telegraph today. As has been said the turkeys will not vote for Christmas.
I would like Blurs epitaph to be the remark about British election being on par with thoes of a "Banana Republic"
Tony Blur who headed the most corrupt government since Lloyd George.
I would just like to think that sumone starts a campain to see that he does not secure a job proffing from one of King George II controled companies after he sold the UK out and into supporting that illegal war.
The war that will still be going on when he has departed the political game, be nice to think that Euan will be joining Arry.


Actually, I was just taking a bath...and I thought of a more pressing issue than PR. As I lay back in my bath of warm clear water. I thought of how many people in the world have no access to clean water, the subsequent improvement in hygiene, and thus improved general health. I know its not anything to do with the army, but, they say over a 100,000 Iraqi's have died as a result of this war. How many people die each year from avoidable disease?

(Yeh I know I'm a wishy washy liberal ;))
In answer to those with concerns about the lack of local MP connection when using PR, there is a middle way.

Additional Member System (AMS)

How the System Works:

Several variants of Additional Member Systems have been proposed, but basically they are a combination of the First-Past-The-Post system and party list voting. The purpose is to retain the best features of First-Past-The-Post while introducing proportionality between parties through party list voting.

Each voter has two votes, one vote for a single MP via First-Past-The-Post, and one for a regional or national party list. Half the seats or more are allocated to the single-member constituencies and the rest to the party list. The percentage of votes obtained by the parties in the party list vote determines their overall number of representatives; the party lists are used to top up the First-Past-The-Post seats gained by the party to the required number. So if a party has won two seats in the constituencies but in proportion to its votes should have five, the first three candidates on its list are elected in addition.

The system is used:

in Germany and it was also chosen by New Zealand in a referendum in 1993, (although in New Zealand it is called Mixed Member Proportional Representation or MMP). The new Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly were both elected by AMS in May 1999 and 2003 as was the London Assembly in May 2000.

Arguments used in favour:

* It results in broadly proportional representation along party lines while ensuring that there is a directly accountable MP for each constituency.
* It retains a number of single-member constituencies.
* It has produced strong and stable governments in Germany (but not single party governments)
* Each elector has at least one effective vote. Even of they see no chance of winning in the single member constituency, people can use their second vote for a party they support and still have a limited say through an additional member.
* The separation of the vote, allows the voter to make an expression of popular approval or disapproval which is not possible under First-Past-The-Post. Because the first vote does not affect a party's total representation, a voter can use it to express personal support for a candidate without necessarily helping that candidate's party.
* AMS would give people the government they wanted, keeping the link between MPs and voters as well as giving some value to all votes, via the additional members.


* It combines many of the faults of First-Past-The-Post with many of the defects of the list systems of PR.
* Half of all MPs are not directly accountable to any voters, just to their party leadership, and have no constituency.
* It creates two types of MP, one with a constituency role and duties and one without such a base.
* To retain some constituency MPs, constituencies would have to increase in size.
* The parties would retain power over selecting candidates for constituency seats and would have complete control over choosing their Additional Members.
* Those who are under-represented today may not fare any better under AMS.
* In Germany a party can win more constituency seats than its total entitlement, and is allowed to retain its extra seat(s) and the total membership of the Bundestaag is increased by that number over the standard 656.
My conncern on propotional representation is it leads, as far as I know, to loss of local 'leaders' and to Professionals owing their loyalty to the party.
Yeh yeh yeh so so SOOOOOO unfair God what a 'kin' childish "its my ball and I'll say what the rules are" reaction. When Maggie got in with frankly only a few % more of the popular vote (as I recall her best effort was about 40%) how many of you were complaining then. The system is boll***s but be honest, how many of the Tory voters who evidently make up a good proportion of the contributors to this site would have had the moral courage (because that is what it is) to say the system needed changing if Michael (man of the "peepil") had a 60 majority?
RiojaDOC said:
Yeh yeh yeh so so SOOOOOO unfair God what a 'kin' childish "its my ball and I'll say what the rules are" reaction. When Maggie got in with frankly only a few % more of the popular vote (as I recall her best effort was about 40%) how many of you were complaining then. The system is boll***s but be honest, how many of the Tory voters who evidently make up a good proportion of the contributors to this site would have had the moral courage (because that is what it is) to say the system needed changing if Michael (man of the "peepil") had a 60 majority?
Very true, rioja, but seen as how i was too young to vote at the time, i cant say either way. Regardless of whether people would have had the moral courage to bring it up then, that shouldn't preclude us from addressing the issue at this point in time.

Regardless of your politics, the fact that party can get only 3% more of the total vote and yet get over 60 more MP's than the nearest party cannot be claimed to be a fair system. Can it?

Totally agree with you. I'm not a Blairite but will admit to being closer to his end of the political spectrum than Mr Howard. But I believe that what makes democracies strong is (1) a strong government that knows what it wants to achieve (2) a strong opposition which holds that government to account (3) an electoral system that facilitates points (1) and (2). In the 1950 election, excluding Northern Ireland which has its own peculiarities, Labour and the Conservatives obtained nearly 97% of the popular vote on the mainland. It was true 2 party politics. They operated in what as known as the ‘post-war consensus’. In this each side de facto accepted that the majority of the population had not voted for them and that they would be effectively opposed by the other party which would focus on providing a counter to the other. The rot set in when the ‘Old Labour’ party decided fuc*ing each over was more important than being a proper opposition. This lasted until John Smith and later Toney Blair (I have to be fair Neil Kinnock had the ‘moral courage to start the process) turned ‘New Labour’ into a proper opposition. As I said, I’m towards the Blair end of the political spectrum (OK I’ll admit it… I’m beyond it to the left!), but I had genuinely hoped that the Tories would reassess their way of doing business after the crushing defeats of ’97 an ’01 and would reform to provide a real opposition. That does not mean agreeing with me or Blair, or Brown or ‘Gorgeous George Galloway.’ It means stop navel gazing; stop arguing over how many fairies you can fit on the point of a needle and start bringing the government to account. They have not done so and I fear they still have not the will to do so for quite some time. The enemies of democracy in our county over the past 25 years were not Margaret Thatcher or Toney Blair. Governments must be seen almost as irritating opinionated teenagers who need a firm parent to chastise them and guide them when they are being insufferable and unreasonable. This is the job of the opposition. The enemies of democracy were the Labour Party of the 1980s and the Tory Party of the last 8 years. They are like the divorced absent parent in a mid-life crisis who selfishly goes off to ‘find themselves’ and lets their kids rum amuck, and then bitch when they find their wayward child’s behaviour has actually made their life worse.

I remember Labour ditching Clause 4 and Neil Kinnock having to shout down Trotskyite hecklers when he admitted the shame of a ‘Labour council hiring taxis to deliver redundancy notices to its workers’ (Derek Hatton’s Liverpool). The Tories will have to do the same and at some point it will require a Conservative leader to say to the party things like, “how can we believe in equality of opportunity yet suggest all asylum seekers or immigrants are spongers and thieves?” Most Conservative MPs, I suspect, don’t believe that immigrants are all that bad, nor do the majority of party members. But a significant minority of the party are frankly rabid racists who live in a fantasy world….. just as Hatton and his cronies lived in theirs and they will have to be told tht their attitudes are not those of the ‘New Conservatives’.

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