Friday, 8 August 2008

Proportional Representation

In the 2005 general election the Labour party had a 3 point lead in terms of votes over the conservatives yet won 158 more seats. This is one of the biggest arguments in favour of PR, that a system of PR would eliminate the bias and produce a fairer allocation of seats. I personally believe the result is an argument for better boundaries. After all the boundaries for the 2010 election will be based up the 2001 census, so will be 9 years out of date before anyone has voted.

With turnouts of only 61.3% there is no doubt that voters are disenchanted with politics, but I do not think PR will decrease this. I personally believe that removing the direct link between your vote and your representative is dangerous and will only lead to increased voter disenchantment.

The biggest example of a lack of connection between the electorate and the representatives are the MEPs. Can you name your MEP? I can name my MPs and all five of my councillors, both at home and in Bristol, but do not have any idea who any of the 10 MEPs who represent me are. The South East is too big to be represented as one constituency.

The other concern about proportional representation I have is the complicated nature of the election. The “First Past the Post” system can be easily explained (in a sentence). While explaining PR elections usually takes me several paragraphs and a worked example. This complex method means that the average voter will have no idea how their representatives are selected further weakening the link between an electorate and their parliament.

Democracy must simple and open. It must not be difficult to explain. It must not have a counting process which is clear.

Can we not bring back FPTP for the European elections to allow us at least a small connection to our MEPs.


Edinburgh said...

Rather than go back to FPTP for European elections, that would give appallingly unrepresentative results, we need to move forward by replacing the present closed-list party-list PR voting system with the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation (STV-PR).

With STV-PR you would be free to make your personal choices among all the candidates standing in your electoral region. So you would choose WITHIN parties as well as BETWEEN parties.

That power of personal choice by the voters (which many politicians hate) would reconnect the MEPs much more closely with their local constituents than ever FPTP could.

Chris said...

Edinburgh, I have had a look at the STV system and it seems to sum up my second main point. That the system is too difficult to explain.

One of the advantages of the system will be to have smaller constituencies (as how could anyone differentiate and rank 10 different candidates from the same party and probably end up with 60+ candidates!) and this would increase localism.

I wonder why you think that politicians hate "personal choice" I have been to many open conservative selections where anyone from the local community (not just party members) can select the parliamentary candidate. This does not sound as though conservative politicians at least are afraid of "personal choice".

I also disagree that FPTP euro elections would produce "appallingly unrepresentative results" if the constituencies were drawn correctly. There is a massive gap between the Euro Parliament and British voters which needs to be breached this is the important issue which needs to be solved.