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  • UK Election reform

    I followed the British election on the BBC over night and I was struck by one issue. They kept talking about the possibility of reforming the way the Parliament is elected. The liberal democrats want a proportional representation system and there seems to be some consideration for this among labor and the Tories as a compromise to form a coalition.

    I am wondering if this is a serious possibility? Would the British really consider doing this?

    I remember the nature of the different systems from my government class, and there is no question that PR is a more fair reflection of the way the voters cast their ballots, but I also remember that many countries that have such a system have at times achieved utter political Chaos. This is the system the Italians have, and we have jokes about the number of governments the Italians have had since WWII. Before Charles De Gaulle forced a change to a quasi presidential system the French had a PR system and their politics were a mess and prone to crisis. This system seems to be very popular in Africa and South America, but I don't know that this is an advertisement for its merits. Greece has such a system.

    I know that there are some Scandinavian countries who have made it work for them, but I am not so sure that it would translate well into British culture.

    So, is this a very real possibility in the UK and how are they suggesting you handle the possible dangers of political chaos in such a system?


  • #2
    Originally posted by Miss Saigon View Post
    I followed the British election on the BBC over night and I was struck by one issue. They kept talking about the possibility of reforming the way the Parliament is elected. The liberal democrats want a proportional representation system and there seems to be some consideration for this among labor and the Tories as a compromise to form a coalition.

    I am wondering if this is a serious possibility? Would the British really consider doing this?

    I remember the nature of the different systems from my government class, and there is no question that PR is a more fair reflection of the way the voters cast their ballots, but I also remember that many countries that have such a system have at times achieved utter political Chaos. This is the system the Italians have, and we have jokes about the number of governments the Italians have had since WWII. Before Charles De Gaulle forced a change to a quasi presidential system the French had a PR system and their politics were a mess and prone to crisis. This system seems to be very popular in Africa and South America, but I don't know that this is an advertisement for its merits. Greece has such a system.

    I know that there are some Scandinavian countries who have made it work for them, but I am not so sure that it would translate well into British culture.

    So, is this a very real possibility in the UK and how are they suggesting you handle the possible dangers of political chaos in such a system?

    The system needs reformed. Look at the result in Scotland, Labour polled 43% (I think) of the vote but walked away with 70% of the seats. UK wide the Tories polled mid 30% but nearly walked away with a majority, as happened in 2005 for Labour.

    When 65% of the population votes for parties that have fundamental differences of opinion on a wide range of subjects no one in their right mind could call that a "mandate to govern".

    Going back to Scotland, the Tories have 1 MP even though their share of the vote was the same as the Lib Dems, at the 97 election they had none. The Tories have to find away to govern Scotland (assuming they form either a minority government or a coalition with the Lib Dems - who themselves came third in terms of share of the vote in Scotland) and address the "mandate deficit" at the same time. The tensions it caused last time round led to devolution. We'll see how we fair this time.

    We've had a form of PR in the Scottish Parliament elections since its inception. It works well, the SNP have managed to navigate a course as a minority administration making agreements on a policy by policy basis and the Tories actually have a presence that reflects their share of the vote.

    But perhaps the best thing that could come out of it is a move away from the yah-boo-suck-to-you politics that has so bored the electorate for decades by being forced to find compromise and common ground.

    It would also put and end to third or fourth parties being squeezed in Labour or Tory heartland seats due to the voters voting tactically to keep their nemesis out of power.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Fodder76 View Post
      We've had a form of PR in the Scottish Parliament elections since its inception.
      I like the version of the Scottish system. It sounds like it fits the bill. However the Libs will never sign off on it as it means less power to them, while Labour and the Tories have been promising Electoral reform for years. Never happens.

      And to be fair FPTP has some good points. Jackie Smith's and Charles Clark's faces when they were told to bugger off were a classic. Standing there in what they thought were safe seats, looking all Smug, and then Whamy!

      Another advantage is that the BNP got a higher share of the vote than the SNP, yet will not have any one in parliament.
      Winnie says
      ---------------------------------
      "He fell out of a Gestapo car, over a bridge, and onto a railway line. Then was run over by the Berlin Express.

      It was an Accident."
      Herr Flick.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think Cameron should offer a referendum on electoral reform but with three questions.

        1. Status Quo;
        2. Modified First Past the Post with equal size seats throughout the UK;
        3. A form of proportional representation to be selected by the Lib Dems.

        A change in our electoral system would be a fundamental change to our constitution and should only happen with the clear consent of the people.
        "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

        Comment


        • #5
          My concern would be that a PR system would lead to more hung parliaments. But perhaps some think this is a good idea. I guess I keep thinking about Italy and the former French system. I suppose it could work in a more constructive way rather than destructive depending on the spirit of the participant parties.

          Everyone on the BBC is talking about the need for strong, stable government. My worry is that the PR system would do just the opposite.

          Comment


          • #6
            My preference is a modified equal seize seats version of FPTP. However as a balance to the power of the Commons the Lords should be strengthened by making it fully elective modelled on the American Senate. I would then modify the Parliament Act making it easier for the Lords to block Commons Bills.
            "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

            Comment


            • #7
              Im with modified fpp. PR is a behind dors carve up every 4 to 5 yrs. like now. Also id devolve power to localities. If the north and scotland want socialist soviet paradises in their locality. Let em have it. But no bailouts from the south when they go bust which they will. Fastest way i can think to show up the lefts obsession with gov't by credit card.
              Last edited by copenhagen; 07 May 10, 16:41.

              Comment


              • #8
                There has to be some kind of electoral reform.

                If only because I've just found out that a hung parliament doesnt mean a pre stretched rope and a long drop for every MP.
                "Sometimes its better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness" T Pratchett

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Listy View Post
                  And to be fair FPTP has some good points. Jackie Smith's and Charles Clark's faces when they were told to bugger off were a classic. Standing there in what they thought were safe seats, looking all Smug, and then Whamy!
                  You'd still get that as you'd still have constituency MP's, elected on by first past the post on the first ballot, all be it with larger constituencies I'd imagine to offset the list members.

                  Originally posted by Listy View Post
                  Another advantage is that the BNP got a higher share of the vote than the SNP, yet will not have any one in parliament.
                  Not so, the list members are elected on the second vote. The second vote is for a party tather than an individual within that party. The lists are regional and cover several constituencies.

                  Take a hypothetical situation where one regional list covered the whole of Scotland. There would be a number of "additional members" elected for the region, say 10 for ease. If the second vote results were the same as the actual vote in this election Labour would have 4 additional members, SNP 2, Lib Dem 2 and Con would have 2.

                  Therefore the SNP would have roughly 8 seats (6 FPTP + 2 Additional Members).

                  The BNP, even though they polled more votes UK wide are more widespread and therefore there percentage in the second vote in each regional list would be lower. If they were polling single figure percentages in each region they would probably fail to get a single Additional Member. The danger is that they would become an attractive second vote i.e. 1st vote Lord Humperdink (Conservative) 2nd vote BNP. They could ratchet up a few MP's that way.

                  I would argue though that that is probably the weakest argument for opposing PR. Most folk here decry the lack of honest debate on immigration but FPTP is part of the mechanism that allows that to happen. You can fudge the issue knowing that even if not addressing concerns drives a lot of people to the BNP you'll never have to worry about getting a BNP MP. If you bring in PR it forces you to have that discussion, not only that but you'd have to have a grown up discussion in order to illuminate the BS at the heart of the BNP's stance.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Miss Saigon View Post
                    My concern would be that a PR system would lead to more hung parliaments. But perhaps some think this is a good idea. I guess I keep thinking about Italy and the former French system. I suppose it could work in a more constructive way rather than destructive depending on the spirit of the participant parties.

                    I don't know why folks in the UK are so shy of PR. Mind you we imposed it on West Germany after WWII and look at how terribly things worked out for them.....


                    Originally posted by Miss Saigon View Post
                    Everyone on the BBC is talking about the need for strong, stable government. My worry is that the PR system would do just the opposite.
                    It may have but first past the post definately has.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Fodder76 View Post
                      I don't know why folks in the UK are so shy of PR. Mind you we imposed it on West Germany after WWII and look at how terribly things worked out for them.....
                      Actually, I don't think we imposed the type of democracy on them. I think we imposed a federal system, constitutional court and basic law, and democracy. I think they got to choose how the democracy would function beyond this, and theirs is not a fully PR system. It is a hybrid.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Fodder76 View Post
                        You'd still get that as you'd still have constituency MP's, elected on by first past the post on the first ballot, all be it with larger constituencies I'd imagine to offset the list members.



                        Not so, the list members are elected on the second vote. The second vote is for a party tather than an individual within that party. The lists are regional and cover several constituencies.

                        Take a hypothetical situation where one regional list covered the whole of Scotland. There would be a number of "additional members" elected for the region, say 10 for ease. If the second vote results were the same as the actual vote in this election Labour would have 4 additional members, SNP 2, Lib Dem 2 and Con would have 2.

                        Therefore the SNP would have roughly 8 seats (6 FPTP + 2 Additional Members).

                        The BNP, even though they polled more votes UK wide are more widespread and therefore there percentage in the second vote in each regional list would be lower. If they were polling single figure percentages in each region they would probably fail to get a single Additional Member. The danger is that they would become an attractive second vote i.e. 1st vote Lord Humperdink (Conservative) 2nd vote BNP. They could ratchet up a few MP's that way.

                        I would argue though that that is probably the weakest argument for opposing PR. Most folk here decry the lack of honest debate on immigration but FPTP is part of the mechanism that allows that to happen. You can fudge the issue knowing that even if not addressing concerns drives a lot of people to the BNP you'll never have to worry about getting a BNP MP. If you bring in PR it forces you to have that discussion, not only that but you'd have to have a grown up discussion in order to illuminate the BS at the heart of the BNP's stance.
                        I was Envisaging something slightly different, and simpler. But we all know how much Politicians hate simple solutions. If its too simple us plebs might actually understand and not need their services!

                        My idea was the same system now, but and extra block carved up by overall vote %. Again pulling numbers out of the air.
                        So 550 MP's elected normally. The extra 100 divided by Vote share, were 1% of the vote gets you 1 MP. Round it off, so the SNP get one extra, the BNP would get two Extra. That way the Global vote share is more representative.

                        House of Lords, I would make totally unelected. Have each party present to the Queen a list of Candidates, and why they support those people. She then picks the most worthy. If you introduce the party election system into the Lords they lose their main weapon. At the moment the Lords are not beholden to anyone so can quite happily vote in the best interests of the country, if the Lords were elected look at all the Labour party garbage that would have gotten through, Three month detention Etc. That system would also most likely have stopped Mandelson 'liming his way back into power.
                        Winnie says
                        ---------------------------------
                        "He fell out of a Gestapo car, over a bridge, and onto a railway line. Then was run over by the Berlin Express.

                        It was an Accident."
                        Herr Flick.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Miss Saigon View Post
                          ... Before Charles De Gaulle forced a change to a quasi presidential system the French had a PR system and their politics were a mess and prone to crisis...
                          Actually initial 1958 Constitution is an hybrid system, neither executive or legislative branch having control. Parties were explicitely kicked out trough article 4. In July 2008 an almost unknown constitutional reform or article 4 named pompously 'modernization' brougth back parties. We're now in same situation that most westerns parties : they block citizens ability to affect how they are goverened. We dont vote anymore for goverments but for parties that seek to serve their own interest (as keeping the place as long as possible). The final results being that as all westerners we've to make choice between liars and...liars.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Whereas I am but a humble servant of the State and not at liberty to comment on policy decisions, I would argue that, looking at it by and large, as far as we can see, a modified FPTP with equal-sized seats would be optimal, considering that party-list systems, as far as I can see, only result in a lesser involvement of the constituency and a far greater fixation on the figure of the party leader, leading to insipid elections more akin to popularity contests than politics, in which those who are cosily at the top of the list have nothing to fear, and those who are at the bottom of the list know they simply are not getting in.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I fear I must disagree with Sir Humphrey on this matter. I firmly believe equal sized seats to be a bad idea, as it has the effect of destroying old (in some cases ancient) constituencies and areas, for the sake of equal numbers.

                              An MP must represent a definable region, not merely a chunk of land carelessly and thoughtlessly drawn out to make up the numbers of people required. However, as far as we can tell, at the end of the day it would seem that PR just results in permanent horse-trading, scarcely better than FPTP.

                              I say redraw the seats in a system that reflects their demographics of regionality. Ultimately, I feel democracy is, if I am pressed, subordinate to the need to create MPs who feel vaguely attached to their constituency.

                              I suggest greater local power to councils as a way of neutering inequality. The system needs reform, but please keep relevant constituencies.
                              Last edited by James Hacker MP; 09 May 10, 12:07.

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