If you have nothing to do for a while (best set aside an afternoon), read Matt’s pieces on electoral reform. Now, we all know why Matt is pushing these: because he’s an embittered party hack, and really wants to avoid this:
why would the newly re-elected Labour government want to move on electoral reform now? The answer is because if they don?t then in 2009, or more likely 2013, they will find themselves sitting on the opposition benches with fewer MPs than they should have because of the first-past-the-post voting system, just like the Conservatives are now. Many Labour supporters will say it couldn?t happen, but the Tories will come back (just as Labour did between 1992 and 1997) and they will be in government.
Just kidding. A bit. No, Matt wants some form of proportional representation to be brought in because he feels it’s more democratic, and answers to the will of the people more. Which is fair enough, if that’s what you think it will do.
I disagree with those assumptions, though.
First off, because any form of PR is drawn out and complicated. In an email exchange a couple of weeks ago, meself and Matt had to explain to an educated French person, who had voted in several PR elections at Warwick, what the quota was. Why? Because it’s not immediately obvious, and it’s not explained well unless you look at it in depth. So, to fully understand the PR system, you have to go and look. Personally, I have a profound distrust of any electoral system which is overly complicated and which Joe Bloggs in the street will not understand unless you bring forth diagrams and charts.
(By the way, a lot of the people who are very much in favour of bringing in the complicated, unnecessary and drawn out process of PR into use here are the same people who complain that the US electoral college should be scrapped for being, yup, complicated, unnecessary and drawn out. I find that a little comical)
Secondly, the proposed systems are, in some ways, less democratic than first past the post, and less effective at holding the post accountable. Why? Well, they tend to break the link between the electorate and the elected. For example, if we were to introduce the single transferrable vote into Westminister elections, then Belfast (which is currently divided into four: North, South, East and, shockingly, West), would become one constituency, but with four MPs. So MPs would not be linked to a single, small geographical area, but would share a much larger area, with a much larger population, with three other MPs. At a time when NuLabour is all busy pushing local politics (sorry, paying lip service to local politics and consolidating power in the centre as never before) and local accountability, this seems to be a bit of a backwards step. It creates an extra level between the electorate and those who, allegedly, are there to serve them.
And before anyone starts on how FPTP is too easily manipulated, please, don’t assume that PR is exempt to that. It’s actually more open to it, what with the prospects for tactical voting. Your first preference can be a protest, then your second can be your actual vote.
And PR will let more smaller parties into government. In theory this is a good thing, and it would benefit the LibDems something shocking. But it also leads to coalition governments, which I, personally, believe to be the tool of Satan. Is there anything less democratic than a large voting block being held ransom to the wishes of another so that a majority can be reached? Look at 95,96,97, when the Conservatives were desparate for votes in the Commons, and had to rely on the UUP on several occasions. How democratic is that, and that happened under FPTP. Under PR: think ten times worse.
But my main arguement is: why change? Britain has gotten, on the whole, the government it wanted over the last couple of hundred years. FPTP has gotten the right representatives into the Commons. It ain’t broke, so let’s not fuck about with it. Especially given the current government’s record on similiar reforms.
- The House of Lords isn’t broken, let’s fix it, and replace it with…. hmm, we’ll get back to you.
- The 11+ isn’t broken, let’s fix it, and replace it with…. hmm, we’ll get back to you.
- The existing councils in NornIron aren’t broken, let’s fix them, and replace them with…. hmm, we’ll get back to you.
- The Regimental structure isn’t broken, let’s fix it, and replace it with…. hmm, we’ll get back to you.
A sparkling record, yes sirree.