Posts Tagged 'Proportional Representation'

Only constituency, not national vote numbers, matter

It is frustrating reading some of the assessments people are making about which parties have a mandate to form a government.  As depressing as it is, the Conservatives possessing the greatest number of seats in the House of Commons, have a greater – in no way absolute – mandate to try to form an administration.  Yes, it is possible that other parties could group together to vote down Conservative measures tabled before the House.  But that doesn’t change the mandate position.

Many people are setting aside the reality of the current standing of the political parties and allowing their preferences to rewrite the outcome of the election.  It seems one such blogger is the excellent Dr Richard North at EU Referendum.  Readers of that brilliant blog will be familiar with Dr North’s intense dislike of David Cameron and his desire for an ABC – Anyone But Cameron – outcome.  I understand and respect that.  But despite sharing that dislike of Cameron, my most intense dislike is for Gordon Brown, so the outcome I would prefer is ABB – Anyone But Brown.  Perhaps Dr North’s ABC wish goes some way to explaining this analysis on EUR:

On the other hand, while the Tories took 10.7 million votes, a Lib/Lab pact would command 15.4 million and 315 seats as opposed to the Tory 306. When it comes to a mandate, the Liblabs have greater claim than the Tories acting alone.

I don’t accept this assertion because national vote numbers are completely irrelevant.  They may matter to proponents of proportional representation who seek to secure a greater platform for their views, but they are meaningless in the electoral system.  Also, people did not vote for a Lib-Lab pact, they made a discrete between the two left of centre parties.  It is completely inappropriate to bundle their votes together because it doesn’t reflect the stated view of the voters.  The only vote outcomes that matter are the 650 individual contests in the Parliamentaty constituencies around the UK, and subsequently the number of seats won by members of political parties or independents.

In our system the mandate is conferred by seat numbers.  The number of votes cast nationally are a red herring.  Where voters in a constituency elect a particular representative by simple majority, it is wrong to dismiss their choice is irrelevant.  Every candidate has the same opportunity to win election.  If numbers of votes cast nationally are to be the measure of democratic mandates, then how can voters get rid of MPs they no longer wish to represent them?

If numbers of votes cast nationally mattered we would still be stuck with the likes of Jacqui Smith, Charles Clarke, Lembit Opik and Dr Evan Harris.  It would also have enabled candidates like the arrogant flouncer Joanne Cash to be running riot in the Palace of Westminster.  The fact is, the first past the post electoral sytem is not perfect, but like democracy itself it is better than the alternatives.  All that matters are the constituency results and long may they remain true.

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This is not what Britain voted for

‘The negotiating teams are working really well together.’

That is the latest statement from William Hague, speaking on behalf of the Conservative Party team engaged in discussions with the Liberal Democrats.  One wonders what the Butcher’s Bill will be in terms of culled manifesto commitments when a deal is finally thrashed out.  One thing is certain, if a deal is made then Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters are not going to get what they thought they were voting for.

No one knows what is being agreed behind closed doors.  It is politicians, not voters, who are deciding what commitments are dropped.  There os no accountability to the electorate in this process.  Power continues to reside with the political class, the voters are nothing more than ignorant observers in this process.

This is the common consequence that can be expected if proportional representation is adopted as the electoral system in this country.  Too many people look at the election results and say that because across the country a party achieved a certain percentage of the vote, they should have that percentage of Parliamentary seats.  It’s nonsense.  Parliamentary elections are where constituencies vote for the person who will represent them in Parliament.  Quite properly the person with the most votes wins.

People who vote for candidates who are not elected have not been disenfranchised at all, they were merely backing a candidate who was rejected by most people.  If they do not like the outcome they should understand that their agenda isn’t sufficiently popular.  It is wholly unacceptable that a small collection of like minded constituencies should be able to force the wishes of a majority of constituencies to be compromised.

PR is just a vehicle for giving those holding the least popular views the whip hand over those who hold the most popular.  Yet it is presented as democratic to make it seem acceptable.  The constituency model is essential to our democracy but PR undermines that.  The electoral reform that is needed is that which prevents electoral fraud from being perpetrated and that equalises the number of people in each constituency. PR is not needed to achieve that.

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This is what Proportional Representation will be like

The voters have spoken clearly and demonstrated they want the political parties to work together. Well, according to Ed Miliband at any rate, as he held forth in front of TV cameras without the supervision of a responsible adult.  Miliband made his idiotic comment despite there being not one voter who had a ballot paper where they could mark an X to vote for coalition government or cross-party cooperation. Voters went into polling stations (if they arrived in good time and there were ballot papers available) to chose the MP or the political party they most supported or least disliked.

The absence of a definitive outcome is frustrating many voters, many of whom are wondering what the hell is going on.  Why, many are wondering, having clearly lost the popular vote and not secured the largest number of seats, is Gordon Brown is still taking power naps in Downing Street?

Welcome to the future that awaits Britain in just about every future election if the first past the post system is scrapped in favour of proportional representation.  We are already conditioned to put up with bad government, but now we can expect weak government too.  Government where minority parties force the majority party to abandon manifesto pledges that earned it enough votes to become the largest party.  Government where the part of the legislative agenda not offshored to the EU can be dictated by the least popular parties, whose policies only resonated with a limited number of voters.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the Lib Dem position on voting reform and Nick Clegg has repeatedly asserted that people were in the mood for change of the electoral system to proportional representation. But the outcome of this General Election has laid bare the extent of political uncertainty, backroom horsetrading and party political vested interest that comes with such a system.  How days and weeks of secret deals determine how we will be governed.  If voters feel uneasy now, imagine how they will feel when nearly every election results in the vested interests of the political parties coming before the wishes of the people outside the political bubble.

How will voters feel when they finally discover that PR will result in sterile party politics where the elected representatives are in hock to the party, not the electorate?  Need a good example?  Take a look at politics in Greece.  Yes, welcome to the future.  If good intentions pave the road to hell, PR is one of the pavement slabs.

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