.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Saturday, January 24, 2004

More on proportional representation

I am loath to turn this blog into part of a cross-internet discussion forum but Edward Cummings has drawn my attention to a piece on his blog called "Trust People" criticising my views on PR so I thought it right to respond. I am however not going to turn this into a blog for PR anoraks either.

In his article Edward states:

Firstly, how is the system unrepresentative? It may not be perfectly proportionately representative of votes cast across the whole area up for election but the current system ensures that every voter is represented by one person who is directly accountable to that individual.

There is a submission elsewhere on my site (under Flashpoints) that answers many of the questions posed in Edward's piece so rather than reinvent the wheel I will quote from it. "In Blaenau Gwent....the ruling Labour Group has 81% of the seats with 45.7% of the vote. In Bridgend, Labour rule with 75.9% of the seats but only 40% of the vote. In Rhondda Cynon Taff, Plaid Cymru have 56% of the seats on 43.3% of the vote whilst in Newport Labour have 85.1% of the seats with only 44.6% of the vote. In Cardiff, Flintshire, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea and Torfaen it is the same story - political inertia based on unequal outcomes." That not only demonstrates how the system is unrepresentative but also that one person's vote has a different value depending on where that person exercises it under the present system.

As for every voter being "represented by one person who is directly accountable to that individual", the inertia that is inherent in First Past the Post means that in many instances the ruling party pays less attention to the views of the electorate and thus is less accountable. Also I do not think that Edward has grasped that there are other PR systems than party lists. Under STV there are ward or constituency representatives directly accountable to those who voted them in and because that system is less party-based they are less beholden to the party machine.

Secondly, Mr Black says he doesn't know what is a convincing case for change if the case he lays out isn't. That probably explains why I always find the LibDems so unconvincing. I fail to see how councils will be more receptive to public opinion under PR - the only viewpoint which council leaderships will be more receptive to would be local Party opinion. It will, after all, be the Party's view of their actions which would guarantee them a berth high up the list at the next election!

Again, I emphasise that I do not promote party lists. These systems are undemocratic and are beholden to the party machine which is presumably why New Labour opted for them in Scotland, Wales and European elections. Again I quote from my own submission to the Welsh Commission on Electoral Arrangements for Local Government: "What is more the poor turnout in local elections, in my view demonstrates how people are resigned to the fact that their vote cannot change things. The vast majority of people in these Councils live in wards considered safe for one party or another and no matter how disillusioned they are prefer to express their disillusionment through absenteeism rather than by casting a positive vote for change. That is because they know that under the present system the odds are stacked against them."

"The case for change is overwhelming. Whilst Councils remain entrenched in political and managerial inertia then they will not respond to pressures to reform either from Government or the electorate. They are largely able to pay lip-service to public opinion and it is only through opening them up to the possibility of change by ensuring that electoral outcomes reflect the votes cast, that we will ensure that Local Government becomes the sort of modern and responsive local democracy which Wales needs and which can be trusted with full responsibility for its own destiny."

If anything, I would prefer to see some de-politicisation of local elections so that our elected representatives actually do fight for the interests of the small groups of people who elect them. That way we can be sure that councillors positively try to represent the interests of their voters. Under the current system elected representatives' positions are more greatly affected by their reputation for getting things done amongst a relatively small population than under a PR system where one person's view matters much less.

Wrong again I am afraid. In an STV system the views of individual politicians matter more, the system helps independents and people have a much wider choice. They can choose whether to opt for party politics or not though the idea of de-politicising local Councils is, I am afraid, a rather quaint anachronism.

I know there are (some) advantages with PR, but the greatest disadvantage must undoubtedly be this fundamental change in the accountability of our politicians.

That is of course the greatest advantage of STV, that it increases the fundamental accountability of our politicians.

And the ERS (originally name Campaign for PR...or something very similar) may have a 'good point' about the BNP being more likely to win seats under first-past-the-post systems, but it is a 'point' which should have no 'point' at all. We cannot and should never decide what system we use to manifest our democratic will in elected individuals with reference to the relative success of any party, least of all one which most of us want to destroy. Let us destroy it at the ballot box by reason and argument, not by fixing the system.

I agree with the thrust of that point.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?