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Monday, February 08, 2010

Half measures

Yesterday's Sunday Times had an interesting article that outlines exactly why Liberal Democrats are lukewarm about Gordon Brown's proposed referendum on voting reform.

They report that Michael Thrasher and Colin Rallings, who are professors of politics at Plymouth University, have re-run the results of the 2005 general election as if Brown’s alternative vote system were in place. They say that the results show that Labour’s majority in the Commons would have risen from 66 to 82, with the Tories getting 15 fewer seats. The Liberal Democrats would have gained an extra nine.

Labour, with 36% of the popular vote on people’s first preferences, would have gained 364 Commons seats, equivalent to more than 10 for every 1% of the vote. The Tories would have secured 183 seats for their 33% of the vote, just five for every 1% of the vote.

The fact that the Liberal Democrats would not pick up the 100 plus seats that they would gain under any proper proportional system is not so much relevant here, as the fact that the suggested new system would actually further distort the result to make it less proportional for all the three parties. At the same time, smaller parties who might expect to get seats on 10% or more of the vote in a decent STV system would remain unrepresented in Parliament.

The AV system proposed by Gordon Brown amounts to no more than a last desperate throw of the dice by the Prime Minister, who has blocked reform in the past when it has not been in his interest. There is no principle behind the move at all other than self-preservation.

That is why the Liberal Democrats will be tabling amendments to give voters a real choice by ensuring the referendum choice is between first past the post and the single transferable vote system; to bring forward the referendum to next May; and closing the loophole that would allow the next Government to kill the proposals without an Act of Parliament.
It could be argued that STV should be introduced into Local Authority Elections, for the election of Town and County Councillors.

Whilst on the subject of Local Authorities, specifically the election of Scrutiny Chairs, I notice that Bridgend CBC that the chairs are voted for by all the Councillors present.

Really strangely, the candidates are voted for, with those casting their vote having the choice of:

a) Voting for the candidate
b) Voting against the candidate
c) Abstaining
d) Not voting

Surely, putting 1-2-3 on the voting slip is easier than this procedure?
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