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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Time for electoral reform

While we are on the subject of polls it is worth reading this piece by Martin Kettle in the Guardian. He points out that we are in now in a genuine three party election in a sense that has not been true since 1983 (and before that not since the 1920s). He adds that Nick Clegg's remarkable debate success has added more than a third to the Liberal Democrats total in less than 24 hours — 'a transient phenomenon perhaps, but clear proof of an underlying volatility in the electorate.'

However, he also puts his finger on an essential truth that the electoral system does not allow for this sort of three way politics:

However, according to the BBC share of the vote/seats calculator, this poll would have the following, scarcely less extraordinary, outcome. Labour would have 276 seats, the Conservatives 245, the LibDems 100 and others 29. Not just a hung parliament but a very particular sort of hung parliament in which the Liberal Democrats really did hold the balance of power — and in which the small party MPs did not.

Merely to glance at these figures is to see the almost outrageous nature of the result that the first-past-the-post system would deliver. Labour would have lost its overall majority and nearly a quarter of its 2005 36% share of the poll, yet it would be conclusively the largest single party. Gordon Brown, and no one else, would have the clear constitutional mandate to be the first to try to form the next government. Imagine it.

The point Mr. Kettle is making of course is that it would be very difficult in that situation to determine who would have the moral authority to govern. Labour may well be the largest party but they would have come third in the popular vote.

The danger here is that these predictions are based on uniform swings, something that will not happen. Even so the likelihood is that in a genuinely three party contest the outcome will be so distorted that the clamour for electoral reform will be overwhelming, whilst the chance of reform happening will be much greater than for nearly a century.
I don't think you can make moralities out of an immoral system of election. For the LDs it must surely be clear that regardless of the number of seats the election lottery throws up, the party with the mandate to form a government first must be that with the largest number of votes.

For once, every vote will count!
This could be the election that represents the beginning of the end for our FPTP system.
It will be plain for all to see that we need a fair system, an end to wasted votes, safe seats, campaign by marginal constituency and tactical voting. Looking a bit deeper, we need to shift power from the Government, to the Parliament. We need higher calibre MPs who are more independently minded. We need MPs who are elected on their personal merits, not just because they have the right party label. The silver lining of the Lib Dems’ low number of MPs is that they generally stand head and shoulders above other MPs.

One of the reasons our electoral system is rotten is that we are forced to ignore the qualities of the individual candidates and focus on voting for the party. It is not that we have forgotten the Expenses Scandal, It is just that the Electoral system doesn't allow us any freedom to do anything about it.
When you vote for a constituency representative on the basis of party label alone, you will get some lazy, incompetent, even corrupt MPs.
You also get MPs who hesitate to vote except in accordance with the wishes of the party whip.

Whatever Government we get from this unpredictable election must tackle electoral and parliamentary reform. We need an electoral system where MPs are elected on their own merits and thus can be more independent minded.

We need an electoral system where everybody can vote for the party of their choice and know that their vote will not be wasted.
We need a system which would allow voters to vote directly both for the best party and for the best constituency representative – Direct Party and Representative voting.
Post a Comment

<< Home

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