There was little discussion of our electoral system as part of the UK Labour leadership debate. Yet proportional representation has never seemed more clearly essential to avoid the permanent triumph of self-interest politics. Something quite extraordinary happened between the 2010 and 2015 elections that has been extraordinarily little remarked upon. The outcome in terms of Parliamentary seats was a very clear shift from a centrist coalition representing 59% of the electorate to a brazenly right-wing single-party government representing only 37%. Yet the voting pattern did not indicate any such change in preference by voters. Continue reading Irrelevant Alternatives and PR
It’s the last week of the AV referendum campaign and time for the politicians to butt out and let the voters take over. In fact in this particular campaign they should always have been taking a back seat. We know their views, and they are not a surprise. Among MPs, if we assume there are no closet AV supporters among the Tories, we have 335 out of 650 supporting the status quo and only 144 clearly supporting AV. Politicians don’t reach power by cutting their feet from under themselves. Continue reading Let’s AV it for the voters!
I’ve written two previous pieces on particular aspects of the Alternative Vote (AV). Now that the referendum and date of 5th May are confirmed, I’ve put together a more comprehensive view of the debate and its current arguments. If anything I haven’t considered here comes up, I will try to address it. If you want to skip to the core argument of why AV is a fundamentally more democratic system, regardless of any other considerations, go here.
Why think about it at all?
On the face of it it may seem that there is little at stake in the coming referendum on the voting system for the UK House of Commons. I have to say that this was my first thought on the matter when the plan for this referendum was announced as part of the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition agreement. In my case this is because I believe in a consensus democracy in which national policy decisions flow as much as possible from the equal input of all citizens in the decision-making process. I believe in such a system for two reasons – firstly that in the long-run it is likely to end up making the best decisions for everyone, and secondly because it is the system most likely to avoid sections of the populace, who feel unable to get a fair hearing, attempting to get attention in other more unpleasant ways. I would contrast this sort of democracy to ‘elected dictatorships’ where a government is chosen at intervals with the power to more or less ignore the wishes of the electorate (or at any rate those that are not its confirmed supporters) for its period of office. Continue reading My Definitive View of the AV Debate
A UK-wide referendum is scheduled for 5th May 2011 to determine whether there should be a change in the voting system for the UK (Westminster) Parliament. The choice will be between the current First Past the Post (FPTP) system, in which you give an ‘X’ to each listed candidate in a single round of voting and the candidate with the most ‘X’s is elected, and the Alternative Vote (AV) system in which you can express preferences for each listed candidate by giving them a number from 1 downwards.
I think the easiest way to understand the Alternative Vote (AV) is to think of it as a multi-round elimination election, in which you specify in advance on one ballot paper how you would vote in each round.
In the first round of counting, instead of the candidate with the least ‘X’s being eliminated, the one with the least ‘1’s is. Then instead of asking everyone to vote again, the ‘2’s of those giving the eliminated candidate their ‘1’s are appropriately transferred to the remaining candidates. The bottom candidate is again eliminated and the same process carried out with their ‘3’s. And so on until one candidate has 50% of the ballots.
The last round is equivalent to a round in which, while some candidates have been eliminated, everyone has a vote between those remaining and the one getting an absolute majority of those votes is elected. So there’s no reason to say that second or third etc preferences should somehow have less value.
I’ve written some more about AV for the UK here.
This post appeared on the Labour List website on 30th August 2010.
There can be only one rational reason to vote against AV in next May’s referendum, and that is to undermine democratic government in Britain. This explains why ludicrous right-wingers such as Matthew Elliot and Lord Leach are in charge of the campaign for a ‘No’ vote. The best chance for the rich and powerful to carry on ruling the roost is to make sure that the House of Commons remains as unrepresentative and polarised as possible. Continue reading Voting for AV
In May 1998 I attended an academic seminar in Downing Street organized to discuss the meaning of Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’. The event was hosted by David Miliband, then the head of the No 10 Policy Unit. Before the meeting I sent Miliband a document I entitled ‘Two Lanes on the Third Way’ pdf(95.5kB), in which I argued that since ‘when we increase the capacity of others to help themselves, we also increase their capacity to help us’ the Labour government should embrace proportional representation and economic democracy. Both of these, in the form of a manifesto commitment to a referendum on electoral reform, and as an exploration of the stake-holding idea espoused by Will Hutton among others, had already entered ‘New Labour’ thinking. Continue reading Labour’s Future
The Conservative Party leader David Cameron has today published in the Guardian the text of a speech in which he outlines a programme of constitutional reform. What he says is interesting, but shouldn’t be taken too seriously. We mustn’t forget that David Cameron is no political thinker. He is and has always been a political operator. He is the type of individual we need less of in Parliament. Still we must make do with what we have, and maybe he can serve an important purpose. Certainly he may have jumped on the right bandwagon. Labour, having promised constitutional reform to appeal to their less tribally-committed supporters over the years, have as far as Westminster is concerned signally failed to deliver. Indeed it is practically (and may effectively turn out to be so) criminal that the government has not transferred many of the systems trialled in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly (proportional representation, powerful and independent committees, transparent expense arrangements, to name but a few) to Westminster. It is probably too late to claim the initiative back on these issues, and so we have the strange sight of the Conservatives leading on them. Continue reading Welcome to Cameronia!
The Daily Telegraph and their informant have certainly opened a veritable can of worms! Their publication day after day of new revelations of MPs’ expense claims has certainly boosted their sales, despite the widespread reporting of every detail in other outlets. But if they also have a political agenda, this must be a dangerous game, both for the paper’s chosen champions, David Cameron’s Tories, and for the rest of us. The likely public response to the Telegraph’s uncovering of the somewhat murky operations of the Commons Fees Office is ‘a plague on all their houses’. This will probably encompass all the prominent parties in Westminster: Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Many will presumably opt not to vote in the Euro elections on 4th June and perhaps in the General Election which must come within the next 12 months. Some may be persuaded to vote for candidates they would not otherwise have voted for. If they are going to do so let us hope they are clear on exactly the issues at stake. Continue reading A New Politics?