Thursday, 12 May 2011


It is going to be hard to be taken seriously on proportional representation for some time after the alternative vote referendum – and there will inevitably be some blood-letting in the PR camp over the extraordinarily stupid decision of most prominent PR backers to support the "yes" campaign on AV.

But the struggle continues. It was AV specifically that was rejected in the referendum, not electoral reform as such. The case for proportional representation for the House of Commons remains as strong as it ever was and was not tested by the referendum.

What next? These are my first thoughts:

  • Draw up a manifesto It should make the points that (a) it was only AV that was rejected on 5 May; (b) the case for PR remains as strong as ever; (c) the reasons we need PR have nothing to do with any party's self-interest.

    It is probably not a good idea to have Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne or any other Lib Dem fronting this initiative.

  • Make it a campaign for PR With AV out of the picture, the campaign for electoral reform must be explicitly in favour of proportional representation. It's not just  "change" – it's a particular change.
  • Purge the pro-PR organisations The electoral reform pressure groups, all of which are pro-PR, have been horribly compromised by their enthusiasm for AV in the referendum campaign. They need new personnel and a new political direction. With notable exceptions, the Charter 88 generation has let us down.
  • Back AMS not STV There are two PR systems that have significant support in the UK: the additional member system (used in German general elections and in the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly and London assembly) and the single transferable vote (traditionally backed by the Liberal Democrats). AMS retains single-member constituencies but tops up the results regionally; STV uses multi-member constituencies. The constituency link is the key point here: drop it and you lose a key element of British democracy. AMS is also familiar to a large number of UK voters.

  • Use Germany as a campaigning example The Federal Republic of Germany has used the additional member system since its inception – and no one could claim that it has had extremist governments. But it has had alternation of left and right governments and has seen the emergence of new parties, most notably the Greens.

  • Focus on Labour After the AV referendum fiasco, it's clear that the only way we'll ever get PR is through a Labour government. It's a long shot, true, but there was serious support in the parliamentary Labour Party and among constituency Labour parties for AMS before the AV referendum, and it's probably still there.

OK, your thoughts please.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that attention should now be on AMS rather than STV. As you will be aware there are some objections to AMS, as follows:

    • Party List MPs are accountable to the party leadership rather than the voters.
    • Having two different types of representative creates friction between them. MPs elected via the party lists can be seen as different, and in some way inferior to constituency MPs (it is said)
    • To allow for the additional members, the number of constituency MPs has to be reduced and consequently the size of the constituencies has to be increased.
    • Sometimes a party wins more seats via the constituency vote than it is entitled to, proportionally speaking.

    A variation of this system called DPR Voting (Direct Party and Representative Voting) addresses these objections. Instead of using the party vote to elect additional members, the party vote is used to factor the aggregated votes of the constituency members of each party so that the votes of each party are proportional to the total votes cast in the Party vote. The factored party vote is then shared out equally amongst their MPs. Each MP is entrusted with an equal share of their party’s overall voting power, so they have, in most cases, a vote value either more or less than one, the value being expressed as a decimal.

    The result is that there are no additional members, so all MPs are constituency MPs.
    The influence the party has in electing MPs from the party list is removed.
    There is only one kind of MP and they are all elected in the same way.

    Another consequence is that the number of constituencies (or number of MPs) does not need to change.
    No change to constituency boundaries is necessary, and the need for constant boundary revisions is reduced. As you said in your blog, this is a key issue.

    Voting and counting is simple. No changes to constituencies are required. MPs could even hope to compete in their existing constituency under very much the same electoral system, thus addressing the concern that Turkeys will not vote for Christmas.
    DPR Voting represents a small and straightforward change in voting procedure and administration, which would make it easy to introduce as a replacement for the FPTP system.

    For more information, google DPR Voting


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