The last refuge………….

It used to be said that the last refige of a scoundrel was patriotism. Now it is fast becoming Proportional Representation.

We are now told that Alan Johnson, who presides on behalf of G. Brown over an unreformed Health Service, is now proferring the prospect of PR as part of a constitutional ‘reform’ package. For ‘reform package’ read ‘bid to become Prime Minister in place of GB and prevent the real change of govermnet this country needs from taking place’.

It may be that other scoundrels in the Labour party and others will fall for this. Let them reflect, however, that such a ‘reform’ is the one sure way to guarantee BNP MPs at Westminster…….


About pauljohnston

Elected as Conservative councillor in Surbiton Hill, Kingston upon Thames in 1998. Re-elected 2002 and 2006. Former parliamentary candidate in Lancashire and Birmingham. Ceased to be a Councillor (temporarily?) in 2010. Active among Residents' Associations in Surbiton Hill and among residents in social housing generally. Former teacher of History at St. Brendan's College Bristol and Head of History and Politics at the London Oratory School. Worked with Sutton Trust running summer schools for sixth formers at Oxford University from 1997-2000 aiming to improve uptake of places from pupils from state schools which sent very few applicants to Oxbridge.
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2 Responses to The last refuge………….

  1. Alan-a-dale says:

    I don’t think that using the spectre of the BNP being elected to any kind of political office, whether European, national or local, is a good enough reason to oppose proportional representation. As complicated as the system is, and despite some of its limitations (all democratic processes have these to some degree) the very fact that it does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’, that is, ensures representation according to the number of votes cast, is a good enough reason for me to support the system and to hope that it is introduced as the standard voting method for this country as soon as possible.

    The removal of ‘safe’ seats for politicians of any political hue and the ending of the complacency that accompanies this, together with the fact that minority parties like the Greens could win more political influence can, in my view, only be a positive thing.

    And if this raises the dreadful prospect of the BNP being elected (something I will always fight against) then it is not the voting system that needs to be changed (or maintained) but the attitude, culture and political awareness of the British people.

  2. pauljohnston says:

    Thanks for a very thoughtful response.

    I did quite a study on PR systems some years back. The first thing is that PR isn’t A system, it’s a term which can be applied to a variety of systems, each of which will produce different results. Mainly there are two ‘pure’ PR systems, Single Transferable Vote and the List system. STV is used in Ireland to elect the Dail and involves voters ranking candidates in order of preference in multi-member constituencies. It requires about 5 to make each constituency produce some form of proportionality. Counting is lengthy and it often takes several days before the outcome of a GE is known in its entirety. The Irish electorate is much smaller than the British one and constituencies would therefore be much larger – in the region of 350,000 voters plus.

    You would get proportionality of representation but you wouldn’t kill the safe seat phenomenon as a politician of a leading party who held a high profile job in Government would be much better known than his colleagues on the same ballot paper and might well, thus, attract more first preferences as a result. Governments would always be coalitions, sometimes of more than two parties.

    The List system we use for the Euro-elections is much favoured by Socialist parties on the continent, notably in Italy, France (3rd and 4th Republics) and Weimar Germany. Here you vote for a list of candidates and election depends largely on position on the list. Party control is enhanced, the safe seat phenomenon is entrenched as leaders can pretty well guarantee election regardless. It becomes more worth while to set up multiple little parties around charismatic personalities and it helped Mussolini to power in Italy and Hitler to power in Germany in consequence. Parliamentary business tends to revolve around making and unmaking coalitions rather than grappling with real problems facing people.

    Germany under the Bonn constitution and Scotland and Wales under devolution and the GLA use a hybrid of first past the post and the list system, where voters vote twice. It means that some MPs have constituency responsibilities and others don’t. This militates against splinter parties
    and the list system has been, let’s face it, beneficial to the Conservatives in Scotland and Wales, where they suffered seriously in the 1997 debacle.

    It also produces coalitions, but mainly of two parties. The objection to this is that the smaller parties often get disproportional power. The German FDP was in office as a coalition partner of either the CDU-CSU or the SPD almost continuously for the first 40 years of the Bonn Republic while it won only one FPTP constituency once in all that time – or Grand Coalitions of the two biggest parties as at present, which freezes out the smaller ones altogether.

    So Alan, there isn’t a single PR system. As with so much else, you pays your money – you takes your choice!

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