How England might get proportional representation

Posted in emerging issues, politics by thenextwavefutures on 30 June, 2007

There are interesting articles in the Welsh political and cultural magazine Planet on the recent Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament elections. In Wales, John Osmond writes that Labour’s position as the largest party is now on a knife edge – the long-term trend in their vote appears to be downwards and they hold nine of the ten most marginal seats. From a Scottish perspective, the historian Christopher Harvie, newly elected as a nationalist MSP, observes that Labour’s strongholds have been reduced through PR to Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Between them, these hold clues to electoral change in England.

So what has this got to do with England? Well, one of the flurries created by the nationalist success in Scotland, and the prominence of Plaid in Wales, has been a resurgence of interest in the government of England, for example in places such as the Our Kingdom blog and its parent, Open Democracy (where the most coherent case has been made by a Scot, Neal Acherson.) And this is, obviously, connected to the resurgence of interest in the cause of a proper constitutional settlement for Britain, as David Marquand argues in the current edition of New Statesman.

But I suspect that the emergence of proportional representation in England – which has seemed unlikely for all of my adult life – will come about, and quite quickly, for this reason. PR in Scotland and Wales, which already seems to be having an entirely positive effect on their political and public life, is also eroding the strongest local bases of the Labour Party. In his Planet article Harvie article writes of the former Labout First Minister, Jack McConnell, that “his monument turned out to be the devastation of the Labour Party at local level, through his introduction of proportional representation in this year’s council elections”. (Notwithstanding that if you believe in democracy, introducing PR was the right thing to do).

So – in the face of losing its local bases, it seems unthinkable that a political mind as shrewd as Gordon Brown’s won’t see the benefit of doing the right thing by democracy by finding a way to introduce PR in England, at least locally, while also knowing that it will destabilise the Conservative party there as well. And how big a step is it from there to some sort of proportional representation at Westminster? Maybe 7-10 years.


2 Responses

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  1. UkraineToday said, on 30 June, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks for raising this issue. The English first-past-the-post voting system was designed in the days when most people could not read or write. Any serious analysis of the outcome in terms of representation would relegate this system to the past.

    Multi-member electorates utilising a system of preferential proportional representation would provide England with a far more democratic representation.

    PR works best with electorates that elect an odd number of candidates per electorate Each electorate should be equal in size and representation. Ideally electorates that elect seven (12.5% quota)or nine members (10% quota)

    One other option that is worth considering is the adoption of a preferential voting system as opposed to a party list system. The adoption of preferential voting ensures that most people will be represented by someone of their choice.

    In situations where there is a single member constituency (such as the French or Ukrainian Presidential elections a preferential voting system would eliminate the need for a two-round voting system, saving 100’s of millions of dollars/pounds or Euros.

    A single ballot where voters are required to list in order of preference their chosen candidates (1, 2 ,3 etc). if no one candidate has 50% or more votes then the candidate with the lowest vote is excluded from the count and their votes redistributed. this process is repeated until a candidate has obtained the 50% or quota. (Under a multi-member preferential voting system the quota would be less but the same principle applies).

    One can only hope that England will review it’s voting system and move into the 21st century and further enhance the british parliamentary system. If Britain makes the change then Canada and the USA will also hopefully follow.

  2. Vlad Gorre said, on 7 May, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    I have started a Facebook group supporting the MMP version of proportional representation.
    Check it out and join if you agree.

    Search FAcebook for the group, it’s called:
    Proportional representation for the UK electoral system

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