Electoral Reform The Case For Modifying First Past The Post

The current political impasse following a General Election that returned a Hung Parliament has brought the first past the post system used in Britain a lot of criticsm.

The Lib Dems and the SDP before them have long had electoral reform on the political agenda because they have an uphill struggle, even more of an uphill struggle than the Conservatives because the first past the post is weighted heavily in favour of Labour.

It takes 15,000 votes to elect a Labour MP and 20,000 to elect a Conservative MP because of the boundaries of the constituencies, Labour have a lot of small constituencies in cities which is why they got a landslide in 1997, yet the Conservatives with same number of votes cast in 2010 failed to get a majority, becuase their seats cover a larger geographical area.

One of the popular mistruths doing the rounds at the moment is that people voted for a Hung Parliament, no they did not. Some people did vote tactically but the level of organisation required to actively achieve a Hung Parliament is beyond immigination, and all in 4 weeks and without a nationally orchestrated campaign, it does not seem very likely.

The Hung Parliament happend because of random chance and the relationship between the number of votes needed to elect a Labour MP and the number of votes needed to elect a Conservative MP.

The political dealings behind closed doors as polticians seek to form alliances that benefit the political parties first are a common feature of Proportional Represention electoral systems.

One of the PR options being discussed involves voting for candidates in order of preference, which means you could end up voting for a party you dont support.

Under the system being proposed by the Lib Dems this is just what would happen, you vote Conservative and you end up voting in a MP from another party. How this is supposed to further democrarcy beats the crap out of Aardvark, who would no more vote Labour than stick his face in a fan. Faced with a situation like that how many other people from all parties would decide not to vote rather than cast a vote for the “enemy”?

All the PR systems are also more complex to administer which means also more easily abused that first past the post.

Britain needs electoral reform and decisive government, first past the post could easily deliver this if the number of constituencies were reduced by 10% and the boundaries redrawn so that it takes the same number of votes to elect an MP from any political party.

About Tory Aardvark

Climate Realist, Conservative and proud NRA member. I don't buy into the Man Made Global Warming Scam, science is never settled. http://toryaardvark.com @ToryAardvark on Twitter ToryAardvark on Facebook

Posted on May 11, 2010, in General Election and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. If you take the position of Australia, I give an example.

    Primary votes are the strongest. Say you have 6 parties standing for the same electorate.

    Greens – Meg Brown -3
    Labour – Joe Capachi – 6
    Conservatives – Jill Jones – 1 * 15,000 49%
    Lib/Dem Fred blogs – 2
    Mad Hatter Merle Jeffries – 5
    Christian party – John Peters -4

    If the Labour obviously will be out first if all the voters
    put them as sixth. The lowest votes go first. All his votes will go to the 2nd preference on the voters card, say Lib Democrats, And so on its a knock out However once one candidate has 51% of the vote he/she wins. Generally the minor parties have little chance of winning. Except with Independents. And that will depend on the popularity in
    the area of that candidate and how he/she campaigns.

    Heres another example

    Labour 30% + 15% +
    Conservatives 28% + 23% on prefs
    Lib/Dems 15%
    Greens 5%
    Mad Hatter 2%
    Christian party 1%

    My percentages are out. But you get the gist.

    Although labour got 30% of the primary vote, they lost
    on preferences. Glenda Jackson won by only 42 votes.

    It works out the conservatives won on preferences.
    Mind you this system would give your polling stations
    more work in a closely run election. Sometimes the
    results are not known for days, when the postal votes
    or absentee votes (people who can’t vote in their electorate
    but are voting somewhere else other than postal)

    The number of voters in your country it could become a nightmare. However, the number of informal votes could
    rocket. By law, if you don’t number 1 – 6 or put in two 1s
    etc. Your vote is informal. That is why all candidates particularly for the small parties hand out recommended voting slips. There is no need for an Independent to do this either, all he wants is number 1 and leave it to the voters discretion to number 2 – 6. And there’s no chance of double dipping either. If my candidate is in the highest votes anyway, my preference won’t count anymore. I scrutineer at every election for my Independent candidate. However, if someone puts just 1 and a 6 his voting will be counted. He’s used only his primary vote. And outlined who he doesn’t want at all.

    I’m just wondering how some elderly people will take this
    and how you government will view if someone only puts
    1 on their card as before. It could be a lost vote, should
    their candidate come in last on the primary count.

    However, in Australia voting is compulsory, and everyone
    is registered with addresses on the electoral roll. Per State When your vote is cast, your name is crossed off the list.

    With the millions who voted in this election, you would have to very organised to make it work.

    Polling stations are closed dead on 6 pm. If you are in
    the station then you can still vote. You are lock in of course.
    But of course we have multiple stations in one town of course. And the electoral commission choose their counters
    very careful, one can’t be a member of any party nor have
    worked for them on campaigns.

    Here endeth the lesson.

    This system will not disadvantage the major parties, but
    would disadvantage the minor parties.

  2. why can’t we just move to a multi stage system
    first round all parties get their votes.
    second round knock out those on less than 10% and the rest go through to the next round.
    knock out those less than 10% again. If no one has more than 50% you have a third round.eventually you will have one candidate that has more than 50% of the votes. It would be tiresome, but it would be fair.
    If they wanted to add some PR element to it, those votes cast in the first round are what is used to make up the seats in the upper chamber.
    If that was the case based on this election, the BNP would have about 10 seats and UKIP a few more in the upper house, not good, but fair. Obviously if there was a landslide for one party or another it may mean the the upper and lower houses were dominated by one party, but that happens in america and usually sorts itself out.
    There is a case for saying that the upper house might have a longer term and only half the seats would change at each election, so for the first election under this system, the PR element goes to half the existing chamber and half the existing chamber is ejected. Then next time round the other half goes and we end up with an entirely PR elected 2nd chamber. It would of course require fixed term elections for the HOC.
    5 years for the HOC and and 10 years for the upper chamber.
    I feel that is far fairer than having to maybe vote for parties you despise and in my opinion may result in far more independents being elected.

    • No one will be required to vote for the party you despise.

      You vote for the candidate that you think will serve your
      electorate best. You don’t vote for the PM. Say you put No.1 for the conservative, you could put No 5 (if their are only 5 candidates) against the labour. You primary vote No 1 is OK. But say a green candidate, UKIP is selected as No.1. And the voter has put No.2 for the conservative candidate then the conservative gets that preference vote.

      Primary votes are always supreme. And if a candidate gets
      51% of the primary votes, he/she’s in anyway. Preferential votes are only counted when no candidate receives 51% of the votes. Of course deals are done. The labour candidate
      could ask the lib.dem candidate to put them as No.2 on their voting preference to their supporters.

  3. William Hague said the Lib Dems are in talks with labour.
    They want PR voting without going to a referendum. That would be totally undemocratic in my view.

    AV voting is similar to Australia’s. But it would involve such
    complex voting with your huge population where it is not compulsory to vote. Chaos will rule on polling day.

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