Micheal Cobley

Interstellar Tactics




Tory Leader Comes Clean: No Proportional Representation For The British People

To the practised enthusiast, high-flown political rhetoric is practically a smorgasbord of revelation. For example, David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party (er, thats in Great Britain, by the way)(and I love using the words ‘Great Britain’ since you will never hear them come from the lips of an American politician, not because I think GB is that great, certainly not in the context of the last 30 years) – right, yes, Cameron has written a piece for the Guardian as part of that paper’s running theme ‘A New Politics’, in which he summarily dismisses the notion of proportional representation.

For those of you who have been on Mars for the last decade or two, Proportional Representation (or PR) has been prowling on the margins of UK politics for quite a while, not least because first the old Liberal Party, then the successor Liberal Democrats have it as a central plank of their party policy. PR already is used for local government elections in Scotland, N.Ireland and Wales, with the devolved assemblies in each of them also elected under PR. There are several variants of proportional representation (just look it up in Wikipedia) but the fundamental principle behind it is that the proportion of the popular vote gained by a party in an election is reflected by the number seats they have in the representative chamber. IE, if Labour got, say, 35% of the vote at the next General Election, they would get 35% of the 647 seats in the House of Commons which, rounded down, is 226.

At the last GElection, 2005, Labour got 35.3% of the vote but got 356 MPs (55% of the seats); Conservatives got 32.3% which netted them 198 (30% of the seats); while the Liberal Democrats got 22.1% of the popular vote but ended up with 62, or 9.5% of the seats.

First-past-the-post is the system which produces these dire, unrepresentative results, which are plainly unfair and undemocratic. Yet David Cameron, trumpeting his yearning for change and giving power to the powerless, somehow finds that bringing in PR might be giving the British people too much power.

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4 Comments already, do join in...

  1. Qatux Says:

    May 27th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Greetings Mike, this must be a favourite subject. That Alan Jhnson seems to agree with you. But then his party is struggling. I’m pretty much apolitical, but I can see the motives clearly enough.

    As your figures show, a party that is likely to get the biggest share of the vote will probably end up with a large- ish majority – So they – this next time, the real conservatives under David Cameron – don’t want to dilute their majority by agreeing to PR.

    I can see its advantages – but also some disadvantages – which you, Mike or others may wish to comment on or correct.

    1) We don’t really have a local MP anymore
    2) it spells the end of independents standing on local issues. Martin Bell – good. Esther Rantz ?
    3) Too much power to Parties (connected to both above)
    4) People like Nick Griffin will get elected – probably other extreme minority parties as well
    5) no more bi-elections? A great British institution where the electorate can show their disapproval mid-term of the party in power

  2. rockitboy Says:

    May 27th, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Thanx for commenting, Qatux. Short on time the now, so just a quick reply – under PR you would still have a local MP, in that constituencies might be larger, and might even be multi-member. Independents – in fact, in multi-member constituencies, independents would be more likely to gain votes. More power for parties – no, not any more than they have already, in the sense that generally party memberships select candidates, not the party hierarchy (altho there have been a number of instances of celeb candidates being parachuted in). Minority/extremists getting elected – they’re already getting elected at local level, a terrible indictment on the main parties inability to offer real honest policies – the price of an open and fair system (but then election of thugs sheds light on their thuggishness). Bye-elections still take place under PR – depending on the system, these might be run under the old first past the post method.

  3. Bazza Says:

    May 28th, 2009 at 10:56 am


    Mike, old bean, I’ve got a bit of a bee in my tightly fitting bonnet about the use of the phrase “various different” on the grounds of tautology, but I’m pretty sure that using the phrase ‘various different variants’ is actually breaking the law, to the point where the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague may start to show an interest.

  4. rockitboy Says:

    May 28th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Egad, sir! Ye got me, bang to rights, guvnor! Consider the malfeasance suitably obliterated from consensus reality!

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