>Proportional Representation or not?

>The UK is divided into 646 electoral regions known as constituencies. From each constituency one person is elected by a ‘First Past the Vote’ system where the person with the most votes wins.

But when that person becomes a Member of Parliament should he/she be representing the constituency or the UK? After all the UK has not voted for them, only that constituency.

So should we have Proportional Representation whereby if 25% of the people voted for party A party A got 25% of the seats in Parliament? What do you think?

13 comments

  • >This is like the New Zealand system right ? MMP ? Mixed member proportional.Each NZer gets two votes at the ballot. 1 for their constituent and 1 for the party. Each constituent with the most votes is elected into parliament. The remaining allocated seats in parliament are then pro-rata given to each party according to their percentage of party votes.This was introduced into NZ in 1996. It may have made the system slightly better but their isn't much noticeable difference.The only real improvement on democracy is a form of direct democracy.Yeah baby, i'll say it again, direct democracy. Anything else is flawed.

  • >Oh no! I've gotten you back onto direct democracy again! I do not want a tyranny of the majority!The New Zealand system does seem to have merit. But does it ensure that there is a strong government? I would introduce Proportional Representation in the main legislative chamber. There would be two rounds of voting to ensure that the elected Government is representative of at least 50% of the voters. The percentage of votes cast in this second vote would determine how many additional MPs joined the party that becomes Government. I would then have a second chamber that represented groups such as regions, age groups, business sectors, religions etc to ensure that both individuals and groups were represented.

  • >We live in a democracy where many people either vote tactically for the lesser evil (as I will almost certainly be doing when I probably vote Labour in a couple of months) or genuinely vote on conviction at the substantial risk of not being heard.A two party, FPTP system is neither fair nor representative. I don't value the strong government argument anyway; for a start, in seven general elections since 1979 we have had, as far as the calculations off the top of my head go, four landslides and two sizeable majorities; not once, to my mind, have we had a particularly *good* government, however strong they have been. They have invariably been divisive, contemptuously regardless of the vox populi (witness Iraq, the poll tax, tuition fees, arguably the HRA etc, etc) and corrupt. Secondly, much stronger economies and more powerful diplomats (Germany, for example) have a form of PR and the attendant coalitions all the time without any problems of 'weakness'. The myth that PR must, as a matter of course, bring with it weak government is precisely that – a myth.The prospect that I, along with millions of others, will probably never be able to vote in a general election for the candidate and party of my choice, without knowing deep down that my ballot is little more than a moot matter of principle, is utterly depressing. I would either introduce hybrid PR as in Germany (which, if I recall correctly, is two votes: AV for a list of constituency candidates and then top-up STV from a national party list to level out proportionally) or, more simply, use the closed party list system of European elections in UK general elections.I also think that as much as conservatives like to bang on about the constituency link it is less relevant than it was. We live in a country which not awfully fit people can cycle up and down in a few days, across before it gets dark – this isn't the USA or Russia or even Germany. Fundamentally, differences between constituencies are not that diverse. There is nothing wrong, to my mind, with having regional representatives as they do in European Parliament elections. Maybe I'm an elitist buffoon with my head in the ivory tower, but what specific issues do, say, Dewsbury or Batley and Spen face that aren't closely mirrored or even replicated numerous times across the Yorkshire and Humber region? Nothing so big that councils and local interest groups can't sort it, surely? If constituency links are the best opponents of PR can come up with then, frankly, I'd be glad to see them go. In an age of mass media, centrall-organised party and rapid communication as well as an increasingly-integrated economy their function in UK-wide politics is surely limited. I don't expect many to agree with me on this, but it is something I feel pretty strongly every time I'm told what x candidate proposes to do for me on a local level. It is a sad case of a) as if you can and b) if you could, as if I care that much.

  • >Re: New Zealand above, I did not know this (not my strong point, sorry!) but the system you describe is almost identical to the German model, which I call hybrid PR and they call something else – mixed member PR I think.Basically, half the seats are FPTP and maintain constituency links and the other half are taken from a closed party list (similar to our European ballots) to smooth the proportion.There is the possibility of voting for a candidate of one party in the single-member (FPTP) vote and one from another in the list vote, thus it's not pure PR (half the seats are not allocated proportionately) but it has the effect of pure PR – Germany is a multi-party (5 parties got more than 50 seats in the 622 seat legislature in 2009; a sixth got 45) system which encourages collaborative, coalition governments often(though not as of 2009) between parties across the political spectrum. It does not usually make for a dominant party or necessarily 'strong' government (as I've said above, I don't mind that).I think, if I had the choice, I'd quite like something like that over here, so i agree with Sean.

  • >Good answer. I really agree with you about the injustices of the present system in the UK. Having grown up in a Lib Dem strong seat, and gone to university in an area where the only two contenders were Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru, I have never had an opportunity to vote for anyone that had a possibility of entering government. This is seriously undermining my democratic rights in my opinion.But about the strong mandate vs coalition argument you say "I don't value the strong government argument anyway." It may not have brought the government we want thus far, but can you point to a coalition government somewhere that you would find adequate? Take your example of Germany. Which government would you say was good, and why? Is it the lack of compromise and agreement between parties that disillusions you most in the UK? Because that's not what most people say.Secondly, the British system has evolved a very adversarial system of government where cooperation in the form of coalitions between parties would prove difficult. It worked in Scotland because the system was new and hence could be molded. It would prove a lot more difficult in Westminster. Thirdly, no one said coalition government automatically meant weak government. But you cannot deny that it dilutes the arguments of the biggest party. You can argue that this is a good thing to force compromise, but you cannot argue that it does not force compromise and hence would slow down the workings of the legislature.Also, how democratic are coalitions anyway? Some people are saying (I don't think this will happen by the way) that if there is a hung Parliament in Britain then Labour and the Lib Dems will form a coalition. But this would mean that the people get two parties they did not vote for.Next the constituency link. You say "Fundamentally, differences between constituencies are not that diverse." To be quite frank they can sometimes be very different. And talking about people being able to cycle up and down the country to emphasize how small our country is is a little odd. The amount of the electorate that could physically do that is small enough. The amount of people with both the level of fitness and time to do it is a fraction of 1%. There are still many people who have never been to London, don't have a computer, and don't even know how to email. And there are a great many people living in the country (the contrast between city and country is a big one) who already feel the constituency to be vast and far away. Tell them that link has been severed and you'll have a lot of unhappy people.P.S. Ross I think you misunderstood Sean. He would scrap elections all together and have all decisions taken directly by the people. That's Direct Democracy.

  • >I wouldn't scrap elections. You need to elect people to do the administration of carrying out the people's wishes. These people will still be called MP's, but they will not be 'representing' us, they will be working for us.

  • >You mean you want to get rid of all representatives but elect a bureacracy? Sorry about the misinterpretation.But before I argue that lets try and keep this debate to the electoral system. Are you proposing the NZ system to elect the bureacracy?

  • >The kind of system doesn't matter as long as the administration of the people's wishes is done adequately.I would expect people who have served the community for y number of years and proven themselves capable to be appointed/elected by the voters.I don't mean to hijack this thread but I can't really contribute to it either if we are going to steadfastly stick to finding a better proportional representation system.It's like having a debate to improve the unicycle when i know that a bicycle is so much better.

  • >"when I know" How could you know? It's never been used so far other than temporarily on single acts i.e. referenda. I listed 10 reasons why this is so below:1. The majority of people are not educated in political, legal and economic affairs. Hence we risk very poor laws. You would not ask a plumber to give you open heart surgery. Politicians are experts. We should not play down what they're able to do.2. Your ideas, as stated in the Direct Democracy debate wouldn't make voting compulsory, so we risk very extreme laws.3. Political representatives serve a legitimate purpose in being people that the voters can go to to complain, ask for advice from, and give tasks that they feel unable to do, don't have interest in, or simply don't have enough time to do.4. Representatives provide role models, leadership and help guide the nation.5. Someone needs the power to negotiate with foreign leaders.6. Someone needs to excercise the nation's vote in international bodies such as the UN.7. The rights of minorities stand a distinct chance of getting crushed as most people look out for self-interests hence 'the tryanny of the majority'.8. Constant useage of referenda is slow and expensive.9. Giving administrators the power over negotiations, what laws to propose for the people to vote on, the wording of the laws, snap calls such as what to do in the event of a flood, etc means that a completely 'direct democracy' could never exist anyway.10. The nature of the media, and the influence it gives to populist leaders, makes direct democracies susceptible to charismatic arguments and demagoguery (whereas in representative democracies representatives formulate decisions based on logic).

  • >1. To be read in the spirit of 1990 ;The majority of black South Afircans are not as educated as their white compatriots. Giving black South Africans the vote, where they make up 95% of the population, would risk electing a very poor government, who will enact very poor laws. White South Africans, although not experts, are much more informed in political, legal, and economic matters.We should not downplay the positive effects for the nation of allowing only white people to vote.2. Voting is not compulsory, only people with an interest in the bill being proposed are likely to vote. Knowledge has a correlation Interest, so voters are likely to be more informed than the non-voters. Therefore there is very little risk of "extreme laws". 3. I agree and that's why we will still elect/appoint our MP's. People still need a point of origin in order to have their thoughts brought to the debating chamber.4. They can still be role models (seriously !?!) and provide contributions to the nation without the need to 'approriate' the liberty/rights of voters.5. Again, we will still keep these people to negotiate with foreign leaders. But when they intend to make a decision that requires a piece of legislation, they will need to ensure they have the backing of the people via a vote, before they commit the nation.6. See above.7. Most democratic countries are already signed up to most of the many U.N. resolutions protecting minority rights, e.g. "United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities".8. How much does an SMS cost these days ? In the Direct Democracy debate I explained how the technical aspects would work. I see nothing slow or expensive in it.Eurovision can manage to tally 22 million votes in an hour, I'm sure governments could easily replicate this.9. We both agreed earlier that I am not proposing a "complete direct democracy". I would also like to point out your incorrect wording of giving administrators "power over". It is rpresentative MP's who have "power over", not administrators.10. The media has always been in bed with political parties, see Fox news or the Washington post. It is illogical to refuse direct democracy because of possible media manipulation, but accept representative democracy even though it has just as much media manipulation.

  • >1. Comparing giving people a vote with giving people a job in government is a little different. And I find your comparison of my argument with that of the Apartheid South African government offensive.2. If one bill affected 10,000 farmers but the leader of a racist group thought it helped people outside the country too much then it would be easy for that leader to ask his/her 12,000 supporters to vote the opposite way.3. This is a representative democracy!!!!!4. This is a representative democracy with a leading representative or group of representatives!!!5. If you allow representatives to make any decisions on your behalf so long as they don't need to be legislated then this is a representative democracy!7. So you wouldn't allow representatives to legislate on your behalf but you're fine with international institutions that are far less democratic?!?!8. You've just trampled the rights of your first minority: those who aren't famililar with modern technologies such as mobile phones, texting and the internet.9. My "incorrect wording" was a point of argument. You originally said: "You need to elect people to do the administration of carrying out the people's wishes. These people will still be called MP's, but they will not be 'representing' us"However you later rejected this and started referring to them as representatives as I see you have done here. Once more, you do not favour direct democracy! What you want is increased useage of direct forms of democracy within the current representative democracies!!10. Professional politicians are a lot less open to manipulation and control as they have access to many sources of information and can dedicate all their time to making the most logical decisions that are in the interests of the greatest good.

  • >1. Who said we were talking about giving people jobs in government ? I think you're being disingenious and that you knew full well we were talking about giving people a continous voice in government.I think you 'reframed' your statement only because you saw how elitist it came across as.2. If 10,000 farmers lost a vote to 12,000 racists over fears of outside ownership, then the bill would need to be amended to allay the fears of the racists about foreign ownership. Racists have rights too Rob. And in NZ there is actually such a law that prohibits foreigners from purchasing farm land without the intent to actually farm it, i.e. use it solely as a retreat.3. No it's not (you might want to check your keyboard, it looks like your ! button is broken).4. No it's not.5. No it's not. Just because someone makes some minor decisions in how to carry out the law does not lead us to the conclusion that it must be a representative democracy. Chinese leaders make decisions on the peoples behalf and that is not representative democracy.7. That's the best rebuttal you can manage ? Did Mandela revoke all laws made by the Apartheid era government ? No.Does this imply that Mandela accepts the validity of that government ? No.8. You're kidding right ?!?9. Where did I reject my statement and refer to them representing us ?10. Why do you believe this ?

  • >1. My argument was not elitist. In fact it is the most common criticism of direct democracy. And it was you who said it was giving people jobs in government. The idea of all people governing all the time means people are doing the job of government. In fact this is an elitist argument if ever there was one for it counts the majority rights above the minority rights as representative democracies do.2. What would you call a system in which people passed laws only to repeal them only to re-propose them, only to repeal them again? The word broken comes to mind.And there we go, there were no more arguments. As to the last point though you asked me to explain my point 10. I said politicians are able to weigh up many sources of information and are as such less open to manipulation from one source such as a charismatic leader or a tabloid. Politicians are able to do this because they specialize, just like the plumber is good at his/her job because he/she has been educated and trained in that field and then had many years of full time experience. Yet if you gave me a tool kit and told me to fix a broken water pipe I wouldn't know where to start. As such I'd probably just do what anyone told me to do in the hope that they were right.Anyway, please let's get back onto the topic as we're clearly not able to accept each other's points and it's becoming a "yes it is" "no it isn't" debate, which I'd really like to avoid.

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