The current convulsion in our politics, and the meltdown in support for New Labour, will throw into sharp focus the risible unfairness of our electoral system. As a mechanism for representing the views of the British people, it plainly fails.
That is true in “Normal” times, where just 42% of the vote can hand a large majority in parliament to a Thatcher or a Blair. On the basis of this “Mandate” of a minority, they rule with breathtaking arrogance and utter disregard for the views of the majority who voted.
It is argued that this provides “Decisive” government. That is a misnomer. It provides domineering government with an inflated self-regard. It provides corrupt, inefficient, over-centralised and irresponsive government. For God’s sake, it provides the kind of crap governments I have suffered my entire life.
As New Labour goes into well-deserved meltdown, the inanities of our electoral system will become more apparent. You can find various swingometer predictive engines all over the web, but none of them copes too well with the effects of a three party system. Trust the back of my envelope instead.
New Labour benefits hugely from the concentration of its support into urban constituencies. A hundred of these rotten boroughs are virtually impervious to challenge. For the Tories to get a parliamentary plurality – more seats than New Labour – they need to get about 3 per cent more votes than New Labour.
But should the Liberal Democrats beat New Labour into third place at the General Election, New Labour will still on most scenarios get many more seats than the Lib Dems. If New Labour and the Lib Dems each polled 23%, at a general election, then New Labour would get approximately 80 more seats than the Lib Dems.
Get this – if the Lib Dems were to get 27% to New Labour’s 21%, astonishingly New Labour would still have around 40 more seats than the Lib Dems. In Parliament New Labour would still be the “Official Opposition”. with all the enormous privileges that postion brings over the third party.
In fact, you need a result which goes something like Conservative 41, Lib Dem 29 and New Labour 18 before the Lib Dems overtake New Labour in parliament and can become the official opposition.
Convinced of the case for reform?
There then comes the thorny question of which system should be adopted. I completely reject the AV+ system recommended by Roy Jenkins’ report, produced when Blair was pretending to be interested in constitutional reform. Any system which lets political parties decide the order of candidates on the “Party list”, and does not allow voters to choose between them, is Stalinist. We have this appalling party list nonsense in Scotland now, and the quality of list MSPs is abysmal.
I strongly favour Single Transferable Vote, as giving the most complete choice to the voter and much the best opportunity for Independents and small parties. Here, you have multi-member constituencies and a list of all the candidates. You rank them in order – 1,2,3,4,5etc, as far as you wish to go. So you can give your first prefence to an Independent, then a couple of Tories, then a Green, if they happen to be the candidates you like.
I support the Vote For A Change campaign, while having strong views on the direction I wish it to go. I rather liked this sentence from their launch statement:
Too many MPs seem more interested in changing their homes than changing the world.
Do sign up.