Saturday, November 28, 2009

John Cleese explains PR

Just came across this fascinating party broadcast on behalf of the SDP / Liberal Alliance from, I believe, 1985. John Cleese explains the need for proportional representation. I think it's rather good.

The quality of recording is not top notch but it's rather well made for it's time.


The Third Estate said...

I was one year old when this was made. It makes me sad that exactly the same arguments are still having to be made today. Two party states are half as bad as dictatorships, after all.


ModernityBlog said...

With the rise of the BNP, is PR still a good idea?

Worth thinking about.

Jim Jay said...

I think the undemocratic way our elections work actually compounds the BNP problem.

Almost everywhere the BNP have won council seats they have been safe Labour seats where no politician has bothered going in years - Labour because they 'own it' the others because they think it's unassailable. That makes those areas very soft when a party actually does pay them attention.

Barking is a Labour stronghold where other parties don't pose an alternative and so the area has had the feel of a one party state where that party takes you for granted. Ripe for the BNP.

Under PR you take away the incentive for parties to ignore areas because of the winner takes all nature of the system - they don't want to 'waste' resources on votes that don't count. After years of not having their vote count people can feel pissed off and that's where the BNP can gain.

ModernityBlog said...


My bet is that the BNP will do well under PR, if you care for a token bet on the topic?

Jim Jay said...

It depends what well means really, the system is also not the only factor involved obviously.

Something else - I don't think the threat of the BNP should be used to retain an extremely undemocratic system of election.

I'd rather live in a democracy with a few BNP members elected than have a system designed to keep out everyone who was not already one of the well established parties with identical policies to each other.

ModernityBlog said...

"I'd rather live in a democracy with a few BNP members elected than have a system designed to keep out everyone who was not already one of the well established parties with identical policies to each other."

I used to believe in PR, but I can see nowadays how it wouldn’t change much, seriously, you won't have extra 100,000s voting just cos PR is introduced.

To be honest, it would help the Greens, from a party political point of view and I can appreciate that.

But returning to your point, once those BNPers get elected the momentum for British neo-fascism will really kick off (I doubt we've seen anything yet) and it will be next to impossible to stop them:

1) with a weakened Left
2) greater popular support
3) better finances (which comes from having elected Reps)
4) the complacent attitude of the media (BBC, etc) to neo-fascism
5) a larger neo-fascist membership and periphery.

If you can’t stop them when they are small you haven’t got a hope in hell’s chance when they are bigger.

Jim Jay said...

Well it's certainly true that European countries with PR have a far higher turnout that we do - although actually my point was that people's vote would *count*.

More importantly it would cut against the stifling culture of tactical voting where people feel forced to assess who can win before voting. If most major parties will gain representatives it encourages people to vote for what they want rather than the least worst choice.

Sadly I'm not sure it complacency on the part of the media that's their problem but the fact that they run round screaming and crying every time the BNP are mentioned - and they mention them *a lot*.

The media have effectively shaped the BNP into the disaffected voters party of choice whilst systematically refusing to give the same level of air time to parties (like the Greens) who get more votes and have more elected representatives.

A change in the election system is not a cure all. But historically the fight for a more democratic one has been bound up with real improvements in people's lives.

I'm not in favour of PR because it's useful for the Greens, actually it makes taking control of councils less likely for the Greens despite the fact that it would increase our representation in almost every area.