Friday, July 09, 2010

Keep the door to PR open

The door to proportional representation is not yet shut. While quite a few commentators are talking about how they'll vote in a referendum whose question is not yet set I happen to think that's a bit premature. The bill has not yet been written, nor has it gone through the process of amendment and voting. We don't know what is going to happen.

No one gives a toss about Alternative Voting, and if Proportional Representation was on the ballot the vast majority of those voting for reform would vote for PR over AV any day. It's one thing to accept a "miserable little compromise" has taken place, it's quite another to quit pushing before the battle for PR is lost.

I've no illusions about the Parliamentary. But if we're to keep PR on the agenda, not just for the Commons but also for the House of Lords we need to keep MPs aware that there are millions who want it. I've no idea how a referendum would go, but I do know that PR is the preferred system to replace FPTP for millions in this country.

Today I sent this letter to my MP, Joan Ruddock, and I think it would be a good idea if others were to write to their local MPs too.

Dear Joan Ruddock,

while I'm very happy to see that electoral reform is finally on the agenda for the House of Commons I'm far from happy that the coalition government wants to push for Alternative Voting (AV) as an attempt to head off a system of proportional representation.

AV, just like First Past The Post, leaves millions of people unrepresented and millions more massively under-represented. A truly democratic system would allow for every vote to count equally and for every party with significant support to have a voice in Parliament.

As yet the bill is not written and I'm writing to you to ask that you try to ensure that Proportional Representation is not taken off the agenda. The people should have the option of choosing PR rather than being given a non-choice between two systems that entrench the unfairness of our electoral system.

I'm sure the majority of MPs are fully aware that there is a mood for fundamental democratic reform, and that they are also aware that there has never been any public pressure for AV, this is simply a dodgy Tory stitch-up to prevent the public being allowed to choose a fairer electoral system.

There is still time to ensure that the case for PR is at least heard in Parliament and I'd like to ask you to help ensure that it is.


Jim Jepps
If you do write and get an interesting response - let me know!


DLW said...

There is a simpler way to use PR that I call "American Proportional Representation"....


Anonymous said...

I think we ought to leave creative democracy to the Americans.

Let's just cut the special interest and special influence and favours nonsense and introduce straight proportional representation, plain and simple, that does not favour one party, race, interest or any other.

We have enough voters staying at home on election day already through lack of interest or knowledge of the already "rigged" and corrupt system. It's time we give them something honest to come back to the polls for.


Jim Jepps said...

Totally agree,

little jim :)

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that a more proportional electoral reform should not be ceded just because the govt will move forward on an AV referendum. But I also don't think you can say that you should just switch to "PR" and its simple. What does PR mean? There are lots of different systems of voting that are more proportional than AV. In Canada we had a few referendums on STV and MMP, all failed, and one problem was that the opponents latch onto "PR" and lump them all together from Ireland to Germany to Italy to Israel, which all use very different systems.

I don't think its a good idea to fixate on one particular system either, because any system has flaws but it just needs to be clear that PR isn't a system per se, it's a measure, it's a goal. How proportional is this system? We want one that is as proportional as possible while still allowing for other measures (local representation, minimum support thresholds, etc.)

Jim Jepps said...

I think that's a reasonable point and I'd be perfectly happy to plump for AV+ which is the version that the Lib Dems used to believe in. This is a system that combines the constituency link and regional PR.

Obviously there are a number of different systems that I'd be happy with which all would produce different results but I think those who want to fight for PR need to make sure they don't get bogged down in a battle for which system of PR is better, and I'm happy to make large compromises on this really - as long as we're fighting for a system that produces a reasonably proportional result.

Claude Tardif said...

Does the unformulated AV proposal totally excludes the possibility that it be a form of AV+ as proposed in the Jenkins commision? With any number of additional seats to compensate towards proportionality, it is a start.

Also, I think that with AV+ it would be possible to move towards proportional representation slowly, from the bottom: Merge ridings through local referendums, and use STV on the merged riding. If all goes well these bigger ridings would get better MP's, more voter satisfaction and most often someone representing them in government, so other ridings would be tempted to merge.

Jim Jepps said...

Hi Claude,

as you say the words are as yet unformed, however Clegg has explicitly said that it wont be AV+ (which I think is LD policy).

I'd be more than happy with AV+ which isn't everything but is a kind of compromise system that the Jenkins commission was happy with. Unless MPs put it in there it wont be a choice we can make.

DLW said...

Well, SER is geared to evolving the US's democracy. It focuses on using a simple type of PR, American Proportional Representation, that works just like FPP but with three seats contested.

Part of its appeal is that it doesn't require voter education. But it does allow third party candidates to get elected and makes non-competitive elections become competitive so as to increase voter turnout.

It won't end all $peech, but it'll change things for good in the US if it were adopted for our state house of reps elections. It can also be used in other elections and fits with the principle that the use of both single-seated and multi-seated elections is what matters most, not the number or sorts of options you give voters...

We all need to find our own ways to evolve our democracy...