Friday, July 07, 2006

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason

In the wake of last year's election, there was a groundswell of public support for electoral reform to a more proprtional system. And who could blame them? The election results produced by the UK's archaic FPP system were patently unfair. Blair's Labour party gained 55% of the seats (and therefore the ability to do more or less whatever it wanted) on a mere 35% of the vote. Meanwhile, the LibDems gained only 9.6% of the seats on 22% of the vote - and the results among the smaller parties were even more random. The Greens got more votes than Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist party (1% of the vote vs 0.9%), but got no seats compared to the DUP's 9 (itself a disproportionate 1.4% share). As in pre-electoral reform New Zealand, who ends up in government seems to depend more on opinion in a tiny number of "super-marginal" electorates, than on broader voting patterns - and the British public knows it. But rather than arguing that electoral reform would bring fairness to British elections and ensure that every vote counted equally, Parliamentary supporters of proportional representation are instead arguing that Labour 'can stay in Government by backing PR'.

This is a mistake. Electoral reform will only stick if it is seen as fair by a significant majority of the public. Presenting it instead as a partisan means of gaining electoral advantage completely undermines this, and instead makes it seem like just another power grab by New Labour and an effort to entrench their rule.


I think a Labour government with a Lib Dem coalition partner would be somewhat different to the present one.

Posted by Rich : 7/07/2006 05:22:00 PM