Web Review 63

One thing is for sure with regards to electoral systems – no one has yet discovered a perfect mathematical solution capable of satisfying all of the factions presenting themselves at elections.

I got involved in the early nineties in preparing a response to Raymond Plant’s report on behalf of the Labour Party on electoral reform. Plant also contributed greatly to Roy Jenkins’ deliberations on the question of voting reform. It is worth remembering Plant’s views on the issues as the presented themselves to those interested in reform or indeed blocking it:
“We then attempt to establish a set of criteria against which we believe any defensible electoral system should be judged. There are many such criteria and no single system can score equally highly against them all. Hence, there cannot be an ideal system. What is necessary is to come to a view about which system or systems do best against what are taken to be the most important criteria. This has to be a political rather than a technical judgement.

The criteria considered are broadly speaking of two sorts:

  1. Procedural criteria, which are essentially about fairness and which do not look to the outcomes and consequences of elections. What matters is that the system is “fair”. If it is, then outcomes must also be accepted as legitimate.
  2. Outcome criteria, which look much more to the consequences of electoral systems and their impact on such things as the environment within which public policy is developed, their impact on economic management, on the possibility of political parties achieving their ideological goals and so forth.”

The different outcomes argued by the Liberal Democrats in criteria two above, namely that there would have been no poll tax and no educational reforms of the sort the Conservatives introduced have of coarse been put to the test in our recent Tory-led coalition and have been so tested to destruction. For more click on www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp98/rp98-112.pdf

Electoral reform is nothing new in our self-styled ‘Mother of Parliaments’. For the history of our various attempts at electoral reform go to aceproject.org/regions-en/countries-and-territories/GB/case-studies/united-kingdom-electoral-system-experimentation-in-cradle-of-fptp-1997

The classical First Past the Post (FPTP), single-member district, electoral system that is so strongly associated with Great Britain did not in fact come into widespread use for Westminster elections until 1884-1885 – a full 50 years after the First Reform Act of 1832, which marked the beginnings of representative democracy in the UK.

One thing I can inform you with regards to electoral reform if you want the best outcome for the Labour Party, vote in the opposite direction of the Parity’s leadership. Jack Straw was in charge of the reform of the European Electoral reform in the UK1999 The British Labour Party went from 62 MEPS under the old FPTP system to 29 MEPs under regional lists. And in Scotland the prospective candidate with largest popular vote at selection conferences was placed at the bottom of the regional list by Mandelson’s Star Chamber. There is more to democracy than posting a ballot paper at an election.