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11:14am on Friday, 6th May, 2005:

First Post the Past


And so the general election results are in:

Party            Percent of vote    Percent of seats
Labour                 36.4               54.6
Conservative           33.1               30.0
Liberal Democrat       22.5                9.1

On this basis, Tony Blair was claiming last night that the British people had given Labour a new mandate for change, and more reform could be expected.

No, Tony, you were elected on the basis of your not being Conservative. Sooner or later, people will vote Conservative on the basis of their not being Labour. Being the lesser of two evils doesn't make you good. Your victory wasn't won so much on policy as on the British electoral system. (You do read this blog, right? Or am I wasting my breath here as much as I wasted my vote in the concrete-solid Conservative constituency in which I live?).

We really have to do something about this disparity between public opinion and representation. A (predicted) 66-seat majority on the basis of a 36.4% share of the vote is simply unjust. If Labour are all about fairness, why don't they allow us fairness where it really matters? Well, obviously because they wouldn't get into power that way. In any case, their idea of proportional representation is closed party lists (as foisted on us in the European elections), which is even more pro-establishment than is first-past-the-post.

Although Labour may be oppressive, bullying and spin-obsessed, they're not in favour of turning Britain into a one-party state; nevertheless, some future government elected under the present electoral conditions could go ahead and do just that (especially if the House of Lords and the Monarch are neutered). I've argued in the past for a system whereby consituencies are grouped together in sets of 4, with first-past-the-post applying for those 4 constituencies and then bonus seats for any party which, when its losing candidates' votes in those constituencies are totalled, add up to more than the highest-polling winning candidate for the constituencies themselves. The bonus seat would be taken up by the highest-polling losing candidate from that party in those constituencies. Maybe one day I'll blog some examples of how this would work...

For the moment, though, here's another suggestion: never have general elections, just have bye elections. If first-past-the-post is so great, OK, stick with it, but every week have bye elections in 3 constituencies. It would be expensive for the parties at first, as they'd treat them as they do bye elections at the moment and throw all their heavyweights at them, but once we got used to the idea they'd have perhaps 6 or 9 sets of permanently in-action campaign units that would go to each constituency in turn and handle them as their time came. This would have the effect of enabling at least some voters to register their opinion on politicians' performance in response to the issues of the day, and would keep governments on their toes.

Would it lead to weak, populist-driven government? Perhaps initially, yes. On the other hand, it may lead to a more politically articulate electorate who, after 10 years of this, did not treat every constituency election as a way to slap the government's wrists, and instead looked at the actual issues.

Oh well, I can dream...

Referenced by Electoral Reform.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).