Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Blaming The System


Gordon Brown is to announce plans to look at a new system of electing MPs, as he seeks to regain the political initiative after a week of turmoil.

He wants a debate on whether the vote system should change but will pledge a referendum on any move to do so.

Ministers are thought to have discussed an alternative vote system to replace the current first-past-the-post method.

Gordon Brown, as usual, despite any talk of principle on his part, has pulled this issue out of the blue as a diversionary tactic. A bolt-on to the issue of MP expenses which, is typically ham-fisted.

However, let’s not denigrate his Mandelson’s political acumen too much – this is a careful positioning with a view to post-election hung parliament negotiations. Although an Alternative Vote system (being touted as the preferred, ahem, alternative) is not a true PR system, even that change would not doubt be attractive to the LibDems. Brown, remember, waited ten long years for power. Events of the last two years have shown that he will do anything to hang on. Bear in mind also, that he is blind to the downright contempt that the general public now have for him and Labour (and, to be fair, politics in general). Down in the bunker, he probably still thinks that he can pull it off.

Even so, whatever the circumstances, it is time to start making the case for First Past The Post. Daniel Kawczynski made a rallying call on ConHome last week. If a referendum is to be held on the subject, supporters of FPTP will have a number of decades of quiet campaigning by the likes of the Electoral Reform Society to counter.

To some, proportionality and fairness go hand in hand. The question of why a parliament that exactly represents the proportion of votes across the country is therefore of a “fair” make-up is never even thought of.

Then there is the major downfall of PR systems: coalition. There, again, is a concept that some would never even consider to be a downside. However, coalitions are not always the fluffy love-ins that the politically uninitiated may regard them as. Coalition governments are inherently unstable (so is a dictatorship, you may say – don’t be silly, I say). In any case, coalitions are usually made up of a main party and one or two minor partners – that is, parties with, very small proportions of the vote decide who is in government and which of their policies will be put into practice. What is worse: a party with, say, 40-odd percent of the vote putting together a government, or one with only 10% doing so?

Yet there is a more fundamental objection to coalition government: rarely do coalitions appear on the ballot paper (even if you count the SDP/Liberal Alliance). So you end up with a government that nobody voted for. What was that about “fairness”?


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