Give us voters PR – Proper Representation

There is not much that the author of this website will ever agree with Nigel Farage about.

But the former leader of UKIP, who stepped down after the General Election only to fall up again, does have a hugely valid point when he says the “time has come for real, genuine, radical political reform” when it comes to our voting system.

A quote from him suggests that the system is “broken”.

Steady on!

Democracy, for all its faults, should never be seen as “broken” when you consider the alternatives, such as dictatorship or communism in their various forms across the planet.

As least we have a vote in this country, one of many freedoms for which many millions of people died in world wars.

But it certainly seems it could do with not just a tweak but an overhaul.

It certainly isn’t perfect, given the disparity between how people voted in our country’s General Election and the type of Government we have elected.

The article linked to above makes some pretty sorry reading for anyone trying to defend the current system.

Whether you love or loathe UKIP and some of their more obviously objectionable candidates who were – pretty quickly – forced to step down from standing for various reasons, if 3,881,129 people voted for them, it hardly seems fair that they have one MP to sit alongside 56 from the Scottish National Party, for whom 1,454,436 cast their vote.

Or that the Green Party has one MP, having conjured 1,157,613 votes.

It is worth a wager that Prime Minister David Cameron, who faces much pressure from SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to hand concessions and powers to Scotland, would love it if he could reduce the SNP’s influence to be proportionate to the number of people who voted for them across the UK.

One thing is clear: the polling system we used to elect Members of the European Parliament last year actually made a lot of sense in a lot of ways.

It was called proportional representation.

It seemed simple enough: the country was divided into larger chunks than your local borough ward or even constituency for the General Election, say “South East”, and you voted for a Party (on the whole, but maybe a personality you knew) and that party gained a number of MEPs along with others elected in your area, according to how the population actually voted.

So, if you voted Labour in true blue Surrey, you had the chance of electing a Labour candidate as part of a geographic area which returned a couple of dozen people, of all different political colours.

Seem fairer to you than what we have at present? At the General Election, roughly a third of the eligible electorate didn’t exercise their hard-won democratic right to vote. Of those who did, 37% voted for the Conservatives and 30% for Labour, in contrast to polls which had them neck and neck on about 33%.

So now we are to be governed by a Party with a (slim) majority that just over a third of the nation voted for. Sorry, scrub that – just over a third of the people who bothered to vote, voted for. Only 66% of the electorate voted.

While we are staunchly in the camp that the 33% of those who didn’t bother have no right to complain, the author sympathises with the no voters. Many of them will not have bothered, because they assumed – rightly or wrongly in some cases – that they lived in a safe seat and their vote wouldn’t make a jot of difference.

Proportional representation would change that, because every vote would matter and it would also prevent a situation that involved an old friend’s mother drawing a depiction of a big defaecation on her ballot paper, because she didn’t like any of the candidates.

At least she went to the polling booth to make her mark, to protest in an orderly manner, to exercise her democratic right.

I am minded to recommend that she stands in the next election, which would be a better form of protest, but would cost a lot more money of course, via placing a deposit (sorry, couldn’t resist) to stand.

She wouldn’t get her money back unless she persuaded enough like-minded people to vote for her, which she might of course.

At least, however, she was prepared to engage in the political process.

The pitfalls of proportional representation are obvious, too. Pre-election polls had Labour and Conservative neck and neck on about 33% each, so to form a Government you would have to engage one long list of minor coalition partners.

And what’s this? The Lib Dems got 2,415,888 votes? Enough, under PR, to out-number the SNP 5 seats to every 3 three – and to give the same partners who formed the coalition of 2010-2015 just under 45% of the overall vote. That’s a start to forming another Government.

Plus, if you used PR, that 33% of the electorate who refuse to vote might actually be persuaded to do so.

It might also mean that people vote for what they really want, instead of doing so tactically.

And, at local level, we in Reigate and Banstead – even Surrey – might get a better, more representational spread, of how we actually voted, on our council.

A source tells me: “According to PR, assuming the conservatives had the same vote in the local elections as general election, then [the Conservatives on Reigate and Banstead Borough Council] they should have had 29 of 51 councillors. Instead they increased from 37 to 40.”

Fair? Not really.

Having done some analysis last year we can well believe it.