Cameron outbids Labour on Brown’s own territory – constitutional reform

I believe the central objective of the new politics we need should be a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power: from the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities; from the EU to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power from the elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street” With this rhetorical fanfare, David Cameron dramatically ups the stakes in a bigger and bigger game of Reform poker. Following on from open primaries for candidates, Cameron easily trumps Labour plays for electoral reform and parliamentary procedure from Alan Johnson and Ed Miliband. And to think, all this was Gordon Brown’s baby! It was cheeky of Cameron to chose the New Politics site in the Guardian to lay out what he calls “Our philosophy of progressive Conservatism” in a draft speech so long it requires four separate posts. The Tory leader is gambling that political reform, once the dullest of subjects, has now clicked with voters and will help him win the election. How might these ideas be adapted for politics in Northern Ireland ? If you’ve got time to digest them, surely not a bad theme for Picamp? Details below

Cameron says a Tory government would:

• Limit the power of the prime minister by giving serious consideration to introducing fixed-term parliaments, ending the right of Downing Street to control the timing of general elections.

• End the “pliant” role of parliament by giving MPs free votes during the consideration of bills at committee stage. MPs would also be handed the crucial power of deciding the timetable of bills.

• Boost the power of backbench MPs – and limit the powers of the executive – by allowing MPs to choose the chairs and members of Commons select committees.

• Open up the legislative process to outsiders by sending out text alerts on the progress of parliamentary bills and by posting proceedings on YouTube.

• Curb the power of the executive by limiting the use of the royal prerogative which allows the prime minister, in the name of the monarch, to make major ­decisions. Gordon Brown is making sweeping changes in this area in the constitutional renewal bill, but Cameron says he would go further.

• Publish the expenses claims of all public servants earning more than £150,000.

• Strengthen local government by giving councils the power of “competence”. This would allow councils to reverse Whitehall decisions to close popular services, such as a local post office or a railway station, by giving them the power to raise money to keep them open.

Links to detailed briefs
Power to councils
Instead of central government targets and controls to make sure councils spend money wisely, we’ll simply require councils to publish online details of all their spending over £25,000, and to get approval for any excessive tax increases in a local referendum.

A Conservative government will seriously consider the option of fixed-term parliaments when there’s a majority government. But it’s also why a Conservative government will not consider introducing proportional representation,

It’s going to be quite a website

The way bills are published online today is stifling innovation and blocking democratic engagement. So a Conservative government will publish all parliamentary information online in an open-source format. This will help people easily access bills and other legislation in order to create useful applications, like text alerts when something you’re interested in is debated. And it will mean many more expert eyes helping to explain laws as they’re formed, flagging up flaws and suggestions for improvement. Anything that acts as a barrier between politics and the public has got to be torn down – including the ridiculous ban on parliamentary proceedings being uploaded to YouTube.

  • DC

    “Instead of central government targets and controls to make sure councils spend money wisely, we’ll simply require councils to publish online details of all their spending over £25,000”

    Does this include army councils too?

  • Dave

    “But the tragic truth today is that no matter how much we strengthen parliament or hold government to account, there will still be forces at work in our country that are completely unaccountable to the people of Britain – people and organisations that have huge power and control over our daily lives and yet which no citizen can actually get at. Almost half the regulations affecting our businesses come from the EU. And since the advent of the Human Rights Act, judges are increasingly making our laws. The EU and the judges – neither of them accountable to British citizens – have taken too much power over issues that are contested aspects of public policy, and which should therefore be settled in the realm of democratic politics.

    It’s no wonder people feel so disillusioned with politics and parliament when they see so many big decisions that affect their lives being made somewhere else. So a progressive reform agenda demands that we redistribute power from the EU to Britain, and from judges to the people.

    We will therefore hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty; pass a law requiring a referendum to approve any further transfers of power to the EU; negotiate the return of powers, and require far more detailed scrutiny in parliament of EU legislation, regulation and spending. And we will introduce a British bill of rights to strengthen our liberties, spell out the extent and limit of rights more clearly, and ensure proper democratic accountability over the creation of any new rights.” – David Cameron

    Brilliant stuff. However, in following Ireland’s lead as a republican democracy (insofar as possible without being one), he should note that a requirement that the people approve the disposal of their sovereignty (their democratic powers) is degraded if it is not accompanied by a requirement that the government must resign if it supports a disposal of democratic powers and the people duly reject it in a referendum.

    This is to avoid the situation that has arisen in Ireland where the government have rejected the democratically expressed will of the majority and are colluding with foreign powers against the people they were elected to represent in order to force the people to vote again on the disposal of their democratic powers until they produce a result that is acceptable to those foreign powers. Allowing the government to remain in office thus allows the government to commit treason against its own people.

    But the shift that Cameron proposes is very welcome even without the qualification because it states that sovereignty resides with the people, not with parliament, and that, therefore, parliament via its executive branch cannot dispose of the people’s democratic powers without the consent of the people.

    The EU costs the British people 56 billion every year. That does not include the taxes that are raised by the EU from British people and spent without their democratic oversight, leaving them with taxation without representation. Most government in the UK is now foreign government yet there is no debate about the quality of it whatsoever, with the national government taking the rap for bad government that is not bad British government (Post Office shenanigans, 56 billion squandered on water utilities, rail privatisation, etc, etc).

    He is right to be aware that when people see that they have given so much of their sovereignty away that they feel powerless to effect change and resign from the political process. This only works to the advantage of the EU who want to undermine national democracies in order to further their federal integration agenda. The EU is a parasite that sucks the good from the people, sucks the power from nations, and creates nothing except a bloated bureaucracy. It perverts democracy, and does so deliberately to serve its own ends.

  • Jimmy Sands

    No doubt a dedicated Ministry for Gimmicks can be given responsiblity.

  • Dave

    Incidentally, if Cameron is going down the road of republican democracy in earnest (rather than in swashbuckling insincerity) then he should make that transfer of sovereignty from parliament to the people de jure rather than de facto by reforming the UK constitution to a format than can only be amended by plebiscite. Without doing that, you still have a statist entity that will revert to form in due course.

  • frustrated democrat

    Cameron is trying to reconnect the person in the street with politics. It has become obvious over the last 10 years that a them and us mentality has developed between politicians and those who elect them.

    The falling turnouts demonstrate just how disconnected the electorate has become from government. We need to get back to a situation where party are elected to power by a much larger percentage of the electorate and therefore have a real mandate to govern. Currently they have to take the manifestos and vote for the one that is closest to their wishes; voters may not agree with everything in it but are deemed to do so, It is possible that referenda should be held once a year on major issues just in the way they di in the US to allow voters to have a say on indivdual major issues like EU membership and its constitution, like capital punishment. The ‘we know what is best for you’ mentality of politicians has to end and policies which reflect the long term aspirations of the electorate need to be introduced.

    The Labour party has treated policy as a short term expedient to get re-elected with little thought to the long term consequences e.g. the raid on pension funds which has proved disastrous but gave a short term benefit to funds availability. We need policies to be introduced which are for the long term bebefit of the UK even if in the short term there are diadvantages to suffer, e.g. was the investment of taxpayers money in VAT cuts and banks good for the people today but passing the a major debt problem to future generations to pay?

    Cameron should be applauded for taking such radical steps, he just needs to go even further to really make voters feel part of politics, a fall in voter turnouts by almost 25% over 50 years, 20% of which has happened in the last 15 is not good for politics.
    source http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm

  • Greenflag

    dave m

    ‘This is to avoid the situation that has arisen in Ireland where the government have rejected the democratically expressed will of the majority ‘

    More of your oul rubbish . 27% is not a majority of the electorate . Instead of continuing to push forward your anti EU agenda and pack of lies you should instead be encouraging Mr Cameron and the Tories to bring in Proportional Representation in the UK so that no future British Government will be able to abuse power by scraping through with a ‘majority vote ‘ of 38% .

    Does Mr Cameron mention PR anywhere as a means of curbing the power of both main parties ? Eh NO !
    If its good enough for Northern Ireland why is’nt it good enough for the rest of the UK ? Perhaps the UUP as the very junior partner might want to carry this ball for their fellow Brits ?

    Lisbon Treaty renegotiation is not on not with the pound facing another decade of devaluation and soon to become a major target when international financial speculators move into their next ‘duck shooting ‘ season .

    The UK needs to be in the Euro ten years ago .

  • Greenflag

    FD ,

    ‘The falling turnouts demonstrate just how disconnected the electorate has become from government. We need to get back to a situation where party are elected to power by a much larger percentage of the electorate and therefore have a real mandate to govern.’

    One of the conundrums implicit in your comment above is that the State (be it UK, USA or Ireland ) has become ‘captive’ to corporate interests ( the private financial sector and it’s worldwide reach ) over the past 20 to 25 years in a way which has had negative effects on democracy . This trend has reached it’s zenith in the USA where one sixth of the USA economy is in the hands of the Private Health Care corporations known as the Health Insurance Complex . Despite the fact that a majority of Americans would prefer a single payer system similar to the British NHS the ‘politicians ‘ are beholden to the insurance companies i.e (have been bribed ).

    In the UK and Ireland that situation may not be as overt but think FF and building developers ?. We’ve recently seen the spectacle of the House of Commons being skewered by the media as they were forced to come ‘clean’ on their ‘expenses ‘

    Although PR by itself will not put an end to greed it can help in the UK giving those in the middle i.e neither Tory or Labour a chance to vent their opposition against the most corrupt party by not voing for the second most corrupt but by voting against both . The Tories hope to win the next time not by getting a majority of the vote but by hoping that a large number of disgusted Labour voters will stay at home . IIRC Labour won on the same basis back in 1997 with Blair when the electorate simply had enough of Major’s bumbling incoherence and cabinet follies ?

    Cameron’s proposals look to me like a conversion on the road to Damascus . Once the election is over and the votes counted you should not be too surprised if the Cameroonians take the usual sharp about turn to the right as per usual . Pavlov’s dogs can’t help salivating when the bell rings .

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Brian,

    re. “Cameron easily trumps Labour plays for electoral reform”

    Shifting power to MPs who can be whipped into line and sending out text messages is MORE significant than reforming the first past the post system – are you having a laugh?

  • blinding

    Cameron for President(directly elected Prime minister I mean of course)

    Is it Barack O’Cameron.

    Interestingly I have seen him suggest(in at least two interviews) that all constituencies in britain should have the same amount of constituents in them. I know that this would reduce the number of MPs coming from Scotland but do not know what effect this will have in NI and Wales.

    He also wants to reduce the number of MPs by 10% as a start. 10% less money grabbing hodlums would be a good start.

    More than likely its all hot air and the more that politicians promise that things will change the more they will stay the same.

    Lets have some politicians that do something and not just talk about it.

    Oh yeah where is McCavity Brown.

    He is to Prime Ministers what Michael Martin was to Speakers.

    Did Gordon never hear of looking for opportunity in adversity.
    If he had one reforming bone in his body he would see opportunity in the present circumstances.

    Alas he is missing in INACTION.

  • loki

    greenflag
    In post 6 you argue for PR as a means of curbing both mian parties- not exactly working here is it?? The two main parties are doing their level best to squueze the smaller parties to death and changing the number of MLAs will only hasten their demise. In most constituencies it’s the likes of Alliance which squeeze the last seat and I don’t think them losing out contributes to democracy do you? Especially since the DUP and SF aren’t really committed to the ideas of free speech.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’ve never understood the logic of this idea that giving a minority total and unassailable power over the government (Labour won 40.7% of the vote last time) is somehow better because it is more stable.

    PR-STV would change the landscape of UK politics completely. FPTP appears, according to some, to lead to interesting problems other than the obvious ones. one examination suggests a correlation between expenses fiddling and the safety of a safe seat. This couldn’t happen with PR-STV.

    I don’t think the fact that Irish politics (on either side of the border) is still essentially predicated on the outcome of the border conflict demonstrates anything about STV. If we had FPTP elections in the assembly and in councils, unionists would be in almost complete control.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    blinding,

    PoshBoyDC and El Gordo have presided over their partys MPs troughing and trousering to their hearts content – in any other organisation they would be OUT on their ears.

    If El Gordo is keeping his head down then perhaps its in shame for running such a shocking show – at least we dont have to listen him, like PoshBoyDC, trying to spin his way out of the mess he is responsible for.

  • Greenflag

    loki ,

    ‘not exactly working here is it??

    By here I trust you mean NI ?. I would reiterate that NI by definition is an ‘uncertain ‘ state at best, and does not have the constitutional stability of either the rest of the UK or ROI . I would not use NI as an example for the efficacy of it’s recently acquired PR system , but I would use NI as an historical example of the ‘tyranny of the majority’ emerging with an FPTP given local conditions . Whereas PR may not be ‘working’ ideally in NI it beats the alternative as Comrade Stalin points out above .

    The Irish voting public trusted FF with majority government under PR, but they wisely rejected FF when the latter tried to get rid of PR by referendum . IIRC FF’s justifiction was that it FPTP would deliver strong government . Oddly enough in retrospect when you look at the performance of Irish Governments one of the worst was Jack Lynch’s ‘huge majority’ of 20 in the Dail ( in a house of 160 seats ) whereas one of the best if not the best was Sean Lemass’s 1 seat majority in the early 1960’s and even that was dependent on a couple of independents .

    Of course the UK has an entirely different voting culture which is much more class and regionally based than the Republic . Just look at the North South divide . South of a line from the Wash to Bristol is almost entirely blue (Conservative) apart from the London (Red Island ) and a few other urban centres . Blue is almost non existent in Wales , Scotland , and large tracts of the North of England .

    Both FF and FG manage to at least get 1 seat in every constituency in the Republic . There are parts of the UK (e.g Kensington Chelsea or Bolton ) which have never elected the other ‘colour’ probably since the Reform Act ?

    One wonders why an 85 year old Labour voter would even bother to get out of bed on election day morning in Kensington to cast a losing vote for the 15th time in his/her life ?

    PR would certainly introduce an edge of uncertainty into British elections which IMO is just what they need .

  • Greenflag

    loki ,

    ‘not exactly working here is it??

    By here I trust you mean NI ?. I would reiterate that NI by definition is an ‘uncertain ‘ state at best, and does not have the constitutional stability of either the rest of the UK or ROI . I would not use NI as an example for the efficacy of it’s recently acquired PR system , but I would use NI as an historical example of the ‘tyranny of the majority’ emerging with an FPTP given local conditions . Whereas PR may not be ‘working’ ideally in NI it beats the alternative as Comrade Stalin points out above .

    The Irish voting public trusted FF with majority government under PR, but they wisely rejected FF when the latter tried to get rid of PR by referendum . IIRC FF’s justifiction was that it FPTP would deliver strong government . Oddly enough in retrospect when you look at the performance of Irish Governments one of the worst was Jack Lynch’s ‘huge majority’ of 20 in the Dail ( in a house of 160 seats ) whereas one of the best if not the best was Sean Lemass’s 1 seat majority in the early 1960’s and even that was dependent on a couple of independents .

    Of course the UK has an entirely different voting culture which is much more class and regionally based than the Republic . Just look at the North South divide . South of a line from the Wash to Bristol is almost entirely blue (Conservative) apart from the London (Red Island ) and a few other urban centres . Blue is almost non existent in Wales , Scotland , and large tracts of the North of England .

    Both FF and FG manage to at least get 1 seat in every constituency in the Republic . There are parts of the UK (e.g Kensington Chelsea or Bolton ) which have never elected the other ‘colour’ probably since the Reform Act ?

    One wonders why an 85 year old Labour voter would even bother to get out of bed on election day morning in Kensington to cast a losing vote for the 15th time in his/her life ?

    PR would certainly introduce an edge of uncertainty into British elections which IMO is just what they need .

  • Greenflag

    apologies double posting . Moderator please delete no 14.

  • loki

    greenflag,
    First, I don’t agree with your assumption that NI is an uncertain state- it’s a bit unusual to be sure, but it is viable and the logical outcome of your premise is that the Lichtensteins, Andorras etc get swallowed up. Topic for another time probably
    to the best of my knowledge ( and I am willing to be corrected) NI has used PR and STV for council elections for many years, so it’s not a srecent as you suggest. Also, I agree FPTP brings its own problems, but they’re only really problems with a low turnout- a high turnout implies everybody has bought into the idea of who gets a turn at the wheel, and more importantly is engaged enough to vote. I don’t see PR as inherently more fair, especially in one seat constituencies,plus it’s a more complex system of voting leading to more spoiled ballots- look at Scotland’s last election.
    One possible reason for the divide, as you put it, is that Maggie Thatcher totally polarised working class communities, especially after the miners’ Strike. Prior to that, certainly up until the 1960s, many Northern communities had been strongly conservative.
    One other thing, if Cameron does decide to work constituency numbers based on population, Scotland loses a few MPs and NI gains a few I think. Not sure about Wales, have a feeling it’s about right.(Maybe Dewi could keep me right on that)

  • SM

    One big reason to favour FPTP over PR is that with FPTP you can chuck the government out – the UK does it what every decade on average maybe? Whereas with PR systems you often just change the balance in the coalitions so it is always the same old halions. Furthermore it often gives disproportionate power to tiny parties as they hold the balance of power – look at Israel for example. Again depending on what system is chosen some involve party lists, which are in my view the most corrupt for of “democracy” available (and extensively used by many of our EU neighbours for the European parliament).

    Leave FPTP and work to get people out to vote and joining parties so as to keep them accountable on the inside – the more independent minded folk asking questions the better.

  • The Spectator

    Seems very little to get excited about

    • Limit the power of the prime minister by giving serious consideration to introducing fixed-term parliaments, ending the right of Downing Street to control the timing of general elections.

    Needs a bit more than “serious consideration”. and how useful is this if parliament can simply re-amend the law at next time of asking? But at least it’s a concrete idea (See below)

    • End the “pliant” role of parliament by giving MPs free votes during the consideration of bills at committee stage. MPs would also be handed the crucial power of deciding the timetable of bills.

    How on earth can a government end whipping by a political party? Even if the tories did it, what’s to stop Labour or the libs keeping doing it? No-one is forced by law to obey a whip – it simply a political reality that means there are serious political consequences to disobedience to the party that got you elected. How will Cameron stop those consequences ? Has this been thought through at all?

    • Boost the power of backbench MPs – and limit the powers of the executive – by allowing MPs to choose the chairs and members of Commons select committees.

    Again, see above. You don’t need to have an official Whip to have an effective whipping system – all you need is a party that will punish transgressors – there’s nothing the law can do to stop that. This all seems very poorly considered.

    Open up the legislative process to outsiders by sending out text alerts on the progress of parliamentary bills and by posting proceedings on YouTube.

    Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY??? BBC Parliament, available on Freeview, gives full, free access to such proceedings already. Nobody watches.

    • Curb the power of the executive by limiting the use of the royal prerogative which allows the prime minister, in the name of the monarch, to make major ­decisions. Gordon Brown is making sweeping changes in this area in the constitutional renewal bill, but Cameron says he would go further.

    Like what exactly? What perogatives, apart from dissolving parliament (see point one), will Cameron remove? The power to decalre War? The power to appoint Ministers? Much general ministerial power actually eminates from legislation empowering “the Secretary of state” anyway – nothing to do with prerogatives.

    • Publish the expenses claims of all public servants earning more than £150,000.

    Seems like sour grapes in the present climate, but fair enough. Why stop at £150,000, though?

    • Strengthen local government by giving councils the power of “competence”. This would allow councils to reverse Whitehall decisions to close popular services, such as a local post office or a railway station, by giving them the power to raise money to keep them open.

    Again, how is this in any way safe from Parliament simply changing its mind again on the issue of competence, or even simply using legislation to strike down individual instances it did not like.

    None of this (apart maybe the dissolving prerogative) is frankly of any constitutional importance – its all either puffery, or simple standard small c conservative decentralisation (which experience suggests will never happen anyway, but lets give them benefit of doubt on that one).

    The key issues are

    • Voting system
    • Seperation of Executive and legislature
    • Fully Elected and re-empowered second chamber (or no second chamber at all
    • Devolution settlement for England
    • Written Constitution with constitutional court empowered to strike down acts of executive or legislature that breach its provisions
    • Without the above, all else is just frippery – and Cameron has already more or less said no to all of them.

      “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

      Without this sort of root and branch reform, all this other stuff is fairly meaningless.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Spectator,

    I agree – “power to the people” sloganising in an attempt to be seen to be – doing something/anything/showing leadership/politicing/deflection from expenses.

    It will be mostly meaningless to the man on the Omagh Omnibus – electoral reform is the big issue he will trying to dodge – BECAUSE it would actually make a DIFFERENCE.

  • Reader

    Sammy: Shifting power to MPs who can be whipped into line and sending out text messages is MORE significant than reforming the first past the post system – are you having a laugh?
    Johnston’s proposal was pretty much the worst possible form of PR – an extra vote for a Party list. And the list had a 5% threshold. Good news for party bosses in the big three parties – don’t you think?
    When a politician starts to promise STV in multi-member constituencies I’ll start to take an interest.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Reader,

    fair enough – but its a move in the right direction – and at least starts the debate – as opposed to PosbBoyDC spin.

  • The Spectator

    Reader

    Johnston’s proposal was pretty much the worst possible form of PR

    The Worst form of PR is by definition better than any First Past The Post system.

    Personally, I’d have –

    • 100 constituencies (which means maybe three, maybe 4 in NI),
      • selecting 4 MPs each in the Commons election by STV every 4 years,
      • and one ‘Lord’ each every four years by Alternative Vote
      • obviously staggered over the cycle

    • In addition I’d have a direct Prime Ministerial election, again every four years, elected under a two round system –
    • with the first round open to all candidates,
    • and the second open to the top two from the first round (more or less the french system) –
    • you could count either votes won, or constituencies carried, either is acceptable to some degree

    I’d do it all under a new written constitution, and first point of business would be referendum on an english parliament for everywhere outside London.

    any takers?

  • Reader

    The Spectator: The Worst form of PR is by definition better than any First Past The Post system.
    If it opens the reform logjam, then you’re right. But if it cements the power of the big parties while bogging down future reform, then it would do more harm than good.
    Now, I reckon that Johnston, a party man, proposed this system because it suited his purpose. And his purpose was not to undermine the Labour/Conservative carve-up.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Reader,

    the problem for Johnston is that once you open the debate it is difficult to control the direction it goes – so the debate should be welcomed.

  • SM

    The Spectator: The Worst form of PR is by definition better than any First Past The Post system.

    What utter nonsense – take e.g. Israel’s system. Or how Spain elects its MEPs. Both are in my view afflicted by problems far worse than FPTP’s shortcomings.

  • The Spectator

    SM

    State-wide single constituency d’hondt has its faults, but I don’t accept those faults are worse than FPTP, and they are very easily avoided.

    At least, though, it represents an accurate reflection of public opinion. In the UK you get 150 seat supermajorities without even 45% of the vote.

    word to enter : power – very appropriate

  • SM

    Spectator

    I don’t think that the majorities you mention are anywhere near as bad as a system in which conceivably the LibDems are always in government as they are the coalition partner in the middle as the vote swings from Cons to Lab, i.e. the third party gets massive power on considerably less than 45% of the vote.

    With FPTP the vote swings every few elections and the old party is a massive booting out, which is very healthy as it focuses them back on the electorate.

    Coalition government is largely inevitable in most forms of PR and is in my view very unhealthy as it gives disproportionate power to tiny (fairly often also extreme) parties as they are the make-or-break link.

    As for state-wide constituency – that has candidates focused on getting cushy with the party machine to move up the list, with no motivation to listen to or engage with the electorate. FPTP forces candidates to attract the electorate to win the crucial swing seats that will give their party a majority.

    So FPTP has many problems but it remains the least worst option, much like democracy, as was once remarked.

  • SM

    I forgot to add that FPTP, by tending to focus on a small number of large parties also tends to push those large parties towards the centre ground as that is where the swing voters are. This further protects us from the extremists in both parties.

    In PR the extremists party gets in with a few votes and then negotiates their extreme positions into government policy as the price for propping up the weak coalition with their votes.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t think that the majorities you mention are anywhere near as bad as a system in which conceivably the LibDems are always in government as they are the coalition partner in the middle as the vote swings from Cons to Lab, i.e. the third party gets massive power on considerably less than 45% of the vote.

    This is an oft-repeated myth.

    The present FPTP arrangements mean that the system evolved into two large political parties comprising broad, overlapping churches. The Conservative Party has or had people like Patten, Major and Hurd who would in certain respects be to the left of where Labour has been for the past 15 or so years. Their view of the world is very different to that of Lord Tebbit and the Monday Club. Labour, equally, has a broad spectrum of left to right. This is because it isn’t possible to acquire political power at present without becoming part of a larger whole.

    Under PR-STV, you would expect these broad organizations to divide into smaller parties who would then, following elections, negotiate to form coalition governments or, failing that, minority governments.

    Cameron is afraid of this because he does not want to change the old order which means that he can wield complete power as Prime Minister.

    And I don’t find the “massive booting out” to be very convincing. It is, in fact, a distortion; an illusion. For example John Major’s Conservative government won 42.2% of the vote in 1992 . Blair’s “landslide” government in 1997 won 43.2% of the vote, only slightly more, yet they swept the board in the House. In 2001, Labour’s vote dropped below that of John Major’s government in 1992 (to 40.7% of the vote) and yet they had even more seats than before.

    You can’t possibly believe that this is the sane way to determine who has a mandate to run the country ?

    As for state-wide constituency – that has candidates focused on getting cushy with the party machine to move up the list, with no motivation to listen to or engage with the electorate. FPTP forces candidates to attract the electorate to win the crucial swing seats that will give their party a majority.

    I’m not aware of an electoral system which does not force candidate the electorate to attract the electorate to vote, so that’s a bizarre claim to make. If you don’t attract votes you lose.

    And it’s not right that the swing seats decided the outcome of the election for the whole country. Don’t people who live in non-marginal seats, whatever their colour, have a right to be represented ?

  • Reader

    Sammy: the problem for Johnston is that once you open the debate it is difficult to control the direction it goes – so the debate should be welcomed.
    I’m appalled at the notion of a party list. The proposal strengthens the hand of anti-PR campaigners, and undoes many of the benefits of PR if PR is actually adopted.

  • SM

    Comrade

    Any system with party lists means candidates are focused on getting high up the list to save their job. Constituencies are the only way to keep the candidate focused on the electorate. Granted that STV doesn’t have so much of a problem that way but Alan Johnston certainly mentioned a system with party lists. In my view party lists are an inherently corrupt system.

    As regards having lots of little parties forming coalitions rather than a small number of “broad church” parties perhaps that is a matter of personal choice – I instinctly prefer the second option and you seem to prefer the first. I’m not sure either of us is going to persuade the other.

  • The Spectator

    SM

    If you seperate executive from legislature none of this really matters, you know!

    The winner of the PM election won’t need to form any coalition – he just gets the job for winning, and he wouldn’t rely on a majority in the legislature to keep is job.

    Simples!

  • SM

    Spectator

    It does matter if you are electing your legislature on a list system – party corruption reigns.

    As for a directly elected PM, that will likely be <50% popular vote (as we already have a 3 party system), which was exactly what some of the pro-PR commentators were complaining about in our current system...