Weak link under PR is a myth

The otherwise excellent Peter Kellner shows sympathy for the Conservatives ‘ dislike of PR and trots out the old shibboleth of those who have no practical  experience of it.

The principled reason is that (first-past-the- post) keeps the constituency link. Each MP represents a relatively small population of fewer than 100,000. Any proportional system would gravely weaken that link.

In both parts of Ireland and particularly in NI where both systems operate, we know all to well that the constituency link is as strong as ever. True. in multi-member constituencies the link is shared; but that doesn’t mean it’s weakened. Indeed if anything it’s stronger, because elected reps compete with members of their own party as well as their opponents. Nothing like competition to improve the service! A list system as under AV+ as in Scotland may be said to weaken it, but no way PR STV.

 If an expert like Kellner can repeat the hoary old line,  it augurs badly for a successful outcome of Lib Dem attempts to persuade the Tories.

  • abucs

    I think you make a good point about being able to vote for different members of the same party within your constituency. Especially in Northern Ireland this may give feedback to Parties about what is really important to them.

    The only problem is that for a Wesminter system of 600 odd seats, and so many different voices, it is probable that sometimes you will have divergent co-oalitions running the country that may not be efficient or ironically be representative in that smaller parties with specific goals may often hold sway over the entire electorate.

    I’m not sure about a Parliament so large as Westminter which covers multiple countries that it will work so well (look at Brussels), but for smaller parliaments such as in NI local politics it is a good thing IMHO.

  • abucs

    My vote would be one member STV for Westminster and multi-member STV for Local government.

  • lover not a fighter

    Competion (basically God in the capitalist system) should be just as important in the political arena as elsewhere.

    It does’nt hurt to have competition within political parties either. Afterall they are not creches.

    Anything that gets rid of the corruption machine “Safe Seats” has to be an improvement.

  • O’Merta

    How many seats would REg’s lot have got under PR?

  • richiep

    Properly explained , I think the single seat PR system could be won over in a referendum in UK.

  • All parties are coalitions. As we are seeing as the Tory Party ties itself into knots over what goodies to offer to bring the Lib Dems on board.

    PR (and preferably the full-blown multi-member STV version) can recognise that.

    At present, each party’s Kommandatur (and I think you will find that is the correct singular) wields too much control — though short-lists, by parachuting candidates in at the last moment, and by utter scandals (like Ashcroft’s largesse). In effect, in both Tory and Labour safe seats, the only way in is via patronage. Which is another reason to avoid any kind of list, or top-up system.

    Of course the patrons do not want to change the system. Of course the peasants are revolting (as in London, yesterday: tomorrow, the nation). And good luck to them.

  • PrivateBob

    Do people not realise that one of the problems with PR-STV (at least in Ireland) is clientalism? Because there’s intra- as well as inter-party conflict it is in the best interests of prospective MPs to be a damn good constituency representative! If you can’t attack party colleagues on policy, you need to attack them on their record.

    And anyway, all politics is local politics.

  • YelloSmurf

    You can’t have single seat PR. I think what you are talking about is the Alternative Vote in which you rank the candidates in the same way that you do for PR STV, but you’re only electing one person. It’s not a form of PR because it isn’t proportional, in fact, it can be less proportional than First Past The Post.

  • listingloops

    I’m I the only person that thinks national list based PR would be best applied to reform the Lords/Upper House with AV used to balance the Commons? Although STV is a good system the re-introudction of multi-member constituencies and the nessecary boundary reforms this requires seems like quite a massive undertaking.

    I’m honsetly quite suprised that with all this talk of electoral reform the Upper House is being politely ignored…

  • joeCanuck

    Brian,
    I wouldn’t rule out the link. Ontario voters were offered the chance to change to PR from FPTP about 4 years ago and rejected it decisively.