Is AMS truly democratic?

Democratic Audit are carrying out an audit of democracy and ask:

What does democracy require for an electoral system?

  • It should accurately translate parties’ votes into seats in the legislature (e.g. Parliament)
  • In a way that is recognized as legitimate by most citizen (ideally almost all of them).
  • No substantial part of the population should regard the result as illegitimate, nor suffer a consistent bias of the system ‘working against them’.
  • If possible, the system should have beneficial effects for the good governance of the country.
  • If possible, the voting system should enhance the social representativeness of the legislature, and encourage high levels of voting across all types of citizens.

How democratic are the reformed electoral systems used in mayoral and devolved elections? Democratic Audit UK, 18 January 2016

It then applies these criteria to its audit of the AMS system used in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and London Assemblies.

I take issue with two of these criteria – which are fundamental to the examination of the Additional Member System (AMS). Continue reading

Candidate Priorities under List Systems

A BBC Article (Looking ahead to the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections 4 January 2016) contains this revealing snippet about Scottish Labour:

Consider Kezia Dugdale, first up in the Hume programme. Right now, her Labour comrades are understandably expending energy in getting themselves as high up their party’s Holyrood regional lists as possible.

Ms Dugdale decided to reopen the lists, removing the special status accorded to sitting MSPs. In addition to those, there are one or two eager ex MPs who rather fancy an early return to elected politics.

But why on the list and not a first-past-the-post seat? Why seek regional election and not a constituency? Because, of course, Labour stands to win relatively few Holyrood constituencies if current opinion poll indications are borne out. And of course, they won just one seat at last May’s general election.

This says so much about why list and hybrid systems are inappropriate if you want candidates to focus on the electorate rather than their selectorate! Continue reading

Which house is most representative?

Representativeness of Parliament
The above graphic shows an interesting take on the “representativeness” of the two Houses of Parliament in the UK. (graphic: © Outside The Marginals) Continue reading

In Praise of Indirect Democracy

We like to think that we elect governments – and most parties encourage this view with national campaigning, leaders’ debates and an emphasis on party discipline.

But we actually elect representatives to form a Parliament. It is members of that Parliament that vote to support a government and they decide issues rather than us. In that respect our democracy is “indirect”.

We are being progressively encouraged to think that more “direct” democracy is “better”. Witness the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners and the push for directly elected mayors.

I think this is wrong and that, for reasons of coherence and accommodating diversity, indirect democracy has a lot going for it.

This is particularly so as we face a potentially complicated hung parliament. This means that we are unlikely to have a government with a clear parliamentary majority – we will not have “elected a government”. So it will be up to our MPs, as a Parliament, to decide who forms the executive. This requires them to act as parliamentarians not as party hacks wedded to a series of “red-line promises”, “manifesto pledges” and “policy millstones”.

Continue reading

Trends in Not Voting

Julian Ware-Lane (a Labour General Election Candidate) has published on his blog some interesting numbers for changes in voting behaviour over the last 80 years. Graphically they are sobering for the two main parties and worrying for all of us.

Voting at UK General Elections

Voting at UK General Elections (percentages as percentage of registered electorate)

Continue reading

Vote Swapping

There was an article on the BBC Website last week (23 April 2015 : Election 2015: Does ‘vote swapping’ work?) discussing the idea of vote swapping.

In vote swapping two people in different constituencies agree to trade votes in the hope that they can both have more influence on who forms the government.

Even though I intensely dislike the effect of our current First Past the Post¹ voting system, I feel uneasy about mechanisms such as these which “buck the system”. Continue reading

Constituency Volatility?

Democratic Dashboard has published data showing the results of all four elections since 1997.

I have extracted the data for the North East of England (my region), showing the winner of the 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 election (plus the incumbent from the 1992 election) Assumptions made by Democratic Dashboard where there were boundary changes and constituency renaming. I have added the History note mainly from Wikipedia records. Often the seats have been held by one party since they were created. Continue reading

Local Government Reform

In the first article of the ‘Merger, He Wrote’ series, Steve Brooks director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru reflects on the Welsh Government’s new white paper on local democracy.

So many of the issues he identifies could be improved by the introduction of STV. Continue reading

Low Majority Dangers

Mark D’Arcy BBC Parliamentary correspondent writing about the prospects for the next Parliament and Government notes:

… the arithmetic of the next Parliament is only part of the reason why it will be so difficult to construct an administration capable of lasting even a couple of years.

The rise of UKIP, the Greens and the SNP means more MPs than ever before may be elected on an extremely narrow mandate.

Take a look at the 2010 result in Norwich South, where Lib Dem Simon Wright won on 29.4% of the vote, a hair ahead of the former Labour Home Secretary, Charles Clarke on 28.7%, with the Conservatives on 22.9%, the Greens on 14.9% and UKIP on 2.4%.

Many more seats will see three, four or even five party politics at the next election, so it’s not hard to imagine plenty of the next generation of MPs taking their seats on the basis of less than a third of the votes in their constituency.

They would have an acute sense of vulnerability. They would be under huge pressure to bring back the goods for their constituency, to deliver bypasses or new schools, fight local hospital closures, or fracking or whatever. And they could be vulnerable to constituency pressures on big votes.
BBC News Website 19 December 2014 : The next Parliament: Coalition 2.0 or confidence and supply?

This raises an interesting reflection on what we might mean by democracy. Continue reading

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