Category Archives: Being represented

If you were a Trot, what would you do?

The Labour Party is going through another of those periods, not so much of navel gazing, but more of vivisection. The latest episode includes accusations of entryism by that old bogey group, “the Trots”.

Previously the Labour party has gone through internecine strife and expulsions to purge the party of any non-mainstream thinking and of the aggression with which fringes have often pursued their agenda.

But this is inevitable. If you are a Trotskyist in Britain and you wanted to get into power, what else would you do? Continue reading

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Parliamentary or Presidential?

With @TheresaMay2016‘s coronation we need an early General Election. The Tories now have no mandate. Britain deserves better than this.

The implication of this would seem to be that Tim Farron believes in a Presidential system. Which is strange given that the last time the Liberals were in Government they relied on a parliamentary majority to sustain them rather than a general election majority

Under presidential systems elections get boiled down to a binary choice – which probably means no look in for the Liberals.

Parliament is just as representative today as it was yesterday; problem (1) is
Continue reading

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

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

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

Is Representative Democracy failing us?

Matthew Flinders on Democratic Audit (2 July 2014) ponders What is the problem with democracy?

Could it be that we need to give those politicians we elect just a little more leeway and ‘space’ in order to allow them to focus on delivering their promises? Could it be that politicians have become too sensitive to the immediate demands of the loudest sectional groups or the latest focus group or what’s trending on twitter?

I think we also need to get our minds back round what we mean by a “representative democracy” and whether it is still working (at least sufficiently for us to want to continue with it). Continue reading