Category Archives: The objections

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
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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”.

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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

Achieving Political Fission

Ian Birrell in the Guardian (Monday 27th September 2014) ponders whether a Conservative split may be the catharsis the party needs, concluding:

Yet what really binds the many decent and tolerant conservatives to those misanthropes filled with fear and rage against modernity?

Fear.

To be “conservative” implies an element of holding on to the past – because it has to be better than an uncertain future. Too often this can overpower any search for change for the better.

Two problems stoke this fear.

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STV as a tug-of-war

In a previous post having another go at the horse race analogy used by supporters of FPTP (First Past The Post) electoral systems, I tried to compare AV (The Alternative Vote) to a tug-of-war:

Initially the die-hard supporters of the two established foes (usually Labour and the Conservatives) take an end each. As they start pulling they scream out promises and threats to bystanders to try to persuade

  • their stay-at-home supporters to pick up their end of the rope and pull
  • supporters of minority parties to lend their weight (if only to stop the other side winning)
  • the apathetic to look at how things are going and if they don’t like what they see to also lend their weight.

As all of this happens you may find a few people changing ends, but the result is determined by who has the greatest weight of support and can pull themselves over the line at the close of polls.

Electoral Tug-of-War

Electoral Tug-of-War as an AV analogy

I also suggested that STV (the Single Transferable Vote – usually in multi-member constituencies) might be a multi-dimensional version of this tug-of-war with each candidate having a rope. I have since been trying to visualise this! Continue reading

Myth Busting: The winner should win (take 2: The Tug-of-War)

Julian Ware-Lane in his blog reflecting on the Conservatives reaction to losing control makes the point:

The Conservatives, it could be argued, won in the Borough [with 30.29%]. I think a more accurate telling of the story is to state that with 69.71% voting for other parties it was quite a rejection.

To be fair to them this would be consistent with their approach to AV. Remember their comparison to a horse race and the slogan “the winner should win“. It is written into their political DNA which means that a lot of the behaviour that he complains about is actually instinctive rather than rational.

The problem with their analogy is that they rig the race. 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