Category Archives: Constituency Link

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

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

Boundary Reforms

The Conservatives are up in arms about the Liberals threatening to vote against boundary reforms and accusing the Liberals of hypocracy.

The Conservatives say that boundary reform is essential because it takes more voters to elect a Conservative MP than a Labour MP – this conveniently ignores just how many voters it takes to elect a Liberal MP.  I think I smell hypocracy.  They rejected electoral reform (which would solve this issue), by putting a poor system (AV) to a referendum and then campaigning against it.  Boundary Reform will give the Cons about 20 extra seats and possibly win them the next election.

The Liberals are opposing (having previously supported) because they say we should not reduce the number of elected legislators (MPs) by 50 given the loss of their proposals to reform the unelected Legislature (The Lords).  I think I smell tit-for-tat masquearading as “principal”.  Hypocracy?

The current proposals have faults that entirely justify their rejection.  The requirement to “equalise” constituency size to within a margin of 5% means: Continue reading

Boundaries: A better way

So what do we actually want from Parliamentary Boundaries?

  1. Geographically sensible areas – with which constituents can identify
  2. Reasonably stable areas – so that your constituency is not always changing
  3. Rough parity in terms of number of electors
  4. Not drawn up in such a way to favour or disfavour any particular party or interest

The current proposal for constituency equalisation (UK Autumn 2010) fails on (1) and (2) above, may achieve (3), but is contentious in respect of (4).  Personally I think it is a mess.

There is a better way – but it requires a conceptual jump.

Continue reading

Messing with the boundaries

Recently the four national (Parliamentary) Boundary Commissioners were being grilled by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee (HC 437-i) about implementing the Coalition Government’s desire to:

  1. Reduce the number of UK Parliamentary constituencies (to 600)
  2. Make all constituencies roughly equal in size

Questioning seemed to revolve around maintaining “natural communities” and avoiding splitting electoral divisions (local government electoral units).

It is also rumoured that the Labour Party is about to start selecting prospective candidates for the existing 650 constituencies.  This will inevitable force the other parties to do the same (a sort of PPC-war).  Then if the constituencies change, there will have to be some frantic reshuffling – and no doubt internecine fighting as prospective candidates fight to keep a constituency – any constituency. (So much for loyalty to a constituency and the “constituency link”!)

It is a totally foreseeable mess – and totally unnecessary. Continue reading

Myth Busting: The Constituency Link

“The Constituency Link” is often claimed by opponents of reform to be a vital element of the operation of representative democracy.  By this they mean single member constituencies.

But how real is this link and to who does it matter?  I suspect that outside the politorarti it is far less sacrosanct than claimed. Continue reading