Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Suddenly everyone's talking proportional voting

Alan Johnson wants a referendum on the subject. Jack Straw says on Radio 4 that he was in favour of a debate all along (though he was still agin PR). Roy Hattersley has changed his mind in favour of PR. The people at Make Votes Count are revelling in it. (David Cameron, however, is dead against PR - so far - although he has said he will consider other reforms.)

The question is, what system to use? Alan Johnson's resurrection of the Jenkins plan is more cunning than it looks. Liberal Democrats favour the system of single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. As the advice on Electoral Reform Scotland's web page explains, "STV gives voters more choice than any other system. This in turn puts most power in the hands of the voters, rather than the party heads, who under other systems can more easily determine who is elected, meaning that under STV MPs' responsibilities lie more with the electorate than those above them in their party."

Roy Jenkins' suggestion of "AV with Top-up", while proportional (if the arithmetic is done correctly), does include an element of party control in that "top-up" candidates are supplied from a list. Jenkins does recommend that voters should be allowed to use their "top-up" vote to distinguish between candidates on their preferred list, but parties would be able to choose who to put on those lists in the first place. Moreover, their opponents would characterise successful "top-up" candidates as "second-class" members, as Labour has done in Wales.

But how could Liberal Democrats object if AV+ were advanced by the government in a referendum? Its proposer was a member of the party and the then party leadership accepted the report when it was first published, followed, somewhat grudgingly, by the membership . The party would be put on the spot, having to choose between accepting a less-than-ideal solution or appearing perverse to the voting public, most of whom are ignorant of the niceties of proportional voting.


Anonymous said...

Shame they aren't talking about criminal proceedings with a view to incarceration?

Frank H Little said...

Who are you thinking of, Straw, Hattersley, Cameron or Johnson? Surely they haven't been implicated in anything criminal?

Anonymous said...

Fraud? False Accounting?