Friday, 14 March 2008
The House of Lords yesterday discussed the "Review of Voting Systems: The Experience of New Voting Systems in the United Kingdom since 1997" - a document which deserves to be a major work of reference for all those interested in the practical workings of different electoral systems.
Since 1997 the United Kingdom has experimented with various ways of voting. The 'First Past the Post' system had come in for much criticism. It works best when there are only two parties - wheras in recent years small parties have seen their support grow. A winner take all system usually benefits the larger parties - and penalises those parties with a small and widely spread support base. Some have argued for a proportional system - but that has its own dangers - the greatest being that generally the representatives are less directly connected with those they represent. It can also be unbalanced, concentrating power in the hands of minor parties who can hold the balance. As one wit observed "Proportional Representation of votes often leads to Disproportional Representation of those who appeal only to a tiny minority"
As Lord Norton of Louth commented yesterday "My Lords, the fact that 30 per cent of the voters vote for party A and 20 per cent for party B, and after the election parties A and B get together, does not mean that they have 50 per cent of popular support. They have zero per cent because not one person voted for the arrangement. Let us look at Wales in the previous National Assembly elections. There was a 43.5 per cent turnout and not one voter had the chance to vote for a Labour plus Plaid Cymru coalition."
The full debate can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldhansrd/text/80313-0002.htm#08031360000003
The Report is available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/docs/voting-systems-review-full.pdf