- Electoral reform is needed more than ever now
- Local action for electoral reform
- Time for statesmanship
- Safe seats
- Benefit the nation and the voters
- STV v FPTP
- First Past The Post is destroying the Union
- Make a difference!
- Equality or Democracy – STV can deliver both
- STV Action’s evidence on Voter Engagement
We recommend the websites of the Proportional Representation Society Of Australia - http://www.prsa.org.au – and The Center for Voting and Democracy (USA) - http://www.fairvote.org - to all readers. They both concentrate on STV (ranked choice voting in the USA) without getting sidetracked by a wide variety of other reforms.
We also strongly recommend http://www.knackered.org.uk. It consists simply of one article, which explains why First Past The Post is not fit for purpose and why STV would be so very much better. It was written by David Green, a former Council Member of the Electoral Reform Society.
Please see http://www.bramley.demon.co.uk/currentaffairs/politics_of_electoral_refo... for the latest (4th) edition of Michael Meadowcroft’s excellent book, "The Politics of Electoral Reform". Although not published by the Electoral Reform Society this time, it is also available to download via the Society’s website and is an invaluable resource for electoral reformers, especially when the breakdown of First Past The Post is becoming so obvious even to many who have never thought about electoral reform.
STV Action is now on Facebook. Visit it. "Like" it to help the campaign. Post your views on it.
Please e-mail Editor@stvAction.org.uk if you can recommend any other links.
"STV" stands for "Single Transferable Vote". Each voter has one vote and may transfer it.
Each constituency elects a number of MPs (typically five). So that the House of Commons would not have to be any bigger than it is now, a group of (say, five) present single-member constituencies would be put together to make one multi-member constituency.
Voters have a single vote, which can be transferred according to their wishes from their first to second choice candidate and so on. They can express their choices for as many or as few candidates as they wish. They vote by writing “1" against their first choice, “2” against their second and so on as far as they wish.
To be elected, candidates have to obtain a “quota” of the votes cast. The quota depends on the number of votes cast and the number of seats to be filled.
The first choice votes for each candidate are counted. If a candidate reaches the quota, then that candidate is elected. Surplus votes (above the quota) are redistributed in proportion to the wishes of the candidate’s voters and that process continues until all the seats are filled.
If not all places have been filled and there are no surpluses left, then the votes of the candidate with the fewest votes will be transferred to the next choices of that candidate's voters. If necessary, this is repeated until all the places have been filled.
Please see http://stvaction.org.uk/node/465 for the main advantages of STV. You may also find FAQ, at the top of this page, useful.
Please e-mail "Subscribe STV News" to Editor@stvAction.org.uk if you would like to receive irregular e-mailings about STV.
Electoral reform must be back on the agenda now! Even the Daily Telegraph has published an article about it although unsurprisingly the writer, Dan Hodges, is against reform. Nevertheless, he has stimulated a lively debate:
Here is the response I posted:
“Dan Hodges is wrong, wrong, wrong!
Perhaps David Cameron would have been PM either way, but that’s not the point.
The basic argument for PR is not that we have a Conservative Government but that the present Winner Takes All voting system is unfair to voters and undemocratic. It would be equally unfair and democratic if any other party had 50.9% of the MPs for only 36.9% of the votes.
The Winner Takes All is particularly dangerous at present because it is leading to the break-up of the UK despite Scotland’s “No” vote last year. The SNP’s 95% of Scottish MPs, because of Winner Take All, gives the erroneous impression that the Scottish people overwhelmingly support independence even though the SNP had only 50% of the Scottish votes.
The voters made the SNP the fifth largest party in the UK but Winner Take All made it the third largest party in the House.
Especially while the Labour Party is licking its wounds and electing a new Leader, the SNP, thus artificially enlarged, may become the de facto Opposition. It will present the political debate less as Right v Left than as England v Scotland.
A more representative House, with more Conservative and other pro-Union MPs from Scotland, would have averted this danger.
Students of political history may recall that Winner Takes All gave Irish Republicans
a disproportionately large share of MPs in the 19th century and this led to the division of Ireland and the secession of the south from the UK.”
Please visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/politics-blog/1164... (not my fault it’s so long!) if you would like to see, and perhaps join in, the debate.
I sent the following message to all ERS Council members today:
“The following letter appeared in yesterday’s Chichester Observer, our local newspaper:
“Democracy requires that the will of the people be reflected in the outcome of an election, whether or not a voter backed a winning candidate or party. That almost 25 per cent of the electorate who voted Green, Lib Dem or UKIP are represented by just 10 MPs has worrying implications for the legitimacy of our government. That supporters of the SNP, with fewer than 5 per cent of the vote share, can be represented by 56 MPs undermines belief in the fairness of the system.
That the Labour Party can win millions of votes in the south of England, and that the Conservative Party can win millions of votes in the north and for this to be un-recognised by our electoral system is a recipe for disillusion, resentment and disconnect.
Our ‘First Past the Post’ voting system is a disincentive to good local government and political participation, discouraging good candidates from putting themselves up for election, and encouraging parties to field unenthusiastic ‘paper’ candidates in uncompetitive elections.
We therefore – winners as well as losers in the recent elections – call for the urgent change of our electoral system to a proportional one which gives more choice and power to voters.
For further information please contact the cross-party (and non-party) campaign: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
It was signed by me as (non-party) Chair of Make Votes Count In West Sussex and seven members of the Green, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP parties. Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, we could not find a Conservative to sign it in the very short time available. ?
I am not telling you this to boast. The letter was not my idea and I did not draft it. I am telling you because I would like you to know that at least one local group is doing what it can to campaign locally. Some of you might have preferred different wording but the key issue is the principle of local campaigning.
One letter in a local paper may not seem much, but one thing can lead to another. Already one of the signatories, who was not previously one of our supporters, has offered to organize a public meeting for us. Although it is too soon to know whether that will take place, we shall at least discuss her offer with her so watch this space!
Is the ERS asking its own members and encouraging local groups to campaign locally? I have seen no sign of it and that’s a shame; the ERS is not making use of its membership, which is one of its most valuable assets.
I know that the ERS has no local groups of its own to instruct, but there are independent local electoral reform groups it could encourage. Also, I am sure that many individual ERS members would campaign locally with a little encouragement and some ideas from the centre.
Perhaps the ERS could encourage less top-down culture and more co-operation within the Society to achieve its main aim [STV]?”
Many supporters of the United Kingdom remaining united were concerned about the prospect of a minority Labour Government dependent for survival on SNP votes.
However, an (English) Conservative Government, with a wafer-thin majority facing a large SNP as the third largest party in the House and the second largest Opposition party could be even worse for the unity of the UK. Clearly, there are major differences between the two parties not only on Scottish independence but also on, for example, the economy.
The danger is that this will come across as differences between England and Scotland and hasten the end of the UK as we know it.
The underlying problem is the unrepresentative First Past The Post (Winner takes All) voting system, which has given the SNP nearly every seat in Scotland for about half the votes.
For more on the dangers to the UK, we recommend David Green’s excellent paper at http://www.knackered.org.uk.
It is time now for David Cameron and the Conservative Party to be statesmanlike to save the UK.
By introducing the Single Transferable Vote (STV) for all future elections, the Government could ensure that the SNP was properly represented but not over-represented and that the other parties in Scotland, and indeed throughout the UK, were properly represented.
Moreover, a new Reform Act to introduce STV would ensure proper representation for all voters throughout the UK, including UKIP and Green voters everywhere, Conservative supporters in the north of England and Labour supporters in the south.
The Liberal Democrats would support such legislation, which has always been their policy. The SNP, although it would probably lose seats under STV, could be expected to support the legislation because STV is also SNP policy. It is very likely that other small parties would support it. The only question would be whether the Labour Party would support a new Reform Act to improve British democracy and preserve the UK.
Come on David; be a statesman! Show at the moment of victory that you have the magnanimity to reach out and rule for and on behalf of the whole nation. Be the PM who saved the UK, not the one who destroyed it.
368 seats are so safe the Electoral Reform Society has already called the result in them.
•25.7 million voters live in safe seats.
•79.3% of constituencies in North East England are safe seats, with 77.8% in Northern Ireland and 70% in the East of England.
•225 constituencies have not changed political hands since before 1950 and some not since the 19th century!
Source: Electoral Reform Society (ERS).
As the ERS used to say, the Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting system would solve the problem.
If the Liberal Democrats get about half UKIP’s votes (8% against 14%) but about 10 times as many MPs 20 – 30 against 2 – 3), will the Liberal Democrats stand by their principals and demand electoral reform? In particular, will they insist on the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which they have always recognized as the best voting system for voters?
If the current election was by STV, the Liberal Democrats could now be looking at winning about 52 – 65 seats for about 8% - 10% of the vote.
Nevertheless, the real point of electoral reform is not to benefit this or that party but to benefit the nation and the voters.
STV would give every viewpoint in Scotland appropriate representation without exaggerating the SNP’s support and giving the balance of power to what will probably be the fifth largest party in UK votes. Please see David Green’s excellent exposition on http://www.stvaction.org.uk/node/537 for more on this.
Will the SNP stand by their principals and demand STV for the next General Election?
We have recommended http://www.knackered.org.uk before for a very clear explanation by David Green (former ERS Council member) of the disadvantages of First Past The Post and advantages of the Single Transferable Vote.
We also recommend The Politics of Electoral Reform by Michael Meadowcroft. He is a current member of the ERS Council and a former Chair of it. His book does a similar job to David’s publication but in more detail. You can visit http://www.bramley.demon.co.uk/currentaffairs/politics_of_electoral_refo... to see the 4th edition of it.
David Green, a former member of the Electoral Reform Society’s Council, has issued the following circular to national & regional media:
Our voting system is destroying our union with Scotland
in the same way it destroyed our union with Ireland
I am an individual voter who believes that our First-past-the-post voting system is about to malfunction in spectacular fashion next Thursday and so I have published a simple website at www.knackered.org.uk which highlights our voting system’s deficiencies and what can be done to put things right.
As you know, our Victorian voting system can gift the election to a party which failed to poll the most votes, it can deprive the UKIP of any representation notwithstanding millions of votes cast for their candidates, and it can waste over two thirds of the votes shovelled into it.
But I am a Unionist and right now I have a more pressing concern.
According to a recent opinion poll, the Scottish Nationalists are on track to take 100% of the Scottish seats with just 54% of the vote, thereby giving them a wholly disproportionate and undeserved influence over UK governance and creating an impression worldwide that support for nationalism north of the Border is a lot stronger than it actually is.
I wonder if you realise that this has happened before, 130 years ago, when Ireland was still part of the UK.
In the 1885 General Election, thanks to the use of First-past-the-post in newly created single member constituencies, Charles Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party eliminated Unionism in the South of Ireland with just 68% of the Irish vote. Nothing could be done in Westminster afterwards without taking Mr. Parnell and his 85 MPs into account.
Moreover, the pocket of unrelieved Unionism in the North East of Ireland, also elected in 1885 courtesy of First-past-the-post, laid the foundations of the conflict which still festers on the streets of Northern Ireland to this day.
While there are limits to the parallels that can be drawn between Ireland and Scotland in terms of era, culture and politics, what can be said is that First-past-the-post brutalises political debate; it accentuates differences of opinion; it fuels geographical tribalism; it overstates the majority and discriminates against the minority, even to the point of eliminating it altogether.
I believe there is a case for suggesting that our First-past-the-post voting system is destroying our union with Scotland in pretty much the same way it destroyed our union with Ireland.
Ironically, the Irish abandoned First-past-the-post on independence in favour of the British system of proportional representation - the Single Transferable Vote in Multi Member Constituencies - which among other attributes facilitates local and proportionate representation of meaningful minorities. It’s high time we followed the Irish example and adopted STV for all our public elections.
Please use your best endeavours to ensure the defects of the current voting system are drawn to the attention of your readers/audience and use your influence to ensure that, whoever takes power next Thursday legislates to reform our voting system.
How to vote! Indeed whether to vote?
Living in a very safe District Council ward in a very safe constituency, I knew I could not help choose my District Council or Parliamentary representative who would not really represent me. Similarly, my vote would not help decide which party controlled the District Council or led the next Government.
Eventually I decided, but I had no problem whatsoever with the lowest tier of government, the Parish Council.
None of the Parish Council candidates is party-backed. There are eight contesting six vacancies in my ward. Five of the eight oppose a development on a unique coastal green space and three support the development so my votes and support go to the five.
It’s a refreshingly exciting election. There are no parties so voters cannot vote automatically and unthinkingly for “the party”. The seats are not safe, so every vote can make a difference and the electorate is small so a small number of votes may make a big difference.
Sadly the voting system for the parish election is “First 6 Past The Post”, which is even more undemocratic than “First Past The Post” but there is a lot of interest in the election. Local people are more likely to abstain from the General Election than this one.
That’s how it could be with the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Every vote could be effective; all voters could feel they were making a difference and contributing to the result.