editor's blog


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.

Short explanation of STV

"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.

Time for statesmanship

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.

Safe seats

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.

Benefit the nation and the voters

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?

Read more on http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-independent-view-benefit-the-nation-and-t....

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.

First Past The Post is destroying the Union

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.

Equality or Democracy – STV can deliver both

An article at http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/election-2015-we-should-have-325-women-325-men-... calls for more women in Parliament and few would disagree with that but it shows some very confused thinking.

Although it contains some commonsense and probably uncontroversial remarks like, “Ensuring women have equal access to power is a matter of democratic legitimacy and social justice”, it also contains nonsensical and undemocratic remarks like, “We should have 325 women and 325 men in the 21st century UK Parliament”. Unfortunately, the second of these quotations is the headline.

Lydia Smith wrote the article and apparently based it on an interview with the Electoral Reform Society’s Chief Executive, Katie Ghose, but it is not clear which words are Lydia’s and which are Katie’s.

Even if Katie believes there should be equal numbers of men and women in Parliament, of course it cannot be the ERS’ policy because the ERS believes in democracy. Dictating the number of MPs from any one group would be undemocratic.

Either Lydia or Katie has confused equality of opportunity with equality of outcome. We should create equal opportunity and allow democracy to decide the outcome.

Give men and women – and, indeed, other groups such as those of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious views and political views – equal opportunities and a fair voting system and let the voters decide how many of each are elected. That would be democracy.

Why should women be picked out above other under-represented groups (e.g. non-white people, UKIP and Lib Dem supporters) for special treatment?

Most Labour women would prefer to have a Labour male MP than a Conservative female MP and the other way round for most Conservative women.

The present voting system is rotten. Among many other advantages of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, which is the ERS’s main object, is that it would give voters a genuine choice between male and female candidates of the same party. If enough voters cared, they could elect 325 or even 650 women. Another of STV’s advantages is that it would give fair representation to supporters of minority parties and that includes the Labour Party in the South and the Conservative Party in the North.

STV Action’s evidence on Voter Engagement

After we posted some witnesses’ evidence on Voter Engagement to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee of MPs, some readers asked for STV Action’s own evidence. We gave evidence three times and, as all our evidence would be rather long to post on STV Action, here are links instead to our three submissions:

STV Action’s written evidence of 30 June 2014, “Empower voters to make a difference”: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidence...

STV Action’s supplementary written evidence of 27 August 2014: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidence...

STV Action’s supplementary written evidence of January 2015, “Empower voters to make a difference with STV”: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidence...

FPTP knackered - STV: A big improvement and absolutely fair

We are delighted STV Action is not the only UK website devoted to STV after all.

We strongly recommend you to visit http://www.knackered.org.uk which clearly explains why First Past The Post (FPTP) is not fit for purpose and STV would be so very much better. It was written by David Green, a former Council Member of the Electoral Reform Society.

It is about 7,000 words long and we could not do justice to it by summarizing it, but a few headings from it will give you a flavour:

• Our voting system is only 29% efficient!

• 650 lotteries to elect a government!

• FPTP is bad for national government, local government, voters, parties and the country – it’s bad all round; it is knackered!

• The Return of Multi Member Constituencies

• Doing away with the mark of illiteracy

• STV: Proportional Representation of voters, not just parties

• STV: The Supervote

We hope this is enough to persuade you to read it in full.

Those of you who already support STV will find a lot in it to help you campaign for STV. Those who may support reform and are curious about voting systems can learn much from it.

As the Sligo Champion wrote in January 1919, “[STV] is a big improvement and it is absolutely fair”.

Visit http://www.knackered.org.uk!

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