19 July 2005

Can't think of any reason to like our current electoral system, can you help?

I know that changing the electoral system doesn't solve everything. For example, educating the electorate is just as important, because with a biased media, any electoral system change is of limited use. Italy and Russia are extreme examples of this with Belusconi and Putin's control of the media!

But apart from that priviso, I've racked my brains to think of reasons to keep 'first past the post' FPTP and I'm struggling to think of anything. I don't think it even leads to decisive government!

Look at all the long term big decisions that have been avoided on our infrastructure, the economy, transport, the environment! All issues where Germany has a much better post war record. Look at how effective coalition rule has been in Scotland and Wales and even London.

Under FPTP, parties have to always fudge the issues to win the marginal seat floating voter rather than saying what they think and building support gradually.

FPTP is not even the best non-PR system! The Alternative Vote (AV) is much better because it at least takes account of voter preferences.

The only thing I can say in FPTP's defence is that, because it has been in place for so long, some of the electorate have learned how to get the most out of a bad system by voting tactically etc.

Any eventual change will be painful in the short term as the electorate and parties get used to a new system. It will take one or two elections to bed in. This I think is the major obstacle and why AV might be a useful stepping stone towards PR. Although an Additional Member System(AMS) is my preferred solution overall.


  1. I'm more of an STV man. It seems to me that this is the best way of reducing party control on MPs. I also like the idea that I can vote on issues if I think they are more important than party policy, by splitting my vote. So I could vote for an anti-Religious Hatred Law Labour MP, like Denis Skinner but give my other 4 votes to Lib Dem or Tory MPs who also oppose the law.

    I don't like the idea of having different types of MP that AMS implies. I agree that FPTP is crap though.

  2. The problem for me with STV is you need a maths degree to understand the counting process and it can be very difficult to count, and that to me spells trouble.

    Also it is not properly proportional. The reason the Lib Dems favour it, is exactly the same reason the Tories like FPTP. STV as implemented in Ireland discriminates in favour of 3 parties just like FPTP discriminates in favour of 2.

    I want all the parties (with perhaps a priviso of a 5% threshold) to have the representation their share of the vote deserves.

    Also sad as it is to say it, some voters would have serious trouble get used to the 1,2,3 rankings. By keeping the x, we keep it simple and easy to count. AMS systems work well.

    Saying all that, any electoral change has my backing. I would back STV in preference to FPTP. I would even back AV in preference to FPTP.

    I would rank my favourite electoral systems as follows;

    1. Cellular Constituencies ('Who should you vote for' website idea)
    2. AMS/MMP (Germany/New Zealand etc.)
    3. Open List PR (Finland/Sweden etc.)
    4. STV (Ireland)
    5. (closed) List PR (Netherlands/Israel etc.)
    6. AV (Australia)