Monday, June 05, 2006

Cameron's Clause IV: Electoral Reform?

Robert Philpot (via):
Bale's solution is simple: the Tories should come out in favour of PR. As he correctly argues, the Conservatives' hitherto staunch defence of the current electoral system rests on a mix of "parochialism, idealism and self-interest". Indeed, the principal attraction of First Past the Post for the Tories is that throughout the 20th century it more often than not delivered majority Conservative governments. With the exception of 1945 and 1966, the Conservatives were clear beneficiaries from the current electoral system at every post-war general election, up to and including John Major's victory in 1992.

What's now clear, however, is that political, socio-economic and demographic change has made First Past the Post a much less reliable friend of the Tory party than it once was: at each of the last three elections it left them badly under-represented. Last year, for instance, the Conservatives held a 50,000-vote lead over Labour in England, but still ended up 92 seats behind them.

As the Conservatives are no doubt aware, First Past the Post will require them to substantially outpoll Labour in order to achieve relatively modest goals at the next election.

One further political consideration should impress Cameron. As an analysis of the 2005 general election by Conservative Action on Electoral Reform (CAER) indicates, a more proportional electoral system would see the Tories losing some seats where they are currently over-represented (Surrey, Berkshire, and Hampshire, for instance), while gaining seats in not only Scotland and Wales, but also just the kind of northern and urban areas - like Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Tyne and Wear- that Cameron appears so keen to boost the Tory presence in. And, as CAER notes, "there are still plenty of Conservatives in the big cities, just a shortage of Conservative MPs to represent them".

But Cameron does not have the luxury of a great deal of time to consider his options. After all, who would seriously wager a bet that, as he thinks ahead, the current occupant of No 11 Downing Street may not already be considering that a new pledge to honour Labour's commitment on PR might not be just the thing to give a fillip to his fledgling "progressive consensus"?
The Tories, by any sane analysis, need electoral reform just as much as the nation does.

Dave? Are you listening Dave? It's a really good idea Dave.


Anonymous said...

It must be done, though, with consideration for the need to have a particular MP who represents you. The EU Parliament method of voting is, as I have mentioned before here, apalling.

I am also concerned about the lack of a clear winner. It means that no single party's policies can be implemented without them being watered down... And what use is compromise in a radical agenda? 

Posted by Gavin Ayling

Anonymous said...

On your first point, agree, and agreed when you said it  as well, given that that's the post I plan to always refer back to when we talk about constituency links. Bear in mind that single member constituencies are a recent innovation, introduced in the '47 reforms. Also, councillors are normally in wards of 3, sometimes even more (Totness town has one, 12-member district - all independents though).

Re the "lack of clear winner"; I'd rather honest  coalitions; broad church politics is fine, but it's inherently dishonest, we know that individual MPs disagree on some policy issues; the difference is that they debate them in private, behind closed doors.

What's the point of Parliament if the debates are elsewhere? STV would mean the PArliament is full of people we've elected, truly representative, and it can enforce debate.

As for the much vaunted "radical agenda", what's the point of a radical agenda if you can't persuade half the electorate that it's a good idea?

Let's face it. If there were, for example, a LibDem/Tory coalition after the next general election, there would be some compromises, but there would be some fairly radical changes, some of the issues we appear to agree on are considered radically different to this Govts agenda.

But Blair's radicalism (example: Scottish devolution) has been pushed through without a genuine mandate for it. Is that really a good thing? 

Posted by MatGB