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Proportional Representation - Win or Loss?

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posted on May, 9 2010 @ 04:01 PM
Thank you both for such an interesting discussion... appologies for not joining in but rather trying to absorb the information you are both sharing.

My constituencey was created in 1295, just over 700 years ago... and we have had some really awful candidates in that time..

Localy we consider it a rotten borough.. it's a kinda local joke.. but really apt considering the state of UK politics.. at the end of the month we will be having our own local elections..

You see Cliffe declare themselves an independent Kingdom at the end of the month, and will vote on their own presidential election. They will elect a rotten representative for our rotten borough, But only those who have held serious political positions (mayors, MPs etc) can try to be elected..

Although all done in jest, there is an undercurrent that shows the distance between national gov and the people in this country, which feels like it is is getting greater by the day (especially at the moment)

I asked the questions as it appears to me, in my simply mind, that PR will only increase the distance between the National Gov and the people.

posted on May, 9 2010 @ 04:26 PM
reply to post by thoughtsfull

An interesting point actually, implicit within your summary of the circumstances you are facing locally, the major effect of PR is to remove regional distortions of voting practices - it becomes a national contest rather than a summary results of local contests.

However, in this pure form is it valid?

Think of it in extreme terms, imagine 100 constituencies, 10 of which are urban and the other 90 which are rural. 33% of the population live in the urban area and the rural areas have 67% in total.

Each rural area votes for a different local candidate of one of 3 'country' parties. The urban areas unanimously vote for a single 'industrial' party.

Our initial FPTP system produces 10 seats for the Industrials and 90 seats for the Country parties. Clearly, the Industrialists don't stand a chance so we have to level the playing field by equalising the opportunity based on 'classes' of seat.

Basically, the voting is 1/3 to 2/3 population wise, but this is not reflected in the seats which are 10/100 to 90/100.

So, if we say that 90 = 2/3 we could turn the 10 seats into 1/3 by allocating 45 seats to the industrial areas rather than just 10.

So now we have 45 seats for the Industrials and 90 seats for the Country parties, which vary in voter distribution. Now, this is what we currently have in the UK - or at least an effort to affect this system. It is based on an effort to equalise notional differences in population density although it appears unfair when a particular population minority manages to garner a majority by virtue of seats.

So, lets introduce PR, the share is as follows:

Country Party #1 - 24%
Country Party #2 - 13%
Country Party #3 - 30%
Industrial Party - 33%

A percentage is a percentage, so these would remain the same regardless of the number of seats involved. if we keep it simple and have 100 seats, the Industrial part has 33% of the seats but can still be blocked by a pact between Country Party #1 and Country Party #2.

From this simple example, it can be seen that the parliamentary majority has to increase (say to 70%) in order for other voting members to have a fair chance, however, this perhaps causes another issue because the Industrialists have a greater 'blocking power' but are even less likely to actually achieve a majority for their own initiatives.

This is what we tend to see in Europe, that is, the power of 'blocking' over 'support' which actually introduces new policies as instruments of state.

So, despite having the greatest share of the national vote, none of the Industrialist policies actually get implemented because the country parties effectively horse-trade between themselves.

Can we fiddle the figures to get better representation?

Not really... the reason is that this system is still based on the allocation of seats to MPs which induces the issues I raised in the OP (i.e. regional representation). It also does nothing to reduce the impact of party politics.

Then again, should it? Although the Country parties are different, they have the same mindset and effectively represent 67% of the voting population. Why should their policies be moderated?

This is where is gets difficult because for true democracy we should really be voting on individual policies rather than grouped party politics. I might admire the Country party policies on environment and defence but the Industrialists have better policies on social welfare.

How can we mix and match?

Frankly I have no idea - I simply know that PR itself will not produce 'better' politics or in fact change representation in terms of democratic voter representation.

As has been mentioned, one way is to remove party 'whips' and allow free voting based on individual conscience. Regional politics would have to undergo a radical overhaul to provide "point zones" of representation, essentially chopping up the landscape into equally populated zones and reflecting the majority vote as best as possible - there has to be a compromise somewhere.

Would these suggestion make a difference - I have no idea, but the voters have to think about the real detail of these things while papers simply bandy about the phrase "PR"!

[edit on 9-5-2010 by SugarCube]

posted on May, 9 2010 @ 04:29 PM
Can't they do away with the concept of 'constituencies' entirely , along with voting for a local 'representative'. You get to see your MP by selecting the one you wish from a 'pool' of MP's available . Ie , If you are a Labour voter in a former constituency that would have been Conservative, you can select a Labour MP of your choice from the pool that closest adheres to the criteria of your query , knowledgeable in the subject or regionally aware etc. Local specific issues could be addressed by local government.

Or if you are a Labour voter that has concerns that a Liberal or Conservative MP might be more sympathetic towards, you could take your case to them. Do away (partially) with face to face type surgeries and introduce internet surgeries so that distance is not an issue.

Then , they could all live in London, and save on the expenses of having to have a second house.

[edit on 9-5-2010 by Drexl]

posted on May, 9 2010 @ 06:15 PM
reply to post by Drexl

This is reminiscent of The Netherlands' system and although seemingly appropriate it does have some issues in terms of 'useful' representation and the routes for recourse require the 'ombudsman' layer I mentioned in a response to Rizla.

It represents a good start, however, it would involve convincing the population that a non-local MP will look after their interests. I still believe that regional representation is necessary but you are right in terms of disassociating MPs from 'population density seats' which undermines the PR system.

I really believe that a new zoning system is required that is loosely based on regions in the following way:

PR selected MP --> Geographic Regions --> Zones of Influence.

This would still produce some oddities in that some MPs would be allocated to non-voting Zones (only so many MPs and Zones to go around) but it could work with an '2nd opinion' system based on the Regions themselves.

The thing is, it is getting complicated now and we have to ask whether voters would accept it?

Seats would be reflected by percentages which I have rounded in the example below to make it easier, but these are actually better described as 'zones' to negate inference from the current system.

Regions are split into zones based on equal population density, rural communities would have larger but fewer zones, urban areas would have smaller more numerous zones.

Lets take the 100 seats example and graft on the election results:

36% Party #1
29% Party #2
23% Party #3
_3% Party #4
_2% Party #5
_2% Party #6
and other 5x parties (#7, #8, #9, #10, #11) with 1% up to 100% of votes.

e.g. Party #1 gets 36 zones allocated to them based on their PR result and have to assign 36 MPs to represent them accordingly. As the 'majority party' they get first dibs at selecting their zones from those that registered a clear Party affiliation majority in their local voting. Each party does this and it would require some horse-trading between parties to negotiate representation of key zones where results are close. Remember, Each party has a maximum of their PR share of the zones to allocate MPs to.

Of course, this means the the low PR parties could get allocated to zones which have little or no representation, however, there are methods of solving this, perhaps allocating based on minority parties first.

The point is, this would represent the initial zoning representation using PR.

Note the significant change - Parties are voted for nationally but MPs allocated 'after' election based on local results to the maximum ceiling declared by the PR vote. This would produce the nearest thing to a fair combined national & regional system based on PR

Am I explaining that clearly? It might not work and is open to criticism.

The key criticism that I can see is that we still need a different form of PR to produce proportional representation within cabinet posts and this should surely be attained through manifesto categories and distinct policy voting. If the smallest party has the best economic policy since sliced bread then surely you want it to be implemented regardless of who is notionally the majority party?

Can the population be trusted to select the right policies? You might ask whether democracy is actually a valid form of governance? Party manifestos would have to become much stricter in their content with parties accountable for their content (or lack thereof). Note that commons representation, essentially a complete product of PR, would be different from cabinet personalities and policies. Again, is this achievable?

Maybe both systems are pipe dreams and too complex to implement especially since they would likely produce contentious government strategies, but I believe that they would represent the acme in terms of democratic representation.

BTW, these are not fully thought out - I'm quite tired and happy to be shown to be completely incorrect via constructive criticism!

[edit on 9-5-2010 by SugarCube]

posted on May, 9 2010 @ 06:36 PM
I suppose it would be useful to have statistics on the reasons people go to see their MP for. Maybe there isn't a lot of specific region- related reasons. Could be it would be preferential that they could contact an MP expert on their query who is sympathetic , rather one than that knows all about your region but nothing about your problem and doesn't much care about it.

posted on May, 9 2010 @ 06:40 PM
reply to post by Drexl

Agreed Drexl, but I think that this should be achieved through a 2-stage process, that is to say:

1st Stage is local representation
2nd Stage is referral to subject matter expertise.

Since MPs like to call their public-sessions 'surgeries' perhaps they should operate on the basis of the medical profession? Usually, you go to see your local Doctor first but if you're not satisfied then you can get referred for a 2nd opinion or to a subject matter expert for more acute examination of the problem.

Makes sense and I believe that this methodology could be implemented into the system I outline above.

posted on May, 9 2010 @ 06:52 PM
Yes, there should be some kind of initial filtering stage at local government level, especially if it is a region related issue . It could be worked through some kind of local government interface to an MP . Also used for those that could not directly access London based MP's , OAP's without internet ( if they used internet surgeries) etc.

Also, when voting , you could just divide the country into collection areas , rather than of any kind of tribal affiliations with collective kinds of political identity . Send the collective data from all collection points to a central counting hub and then disclose from that point the results. Nobody would then say 'we are a Labour area', we are 'Conservative', as they wouldn't know any more, cept by historical trends ,and that would dissipate over time with new population demographics. And since the constituency wouldn't exist anymore , the link to who 'we' are would also be less acute.

If they incorporate voting by internet, rather than putting a cross on a piece of paper in the locality of a ward/constituency , this would also add to the apparent non-regionalization of the vote.

It would put the man doing the swingometer thingy on election night out of a job thou.

[edit on 10-5-2010 by Drexl]

posted on May, 10 2010 @ 02:34 AM
reply to post by SugarCube

I kinda understand what you are saying.. I guess what I was trying to point out is that the whole system/society both nationally and locally is for want of a better word simply dysfunctional and I really do wonder if PR will improve the situation or make it worse..

In all honesty I think the next lot coming into power will have a lot of issues to resolve, all of which need to compliment each other, if PR is part of that it needs to compliment local and national gov and the society changes we need to be functional again... not a task I would relish..

Thanks for your considered and well thought out responses..

posted on May, 10 2010 @ 05:15 PM
MP's under a PR system shouldn't be made to cohere to an old standard of regional representation. There should be a local government means of addressing those issues. MP's would constitute a national government, and consequently would represent themselves in a context that concerns itself with a national agenda . If you have regional parties , such as the SNP , they would represent the whole of Scotland in parliamental votes , deliberations and decisions , rather than for their individual constituencies.

But regional parties do seem to be a fly in the ointment with regard to this kind of PR representation.

[edit on 10-5-2010 by Drexl]

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