Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Keeping Things In Proportion

That old chestnut about our elected positions not being 'representative' has come up yet again in a discussion elsewhere. It is a nonsense: we elect someone to speak and vote for us, on behalf of our area, whether it be a parish, council ward, parliamentary constituency or whatever.

No-one can do that specific job unless voted for only by those in that 'patch', usually as residents though I know variations have been devised for rapid-turnover places such as University towns.

The usual complaint is (conveniently) regarding council elections, where a party that gained no seats despite fielding several candidates still got more votes than another party, who perhaps had fewer candidates (each of whom typically did better than the first party) or won a seat as a subsequent by-election – which happened in my home area just a few months ago.

As far as I am concerned, it is the will of the people to elect their own area's representative, not for any system of wangling the results to allow someone with lesser voting support than the victor to be awarded the seat. That is always a form of electoral corruption. If an outside-chance party (for want of a better name) is really serious about getting a foothold onto the local council, then they'd stand just one candidate and throw all their resources at securing that one seat. One step at a time, walking before trying to run...

This is not to say that I don't appreciate the arguments about having a more proportional system – parliamentary constituency level, where the 'patch' is too big to be represented effectively by someone who spends most if not all of the working week away in London, there is scope for a radically different approach.

Hence the scheme I devised a few years ago that separated legislative and constituency representation functions, each with the most appropriate electoral system for that aspect. Long-term readers of this 'blog will probably remember this: 300 Legislators (full time) elected under a list system where the voter ticks a party box and all the votes are aggregated nationwide, with seats allocated as close as possible to the direct proportions of votes.

Additionally, there would be 600 (part time) Constituency Representatives to cover what back then had been planned – a reduction from 650 to 600 constituencies, which was scuppered by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government going back on their pledge to support that initiative. These would be elected on the current 'first past the post' system, which is obviously the right approach in this case.

The idea is that the Legislators can concentrate on that job, without have any locality issues possibly distorting their view, yet they can have formal representations from any part of the country, affording a broader perspective.

As one can see, the overall cost would be much the same as now – probably less in practice, if one thinks about such matters as travelling expenses. There are lots of details that I worked out when I first devised this scheme, and a few that it wasn't right for me to propose and which needed to be thrashed out by the parliamentary and electoral authorities – but it's workable, and should satify just about everyone, at least in theory!

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