Regular readers of these pages may well remember my previous articles about voting reform. Principally a discussion on the political aspects which in itself had a link to a completely different kind of proportional voting system.
I was particularly concerned that most PR systems contain fundamental flaws that cannot be eradicated, so I devised a transparent system with a complete set of alternative results for the 2010 and 2015 elections which would outscore all current flavours of PR on the critical criteria one might use to judge them. It’s a tough ask to get people in positions of influence to be capable of personally evaluating and adopting new ideas so it may well remain an academic exercise, but with the consolation that it will not be alone amongst a number of PR systems destined for the same fate, in the UK at least.
The conference season is upon us again and UKIP, along with other parties, include voting reform as a part of the mix, citing the great unfairness that resulted from the 2015 general election and seeking what is seemingly an obvious solution – change the system so that we can do better. Greens pleading, UKIP following suit, the Liberal Democrats now clawing at anything that might improve their dismal electoral position, and whilst it’s uplifting to listen to Paul Nuttall once again outline the discrepancies of the FTPT voting system one has to wonder if, in this instance, we are simply pandering to the superficiality of the argument with little or no deeply-considered thought.
It might seem odd for someone (me) who spent a considerable amount of time and energy in developing a simple and understandable alternative voting system, to now counsel against that, but sometimes, unless one has immersed oneself in the arguments and the practicalities, it’s difficult to see clearly which way might be the best for the future. PR is always PR and the traditional set of systems almost always creates coalition governments. Most systems (Not F2PTP).
are also bewilderingly complex, contain arbitrary benchmarks, afford some people two votes and others just one and require computers to determine the results.
It’s clear that the 2015 general election threw up the most stark and visible contrast through FPTP. The SNP gained 56 seats with 1.5 million votes and UKIP only one seat with 3.8 million votes and it is easy to conclude that only a change to the way we choose a government will correct this. However, what isn’t considered is the probability that whilst solving one seemingly significant problem one could easily create something much worse or much less advantageous under different circumstances. It’s always as well to look at least one step beyond and analyse the range of possibilities that may play out. Had we done that before bombing Libya and invading Iraq and Afghanistan, and supporting the Arab Spring, the current troubles may not have turned out to be so unmanageable.
So, what are we to do about voting reform?
What’s so good about PR for UKIP?
Firstly, perhaps we ought to consider the position of UKIP and whether or not, despite the election results of the past, it would be to our advantage in the longer term. We secured 3.8 million votes and got one seat but had we got 5 million votes that may well have been 25 seats and 8 million votes 150 seats, so you can see that the payback becomes almost exponentially attractive the more votes one gets. This doesn’t happen with any proportional system.
As a party with a national agenda our intent is to increase support because we do speak for all people and not just the fringe of society, which is where the Labour party is heading. Parties like the Greens and Liberal Democrats will always want a proportional system because their fundamentals appeal only to a small proportion of voters. The Greens will never be seen as economically competent and will always be an insignificant party and the LibDems don’t have a mind of their own. They filch bits from all the other parties to appear to be centralist but always come across as sitting on the fence, so they are unlikely to attract the 6.8 million votes they did in 2010 unless something bizarre happens between 2020 and 2025. Their flagship and solely LibDem policies were either completely wrong (the euro) or abandoned (tuition fees). However, UKIP isn’t like that, or at least not from my perspective, so as a party with a real intention to be in government, it has to embrace FPTP or such ambitions could never be realised. FPTP sets the bar high but, shouldn’t that be the case for a government?
In short, we mustn’t act or look like a protest party particularly at a time when the Labour Party is set to self destruct. Clamouring for some form of PR along with all the other permanently small parties just reaffirms an association with small thinking and short term advantage. That’s not how I want us to be seen.
The second part of this piece will be published tomorrow.