Proportional representation

Proportional Representation (PR) is more democratic than the first-past-the-post system.

Let’s say three candidates are standing in your area, Liberal, Conservative and Labour. Only one candidate can win. However, if 30% of the population vote for the Liberal candidate, that 30% will be effectively unrepresented.

If the vote is similarly 30% of the population nationally, Liberal Democrats will have no MPs because the other parties win all the seats.

The downside of the system is that people vote “useful” rather than by conviction because their party might not win. They will vote instead for the party that they think will win that is closest to their beliefs.

For instance, they might believe in ecology and would like to vote Green but don’t because they don’t think the Greens will not win, and so they vote next best, for a party that includes Green issues in their manifesto.

If there were proportional representation, 10% of the population might vote Green, and for 100 MPs, there would be 10 Green MPs.

Negatives of PR

Overall, it means that many small or smaller parties can stand and win seats in parliament. Thus if there are 100 MPs and say the marginal worker’s party won 1% of the vote, they would have one MP in parliament.

Proportional representation is fairer than the first-past-the-post system, but there is a perception today that this spread of MPs makes consensus very hard if many different parties are present in parliament.

The current system centralises power to the most influential party and because of the party whip system MPs are required to vote for the party line on pain of exclusion.

Do coalitions also stifle the smaller parties

The solution is coalitions, as in 20 out of 27 European governments. Many parties win, but to be in government, they need to achieve say a minimum of 10%. All parties under 10% have to join together to be in coalition with larger parties.

Whether coalitions stifle the convictions of smaller parties depends on whether MPs are required to vote in a particular way, to follow the party line or if they are free to vote according to their convictions.

Also, smaller parties could threaten to leave a coalition, and thus they have some leverage, some power to have their arguments heard.

The Greens need both ecological and economic policy to win.

In the end though, aren’t issues such as ecology just marginal issues? Or rather, if a party stands on ecology as a central policy, it will never win, since the real problems today are economics and social issues.

A Green party might win with a policy of governing against a Green background, say recycling and reducing consumption, but they must demonstrate that they can run a national economy.

Larger parties today are divided because they feel they have to promote growth.

Social policies are not a priority today.

The Green party today is pacifist and anti-nuclear, and this just does not fit with the reality of the world. World peace will only come about if brokered across all nations.

Social issues like top executive pay can only be brought down if all nations agree, otherwise there will be a “brain drain” from any country that tries to limit high salaries unilaterally.

Likewise, proportional representation is a liberal issue. The current climate does not seem in favour of reforming the political system while Brexit looms.

But there is some potential. Some people are starting to say that Brexit is the result of social injustice. The Gilets Jaunes are.

The issue in France is low pay, people working hard against the high cost of living. These issues beg systemic change but not just by reducing taxes, because lowering taxes reduces the quality of public services and is only a transfer of cost from one sector to another.

The conservatives argue that they can reduce tax without running the services themselves and ensuring that private enterprise rune public services. But what evidence is there that social services cost less overall in the private sector?

PR is fairer than FPTP

Proportional representation then makes the voting system fairer, and people feel that it is more democratic, that their vote is useful and their voice heard. This sense of participation would overall increase general interest in government and political issues.

People would be less anti-system. Today the political class seems very distant, very ivory tower. Disgruntlement comes not only from difficult living conditions but from the idea that people are powerless to effect or affect change.

Social and economic policy are the ones that will win votes today because they directly affect people’s lives — money in their pocket, general living standards, eliminating poverty. Proportional representation would give people a reason to vote – the idea that their vote might change things for the better.

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