An Electoral Proposal
Posted 13th \2010f May, 2010on:
We had an election. You might have noticed it.
We also have a lot of talk about electoral reform and the possibility of bringing in Alternative Voting, which I think means the system where you vote for people in order and every round someone gets excluded and their votes shared out among the remaining candidates. I could be totally wrong about that, because the politicians and the news are calling it AV like there’s no other meaning for those initials. Word of advice, BBC: a lot of people, like me, hear Audio Visual when you say that.
The Liberal Democrats want proportional representation, because they would benefit; the other parties don’t, because they wouldn’t. It’s fairly simple.
I don’t want proportional representation, because I don’t think it’s very representative. It might make the squabbling in Parliament more even-handed, but I want someone to be fighting my corner, not voting with their party.
And so we come to my own proposal for electoral reform.
First, I would abolish parties. No more political parties. Citizens can form groups of like-minded individuals, and they can have conferences and membership fees and campaign for a particular candidate, but parliamentary candidates may not run under the banner of any such group. They’re not allowed to call themselves Labour or Tory. On the ballot paper, no logos will be printed. Just names, and maybe a single paragraph telling the voters what they stand for.
This serves several purposes. First, candidates will have to persuade the voters that they will be a good representative, because the voters won’t be scanning down the list and voting for a party. Second, in Parliament itself, every vote is a conscience vote. There are no whips, no party line, no question of putting loyalty above constituents, because there are no parties. So thirdly, the appeal of politics as a career is much reduced – you can’t get anywhere as a career politician, because nobody will vote for you. You’re going to have to persuade people that you genuinely care about them and their problems.
“Ah,” you will say, “that’s all very pretty, Froth, but what about forming a Government? Who gets to be Prime Minister if not the head of the largest party?”
I have thought of that. Indeed I have.
Parliamentary terms will overlap, say by two months. That is, the current Government will stay in power to make vital decisions while the election happens. The new MPs will spend two months debating things amongst themselves. They will use this time to find out who thinks what and who they trust and who they think has the charisma and the strength to be PM. And then they will vote amongst themselves for a Leader of the Commons, who will select a Cabinet.
Obviously, this will make it difficult for Cabinet ministers to stand for re-election, but not impossible, especially since if you’ve done a good job all your constituents already know who you are.
The final part of my reform proposal is admittedly not directly connected to the rest, but is something I think ought to be done: citizens should have the power to call a referendum, and their MPs should be bound by the results. If a sufficient percentage of a constituency signs the petition, a referendum is called in the constituency and the MP is bound by the result and must vote in accordance with it in Parliament.
This is all about being representative. This is all about governing ourselves. There’s too many of us to hold General Meetings and let everyone speak and vote, so we elect an executive body to do it for us. That’s what a Government should be.
So abolish political parties. Make all the candidates stand as Independents. Make them convince their constituents that they personally will do a good job. Make the Prime Minister prove themself in debate with their peers before they get the job. Put a mechanism in place to force MPs to vote as we, their people, want them to.
Proportional Representation is a red herring. But Proportional Representation is the best we’re ever going to get, because what I’m proposing benefits none of the parties.