Electoral reform: a quick note

Note: I wrote this post on Sunday. It’s obviously out of date now in terms of the deal the Conservatives and Lib Dems have come to. But there’s some stuff in here I wanted to get down anyway.

I’m sure most people realise this, but it’s worth stating just to be sure: electoral reform is not the same as proportional representation. PR is just one option when it comes to electoral reform, and there are many different flavours of PR as well.

The crux of the Lib Dem position over the next day or so is whether or not they can get a firm, timebound and specific commitment regarding the type of electoral reform they want to see and the process for deciding on it. We’ll have to see on that, though I have my suspicions.

There is no doubt that First Past The Post isn’t appropriate for a multi-party system. But what we have is not a 3-party system: we have a 2.5-party system at most, and that’s being generous (see my analysis of the Lib Dem performance here).

And any proportional electoral system also benefits not just the Lib Dems but other minority parties as well. As I tweeted yesterday, under a pure form of PR for the general election result, the BNP would have 12 MPs and UKIP would have 20 MPs.

You can note as many points about thresholds and electoral system design as you want. But tweaking electoral systems so they make your party’s chances better but not those of others doesn’t make you any better than parties who defend the current electoral system.

I absolutely agree with the need to reform the electoral system. But proportional representation is not the solution; we need to retain some form of plurality / majority-based system.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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