Gordon Brown has announced plans to reform the electoral system in the UK after the election – if Labour is elected, and they do not change their minds. Of course they look likely to give us one choice of reform – choose Labour’s preferred option or no reform. What kind of choice is that ?
We should be telling Parliament what kind of electoral reform we want and not just calmly expect what suits the government of the day. If you look at what Gordon Brown is proposing, it probably represents the minimum possible change to our present system. The Alternative Vote (what GB is suggesting) consists of people voting by listing their preferred candidates in order of preference; if there is no overall majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded and the votes of those who voted for him or her are shared out amongst the other candidates according to their second preference.
The idea is that no MP is elected without representing the majority view of his or her constituency. Ok, sounds better than the current system, but is it as good as one of the following :-
- Alternative Vote Top-Up (which was suggested for the UK in the recent past)
- Single Transferable Vote (which I believe the Liberal party prefer)
- or even full Proportional Representation (which is the simplest way of ensuring that nobody’s vote is wasted)
Or even the zillions of other possibilities out there – Wikipedia has a good selection.
There are certain advantages to Gordon Brown’s preferred system – it is a relatively small change and does make things a bit fairer. I would myself prefer a more radical change, but I am quite willing to let the people decide and not have our choice restricted to a simple yes or no to choose some politician’s choice. After all, how sure are we that this is actually best for us and not best for the Labour party ?
Of course as you might expect, the Tories are against any form of electoral reform, and the Liberals are in favour (although this isn’t their preferred system).
What I would like to see is a referendum giving us a proper choice amongst a range of options. That would be complicated to difficult to do properly and would be more complex for us people to decide – we would have to spend some time thinking about what we want. We would need a neutral group reviewing possible systems and keeping the list of options down to sensible numbers. We would also need a neutral group coming up with a list of advantages and disadvantages for each, and ideally stop the politicians from making recommendations (asking a politician to keep quiet is wildly unrealistic I know).
The key thing is that we should be making the choice and not the politicians.