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Proportional Representation while keeping constituencies

1 Comment 6th July 2010

 

It is clear to see from the recent UK general election that the current system of first past the post is flawed. The Liberal Democrats receiving 23% of the vote but 201 seats less than The Labour Party who won just 6% of the vote more than them, the Green Party winning a seat, while parties such as UKIP got nearly five times more votes but won none. There is no perfect voting system as all have flaws and weaknesses and the system I am about to introduce is no different. I will attempt to counter some of the problems that arise. This system alone cannot do that; it will require other policies to be put in to attempt to solve the issues.

 

This Voting system attempts to combine proportional representation with constituencies, allowing representative government, and making votes count while maintaining local MPs to fight for local issues with some accountability to the constituency they were elected in.

 

The system would go as follows: candidates would be allocated by parties to constituencies as in the current first past the post system; these candidates would have to appeal to local voters. Come Election Day, on ballot papers there would be no candidate names, purely parties. Upon the results each party would win a number of seats proportional to the amount of votes they received, this would be done via a seat after every X number of votes. The seats won however, depend on the votes in constituencies. The party with the most votes and thus seats receives its seats where it won the highest percentage of the vote. In the event of a party wins 300 seats, then it receives those seats from the 300 constituencies where it received the highest percentage of the vote, the party itself gets no choice over which seats and therefore candidates it receives, and thus problems of the List System, where parties can choose which people it wants to be MPs can be avoided.

 

This however does not come without problems. There is a chance that multiple parties could ‘win’ a constituency, if, for example, a large party receives its highest share of the vote in one constituency and a small party receives its largest share in the same constituency then it appears that there are two winners. In cases like this, as the larger party is allocated seats first from its winning constituency then it would win the seat, while the smaller party would win seats from its second third or other largest constituency.

 

This may lead to a further issue in that people may be represented in a constituency where the majority of people did not vote for the victorious party, indeed they may have been the fifth, sixth, seventh or even less popular party. At the moment the country can be run by a party where the majority of people did not vote for it, and in constituencies 50% of the vote is not required to win. Still it appears to be an issue when a candidate receiving 1% of the vote wins the constituency, and the issue of accountability can come into play, as it appears it would be hard to remove that candidate at an election. Although such a candidate could be removed via an increase in the vote to one major party to make it one of the constituencies it wins I realise that this is unlikely in some very close seats, particularly if they are three or four way battles. Thus to make candidates more accountable policies allowing constituents increased power over their MP would need to be implemented. People might have a local MP who may have received only a small amount of the vote, but they will still have someone who is there to represent local issues and who they can contact over local worries, something that they would not get under an equally proportional system where the party chooses who they want to take their designated fill of seats. The vote of the people in that constituency will still count toward the total of the parties and thus they will still be represented as their vote could add more seats to the party they voted for giving them more power, so the issues they are concerned about can still be addressed.

 

Another area where an issue has been raised is where one party wins a constituency but does not receive the required number of votes in the country as a whole to receive a seat, in this case then even if they win a constituency they will not get the seat.

 

One serious change in the system would be if a party receives the allocated number of votes to win one seat, however in each constituency a larger party has won significantly and would claim that seat. In this case the smaller party would have to have one seat, and thus the seat would be allocated in the constituency where the differential between the largest party and the party in question is smallest.

 

When designating seats the party with the largest popular vote is allocated its seats, then the second, then the third. If in the possible situation that a smaller party requires a seat a larger party has, as it only has had votes for it in constituencies that party owns, the constituency would transfer to the smaller party, the larger party would then take its next highest constituency, and if this is taken off another party that party then takes its next highest constituency as required.

 

I emphasise again that this system is not perfect, it has flaws as does any system, but it has strengths in a truly proportional representation, while maintaining constituencies, and meaning that each MP is voted upon as opposed to merely selected off a list, thus not giving party leaders the power to fill their benches with candidates they want. Electoral reform is needed in the United Kingdom and I believe that this system is one that allows real proportionality, making peoples votes count, regardless of where they vote, allowing underrepresented parties a voice, and giving the people a real choice in who to vote for, as they know that their vote counts even if they are in the minority in their constituency, while maintaining local MPs so that local people have a someone in Westminster they can contact to stick up for local issues.

Why does this matter?

As this will provide a much more fair repsentitive system while keeping the tie between MP and constituency allowing all peoples vote to count regardless of where they vote and who other people in their constituency vote for



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One Response to Proportional Representation while keeping constituencies

  1. James Coley says:

    An idea I have devised for the Westminster parliament is something I call The Front Bench Plan. It would add one hundred new “Front Bench” seats, elected at-large by proportional representation, to the existing constituency seats in the House of Commons. These members would sit on the benches closest to the center when the House sits as such, but not when it sits as a committee of the whole. The Front Bench might have some authority over the House itself, perhaps including power to determine which bills are brought to the floor for a third reading.

    There are many variations of this, but here is just one. The other seats might be elected in a run-off by two-way races in each constituency between candidates from the two parties with the most Front Bench seats from the first round. Whichever party gets a majority of these more numerous “Back Bench” seats would form the government. But the Cabinet would have to negotiate with other parties on each bill to get it passed.

    The idea is to have the stability of a one-party government, but to require that government to form a cross-party consensus for each bill, although not necessarily the same one on each issue.

    I would be very interested in your thoughts about my idea, and in whether you know of any other ideas like it. Thanks.

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