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True proportional representation, without changing the way we vote

Comment 5th July 2010

This idea delivers truely proportional representation within the House of Commons (or Lords) without altering the voting system or the way in which MPs are selected. It doesn't even require the AV system (in fact it's probably better without it).

It's very simple. Even a politician could understand it. Let's begin by assuming the House of Commons has N MPs (N should probably be around 600).

Step 1: Conduct a general election in the normal way, with MPs selected on a 'first past the post' basis. No change so far…

Step 2: Calculate the fraction of the popular vote received by each party (in the range 0.0 to 1.0). For party p let this be F(p).  Let the number of elected MPs for party p be E(p).

Step 3: Give each MP from party p a number of votes V(p) according to the following formula:

   V(p) = (F(p) / (E(p)) x N

  This can be calculated to any number of decimal places, but for reasons of practicality it could be limited to 5.

When the votes available to each party, from all of their elected MPs in the House, are added together they will have V(p) x E(p) votes in total, which is equal to F(p) x N. Now, this proportion of the total votes in the House is exactly the same as the proportion of the electorate who voted for that party.

What can be fairer than this?

Put another way, the current system gives some MPs disproportionaly high voting rights in the House, because they represent a party that was able to return a high number of MPs from a comparatively small popular vote.

In a practical sense, nothing whatsoever has to change in our electoral system. Only the method of counting votes in Parliament would change, and the method of counting votes could be automated by having each MP carry an RFID tag with their vote embedded electronically. As they walk through the division lobbies to be counted their vote would be tallied automatically (rather like a supermarket checkout).

If we wanted to get really clever we could also pay MPs according to their vote, as their relative importance would clearly depend on how many members of the electorate they each represent.

Why does this matter?

This is important because it delivers absolute fairness in the power given to each party in Parliament, which is then in direct proportion to the number of votes cast for each party.

It is better than the AV system, as the public do not have to be re-trained to operate a new voting system. It retains the notion of having locally accountable MPs, avoiding the need for pools of party nominated MPs that are unaccountable to the public.

By its very definition, this is proportional representation. The big parties will hate it, of course.

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