If I could change one thing and only one thing…

27 Apr

I spent 20 minutes before he left for school this morning explaining to my 13 year old son how we vote for the UK parliament.

His only response?

“Well that’s not fair”.

Here in Scotland we have a voting system that combines first past the post with additional member list proportional representation that results in what I consider a fair outcome every time. We have a parliament that reflects what people actually vote for and not one that sees the big parties protect their power base by redrawing constituency boundaries.

If each of the three main parties in the UK got 33.3% of the vote on 6th May it would result in Labour holding over 300 seats, the Conservatives winning around 200, and the Liberal Democrats scraping a meagre 100 or so.

That is not democracy.

I do not understand the English reaction to the prospect of a hung parliament. I understand the politician’s response, they are desperately fighting for the upper hand in an unfair system, they are painting their nightmare scenarios of a crippled economy and a country in ruins should we, the electorate, be allowed to actually vote for who we want. It threatens their right to form a majority government on the back of a minority of votes. But the fact that they paint these ridiculous scenarios must be because voters respond.

No party in Scotland has ever had a majority, and if it did it would be on the basis of receiving the majority of votes. What we do have is government by consensus. Why should a party that receives less than 50% of the vote ever be in a position to form a majority government and push through policies that OVER 50% of voters disagree with? That just does not make sense to me. If 20% of the people who vote on 6th May agree with and support Liberal Democrat policies then they should hold 20% of the seats in parliament, and have 20% worth of influence on policy making.

That is fair.

Tactical voting, of the type our scaremongering prime ministerial candidates are wont to encourage, is pointless in a PR system. Voters are truly free to vote based on their preferred ideology because each vote counts. In my constituency it’s a two horse race between the SNP and the Tories. I am a member of the SNP so it’s a no brainer for me, but many Lib-Dem supporters and Labour supporters feel that voting is pointless in this constituency and they’re probably right. After elections to the Scottish parliament it’s not unusual to see constituencies return an MSP from one party yet support another party in the PR part of our system.

Every vote counts.

We desperately need electoral reform in this country. Proportional representation isn’t some hippy-dippy unworkable Utopian system, it’s the preferred system in most of the world’s democracies including Germany, Japan, Sweden (the list is here) and other such economically crippled and ruined countries. The notable exceptions are the UK, USA and India. Which just shows that the “bigger” the democracy the less say the population has in who  governs. In fact, if you look at the G8 countries, with the exception of Japan and Italy, they all subscribe to an undemocratic FPTP electoral system. It’s power protectionism at every level and personally I just wish we’d stop kidding ourselves that, as things stand, we have any say in anything and actually do something about it.

Head in the clouds? Blue Sky thinking?

You were wondering how I was going to get a photo in huh?

For more musings from UK parents on the forthcoming elections pop over to Mummy Do That who’s hosting the current BMB Carnival on that very theme.

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10 Responses to “If I could change one thing and only one thing…”

  1. Heather April 27, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    To be honest, all of this stuff confuses me. i dont understand why a part that gets 20% of the vote doesnt get 20% of the power. Why if they all get equal votes they dont get equal power. My little brain really is struggling to understand it all. Why is it all so confusing?

    • mrsw April 27, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

      Finland has PR 🙂

      First past the post is actually more straightforward (if unfair) whoever is in power redraws the constituency boundaries in their favour to ensure they stand the best chance of winning. When we vote in a FPTP system only the people who vote for the candidate FPTP have their views represented, all the other voters may as well not have bothered!

      Makes me grrrr! (fed up even!)

  2. Mwa April 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    The Belgians just have proportional representation. We don’t even have local MPs. We’re a bad example pro just now, though, as we’ve just lost another government. I do agree with you.

    • mrsw April 27, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

      I know – perhaps cultural influences mean it only works some places? It certainly seems to work here in Scotland but maybe that’s because the power the First Minsiter has is limited? Maybe if there was more at stake the politicians would be less open to compromise and negotiation :/

  3. Kelly April 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    I can barely wrap my head around American government…the UK system totally confuses me.

    That photo is NOT confusing, just gorgeous.

    • mrsw April 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

      Ah the American system I have come to know like a well love penpal since my parents lived there. I actually sat up all night eagerly awaiting the Kerry win. I wonder sometimes if the US has any idea how much the rest of the world analyses their elections? After watching Fox News in Georgia I kind of get the feeling it’s a one way street – then again, only a complete fool would judge America’s interest in foreign affairs on Fox News… in GEORGIA! 😉

  4. Priness_L_88 April 28, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    I do agree that our voting system is flawed and much as people not voting irritates me, sometimes it is the case that there is no point because it’s already a forgone conclusion. We definitely need a shake up and I’m really hoping that after this election we will get it, a lot of the public want it to change now so maybe it will.

  5. Barbara April 28, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    I was brought up to believe that PR is bad. My parents were Tory through and through. I’ve always been able to see that our FPTP system is wrong, just now what should replace it.

    Frankly, I don’t think a hung parliament will be that bad a thing. Might make some people sit up and think about what’s going.

  6. Kristin May 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Amazing how the smaller countries have no problem getting it right and the more powerful ones manage to screw it all up. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, therefore great power must corrupt greatly, moderate power corrupt moderately, etc. Makes me crazy when I stop and think about it, so I mostly try not to. Just go and vote for the best candidate and hope it makes a difference.

  7. Working Mum May 2, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    I have been banging on about proportional representation for years. Every election I vote, but it doesn’t count because I live in a Labour stronghold, so every election Labour win the seat and the rest of us, however we voted, aren’t represented. This is NOT democracy.

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