UK voting system

ainsworth74

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The 2010 UK election is a good illustration of the problem. The Tories got 47% of the seats with 36% of the vote, but the difference between Labour and the Libdems really illustrates the problem. Labour recieved 29% of the votes and that gave them 40% of the seats in parliament, the Libdems did slightly worse than Labour with only 23% of the vote but that only gave them 9% of the seats.
I think the 2015 election with the SNP, Lib Dems and UKIP is another good example of how rubbish FPTP is:

PartyVotesSeats% of votes% of seats
Lib Dems2,415,91687.91.2
SNP1,454,436564.78.6
UKIP3,881,099112.60.2

How anyone can look at a table like the above and think "Yes, FPTP is working perfectly and there are no problems with our electoral system" is beyond me. I dislike UKIP an awful lot but the idea that a party can win over 12% of the popular vote and end up with just 0.2% of the seats is perverse. Meanwhile another party can win 4.7% of the popular vote and due to a strong regional basis ends up with 8.6% of the seats is equally perverse. FPTP is just utterly unfit for purpose and it would be hard to persuade me otherwise.

Have to say personally I quite like the look of the AMS that is used up in Scotland. Presumably (and obviously roughly!*) in such a universe the above election result would have seen UKIP gain it's solitary constituency MP but it would have gained several more list MPs whilst the SNP would have still got all their (or a similar number of) constituency MPs but likely only gained a bare handful of list MPs (if any) whilst the other parties would have had more list MPs whose regional assignation was Scotland. Sounds much fairer to me!

* Because such a thought experiment doesn't account for changes in voter behaviour under a different electoral system nor indeed what changes to the number of constituencies and MPs in Parliament might be in such a system!
 
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brad465

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I agree with everything above from @ainsworth74, there are disadvantages to other systems to FPTP but everything in life has its pros and cons, and ultimately it's a cost:benefit analysis that decides. IMO the benefits of a PR system, at the very least replacing FPTP, easily outweigh the costs.
 

najaB

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How anyone can look at a table like the above and think "Yes, FPTP is working perfectly and there are no problems with our electoral system" is beyond me. I dislike UKIP an awful lot but the idea that a party can win over 12% of the popular vote and end up with just 0.2% of the seats is perverse. Meanwhile another party can win 4.7% of the popular vote and due to a strong regional basis ends up with 8.6% of the seats is equally perverse. FPTP is just utterly unfit for purpose and it would be hard to persuade me otherwise.
That isn't a symptom of FPTP, that's the result of constituency-based representation. UKIP got 12% of the vote but didn't get a large percentage of the vote in any particular area. Same with the SNP - they got ~5% of the vote nationally, but then they didn't stand candidates in the majority of constituencies.

No matter the system used, if the vote is for constituencies then the result would've been the same - for example, with STV then the SNP still wouldn't have stood candidates in English or Welsh seats.
 

ainsworth74

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That isn't a symptom of FPTP, that's the result of constituency-based representation. UKIP got 12% of the vote but didn't get a large percentage of the vote in any particular area. Same with the SNP - they got ~5% of the vote nationally, but then they didn't stand candidates in the majority of constituencies.

No matter the system used, if the vote is for constituencies then the result would've been the same - for example, with STV then the SNP still wouldn't have stood candidates in English or Welsh seats.
Yes but we use FPTP so my argument remains that FPTP is flawed. If someone were to suggest replacing it with another system that had similar inherent flaws then I'd be happy to criticise that system on the same basis that it would produce perverse results.
 

DynamicSpirit

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I'm afraid I still don't understand what is so important about having a single local MP, with whose views a majoroity of the total electorate may have no sympathy at all. If that person were someone with firm local roots and connections, say a genuinely local employer or a local trade union officer, then I could see a point. But for a London lawyer or politicalspecial advisor parachuted in, with no connections and no real interest in the place, then what's the use of th local MP, especially when if half the people go to them on a political matter the response will just be polite (or less than polite) disagreement. And if they are just to be local ombudsmen, then they're massively over-paid and over-statused.
Even someone who has been parachuted in will, over time, normally gain a thorough knowledge of their new constituency. And there is something to be said for each local area having an MP in the Commons who specifically knows about and represents that area and can raise any concerns that stuff the Government is doing might impact that local area.

However, I don't see any case for there being only a single MP who represents that area. It's arguably better if more than one MP represents an area since then if one MP turns out to be lazy (or becomes the Speaker or becomes temporarily incapacitated and is therefore less able to campaign for that area) then you have other MPs who can step in - so to my mind that's a good argument for multi-member constituencies, which would be consistent with a more proportionate system.
 

takno

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Even someone who has been parachuted in will, over time, normally gain a thorough knowledge of their new constituency. And there is something to be said for each local area having an MP in the Commons who specifically knows about and represents that area and can raise any concerns that stuff the Government is doing might impact that local area.

However, I don't see any case for there being only a single MP who represents that area. It's arguably better if more than one MP represents an area since then if one MP turns out to be lazy (or becomes the Speaker or becomes temporarily incapacitated and is therefore less able to campaign for that area) then you have other MPs who can step in - so to my mind that's a good argument for multi-member constituencies, which would be consistent with a more proportionate system.
The speaker is an interesting case. Personally I think that they should be "elevated" out of the existing house and not be required to stand for election again. Ideally they would be a list member in an AMS system, so that the party could just nominate a replacement, but otherwise a by-election would be manageable
 

RT4038

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Why does it seem so hard for any sort of centerist party to exist in Britain, even though there seems to be some evidence that most of the electorate are broadly centerist (or a little to the left/right of centre) in their views? The Tories may look as if they are coming to the middle for some years, but then (as now) they head off to the far right again, and Labour do the same at the other end of the scale, leaving no home for the centerist voter. In days of old the Liberals were a genuine centre party, but that seems to have ceased long since to be the case, so that now they seem to either a party that no-one can pin down to anything or a group rather to the left of Labour. What have we all got against being of the centre?
I suspect it is because I, and many others, vote for parties that are least likely to re-distribute our wealth.

Talking about changing the voting system is all very well, but this ain't going to happen if there is any danger that a government peddling re-distribution will get into power. FPTP - better the devil you know.
 

takno

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I suspect it is because I, and many others, vote for parties that are least likely to re-distribute our wealth.

Talking about changing the voting system is all very well, but this ain't going to happen if there is any danger that a government peddling re-distribution will get into power. FPTP - better the devil you know.
I don't think your personal politics are as widespread as you assume tbh. Virtually everybody supports some level of redistribution to support at least some of the incapacitated, disabled or unemployed. If you believe that FPTP cements a certain political ideology into place against the will of the majority then that certainly sounds to my ears like a very argument for its abolition
 

RT4038

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I don't think your personal politics are as widespread as you assume tbh. Virtually everybody supports some level of redistribution to support at least some of the incapacitated, disabled or unemployed. If you believe that FPTP cements a certain political ideology into place against the will of the majority then that certainly sounds to my ears like a very argument for its abolition
Sorry, I think I should have said 'to further re-distribute'. I accept the need for some! Changing the voting system could be very risky and produce unforeseen results, and this is why I think FPTP will not be easily changed.
 

najaB

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I suspect it is because I, and many others, vote for parties that are least likely to re-distribute our wealth.

Talking about changing the voting system is all very well, but this ain't going to happen if there is any danger that a government peddling re-distribution will get into power. FPTP - better the devil you know.
So, just to be clear, you're perfectly happy with a system that concentrates wealth in the hands of a small percentage of people (in the UK 25% of all wealth is controlled by 2% of the population) and condemns some people to a lifetime of poverty due to their inability to change their circumstances - for example, the children of single parents who have to make the "heat or eat" decision on a daily basis and so can't afford investment in educational resources. That's what you're arguing in favour of?

Edit
Sorry, I think I should have said 'to further re-distribute'. I accept the need for some! Changing the voting system could be very risky and produce unforeseen results, and this is why I think FPTP will not be easily changed.
Okay.
 

DynamicSpirit

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I suspect it is because I, and many others, vote for parties that are least likely to re-distribute our wealth.

Talking about changing the voting system is all very well, but this ain't going to happen if there is any danger that a government peddling re-distribution will get into power. FPTP - better the devil you know.
How does that make it hard for a centre party? A centre party is likely to distribute wealth to a much less extent than a strongly left-wing party (for example Labour under Corbyn). Your analysis would threfore imply that a left wing party would do much worse electorally than a centre party - but what actually happens is the opposite: Labour thrives under FPTP - almost always getting above 30% of the vote, while the LibDems have always been in 3rd place, almost always getting below 20% (and often below 10%).
 

RT4038

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How does that make it hard for a centre party? A centre party is likely to distribute wealth to a much less extent than a strongly left-wing party (for example Labour under Corbyn). Your analysis would threfore imply that a left wing party would do much worse electorally than a centre party - but what actually happens is the opposite: Labour thrives under FPTP - almost always getting above 30% of the vote, while the LibDems have always been in 3rd place, almost always getting below 20% (and often below 10%).
I think, for historical reasons (at the turn of the last century, and in the 1980s) the country has polarised into two different ideological factions, which has squeezed out the Centrist. However, sometimes the mood of the country moves for a period towards the Centre, then one of the two faction parties moves that way and steals the Centrist clothes for a while, but (in the last 30 years) very careful not to upset the redistribution pie. As you point out, FPTP serves the two factions reasonably well, so they are unlikely to change it. Changing the voting system could be very risky (both for the two faction parties and the country as a whole) and produce unforeseen results.
 

brad465

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The speaker is an interesting case. Personally I think that they should be "elevated" out of the existing house and not be required to stand for election again. Ideally they would be a list member in an AMS system, so that the party could just nominate a replacement, but otherwise a by-election would be manageable
I agree they at least should not be subject to further elections, but maybe go even further and suggest they are a non-elected person who are selected through the process of the average job, given the responsibilities of the speaker role are around impartiality and keeping order, something that doesn't really require being elected for. It would also settle concerns from anyone who thinks a Speaker's origins being that of a political party limits how impartial they might be.
 

najaB

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I agree they at least should not be subject to further elections, but maybe go even further and suggest they are a non-elected person who are selected through the process of the average job, given the responsibilities of the speaker role are around impartiality and keeping order, something that doesn't really require being elected for.
But that would mean that the Speaker of the House wouldn't actually be a member of the House.
 

takno

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I agree they at least should not be subject to further elections, but maybe go even further and suggest they are a non-elected person who are selected through the process of the average job, given the responsibilities of the speaker role are around impartiality and keeping order, something that doesn't really require being elected for. It would also settle concerns from anyone who thinks a Speaker's origins being that of a political party limits how impartial they might be.
I think the speaker has an important representative role, making the house more clearly the seat of power which appoints a government to do its business. If the speaker was a convenor appointed from outside the house then the whole thing would feel like a tool through which the government had its business rubber-stamped.

Obviously the current government can't even be bothered with the rubber-stamping, but then the current government are an utterly shameful rabble who make the case for constitutional reform more strongly than any I can remember.
 

brad465

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I think the speaker has an important representative role, making the house more clearly the seat of power which appoints a government to do its business. If the speaker was a convenor appointed from outside the house then the whole thing would feel like a tool through which the government had its business rubber-stamped.

Obviously the current government can't even be bothered with the rubber-stamping, but then the current government are an utterly shameful rabble who make the case for constitutional reform more strongly than any I can remember.
Sounds fair, while I do agree constitutional reform is more than necessary in 3 areas: Proportional Representation, a written constitution and reforming the Lords into something like an elected Senate. The Prorogation controversy was what triggered the need for me, the threat to international law (which makes the former incident a drop in the ocean) further reinforces this.
 

najaB

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Sounds fair, while I do agree constitutional reform is more than necessary in 3 areas: Proportional Representation, a written constitution and reforming the Lords into something like an elected Senate.
I agree that we need to replace the FPTP system with something more that results in a more representative lower house. I think we've missed the boat on a written constitution - it would be almost impossible to achieve agreement in the modern political climate on anything more than general vague principles (e.g. Governments shall not break the law... oh, wait). As for an elected upper house, I'm conflicted on this one - while the current Lords with it's mix of hereditary and life Peers is a bit of a joke, an upper house that is largely free from day-to-day political considerations is something that has its advantages. Look at the situation in the USA where the Senate is largely unable to do anything at all due to the party-line split on almost all matters.
 

ainsworth74

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As for an elected upper house, I'm conflicted on this one - while the current Lords with it's mix of hereditary and life Peers is a bit of a joke, an upper house that is largely free from day-to-day political considerations is something that has its advantages. Look at the situation in the USA where the Senate is largely unable to do anything at all due to the party-line split on almost all matters.
I've idly wondered about whether a split might not be advisable with a chunk of the Lords elected (perhaps via pure PR with a minimum vote threshold before being awarded seats) but another chunk being appointed by, perhaps, a cross Parliamentary commission. The appointees would be crossbenchers and chosen to bring a wider range of knowledge and experience to the chamber than you would otherwise get from just typical party political circles. I'd also suggest some sort of time limit to the appointment after which it has to be renewed by the commission.

Needless to say all the hereditary and life peers would lose their seats (though perhaps they can keep their titles to help smooth things over) unless reappointed by the commission.

Just something I've toyed with as an idea to try and balance a few different things in the Lords.
 

brad465

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I agree that we need to replace the FPTP system with something more that results in a more representative lower house. I think we've missed the boat on a written constitution - it would be almost impossible to achieve agreement in the modern political climate on anything more than general vague principles (e.g. Governments shall not break the law... oh, wait). As for an elected upper house, I'm conflicted on this one - while the current Lords with it's mix of hereditary and life Peers is a bit of a joke, an upper house that is largely free from day-to-day political considerations is something that has its advantages. Look at the situation in the USA where the Senate is largely unable to do anything at all due to the party-line split on almost all matters.
At the very least yes a written constitution should exist to stop the really extreme stuff happening, the things we thought wouldn't happen while we had (relatively speaking) sensible politicians running the show, but with more extreme ones in place like now will break the limits. At the very least the Lords is too large, there are more unelected peers in it than elected MPs in the Commons.
 

JonasB

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The speaker is an interesting case. Personally I think that they should be "elevated" out of the existing house and not be required to stand for election again. Ideally they would be a list member in an AMS system, so that the party could just nominate a replacement, but otherwise a by-election would be manageable
Cabinet ministers are another interesting case. Who do Boris Johnson represent, the United Kingdom or Uxbridge and South Ruislip? I see a potential conflict of interest.
 

najaB

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Cabinet ministers are another interesting case. Who do Boris Johnson represent, the United Kingdom or Uxbridge and South Ruislip? I see a potential conflict of interest.
That's taken care of by the Ministerial Code (if they follow it) in which it's clearly stated that, in a conflict between constituency and national interests, the national take priority.
 

edwin_m

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That's taken care of by the Ministerial Code (if they follow it) in which it's clearly stated that, in a conflict between constituency and national interests, the national take priority.
It's another reason for multi-member constituencies. For example, depending on the politics, someone who's severely affected by a transport policy but whose MP is the Transport Secretary will have either much smaller or much larger chances of getting redress than someone in a similar situation living somewhere else.
 

GRALISTAIR

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While I agree with virtually all @ainsworth74 has said in his last three posts -fptp is seriously flawed and needs changing- my only concern would be that a vile party like the BNP or NF gets an MP or two under an alternative system. I am not a UKIP fan but they are much less obnoxious than BNP or their ilk.
 

JonasB

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That's taken care of by the Ministerial Code (if they follow it) in which it's clearly stated that, in a conflict between constituency and national interests, the national take priority.
That solves the conflict of interest. But it also means the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip have no one speaking for them in parliament.
 

scotrail158713

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While I agree with virtually all @ainsworth74 has said in his last three posts -fptp is seriously flawed and needs changing- my only concern would be that a vile party like the BNP or NF gets an MP or two under an alternative system. I am not a UKIP fan but they are much less obnoxious than BNP or their ilk.
We do live in a democracy though - so if such parties get enough votes, why should the people who vote for them not have their views represented?
 

Domh245

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We do live in a democracy though - so if such parties get enough votes, why should the people who vote for them not have their views represented?
Exactly this. Also it's a bit naive to assume that we'd see the same parties and/or voting patterns if we changed the voting method. The 'wide churches' of the Labour and Conservative parties would likely fracture into smaller, more cohesive groups, Voters would no longer need to feel obliged to vote tactically or in protest, etc
 

Tetchytyke

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At the very least yes a written constitution should exist to stop the really extreme stuff happening, the things we thought wouldn't happen while we had (relatively speaking) sensible politicians running the show, but with more extreme ones in place like now will break the limits.
At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, pre-war Germany had a written constitution and Hitler simply tore it up. A constitution gives no rights that can't be revoked or sidestepped.

I suspect it is because I, and many others, vote for parties that are least likely to re-distribute our wealth.
An interesting way of viewing the current system, for sure. Especially as the current ruling party has, during their ten year reign, increased VAT by 33% and increased Insurance Premium Tax by either 140% or 300%, depending on the insurance product you buy.
 

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