Friday, 15 June 2007

Elected dictatorships

Michael Heseltine (Conservative) suggested directly elected mayors, the Labour Government introduced them and Michael Heseltine has now suggested there should be more of them with increased powers. This looks suspiciously like leapfrogging to local dictatorships, albeit elected.

The bottom line is that power exercised by one person is, by definition, less democratic than power exercised by a council or committee. In particular, one person cannot be split to represent differing political views; one person cannot be elected by proportional representation. Directly elected mayors should at the very least be elected by Alternative Vote (known as the Instant Run-off in the USA) so they represent at least half the voters but this would still be less representative than most councils.

Local councils need more democracy, not less. They need to be elected by Single Transferable Vote (Choice Voting in the USA) to become more representative than they are.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely: Lord Acton, 1887.


Thursday, 7 June 2007

The last Straw!

Leading Labour politicians, Gordon Brown, Peter Hain and Jack Straw, are now talking about electoral reform.  I welcome the debate and wouldn't it give us all a warm, cosy feeling to think they wanted a just voting system - one that was fair to all parties and candidates and produced the Parliament that voters actually wanted!   Well no, what these three worthies really want is a system that increases their chances of staying in power, but they are dressing it up as a fair and desirable reform.
They are advocating the Alternative Vote (AV).  Although it is an excellent system for electing a single person, such as a President, Mayor or Club Secretary because the winner is guaranteed to be supported by at least half the voters, it is unsuitable for electing a number of people, like MPs, together.  Despite having the advantage over First Past The Post that it avoids split votes and reduces wasted votes, it is intrinsically disproportionate and, therefore, both unfair and inefficient; it can even produce results that are less proportionate than First Past The Post elections.
The system is simple enough.  The present constituencies would remain but, instead of putting a cross against one candidate's name, we would rank the candidates in order of preference: 1,2,3 etc.  If no candidate had more than half the first preference votes, the candidate with the least would be eliminated.  His or her votes would then be transferred to his or her supporters' second preferences.  The procedure would be repeated until one candidate had more than half the votes.  Americans call it "Instant Run-off" for obvious reasons.
The main advantage of AV for Labour is that, if Lib Dems wanted to keep the Tories out, they would give Labour their second preference votes.  Politicians should not campaign for voting systems intended to help them but for party-neutral systems that will benefit the country.  No wonder politicians are held in such low esteem!   Mind you, Labour politicians would receive a nasty shock if they introduced AV, but Lib Dems decided to give their second preferences to the Tories to keep Labour out!
So, I hear you say, AV is not good  but which system would I choose?  That's easy!  I'd choose the Single Transferable Vote (STV) sometimes known as Supervote.  It has all the advantages of AV, but none of its disadvantages.  Voters would still vote 1,2, 3 etc but neighbouring single-member constituencies would be grouped together to elect a number of MPs together.  For example, five constituencies grouped into one multi-member constituency would elect five MPs, the result for each multi-member constituency would be proportional, as would the nationwide result.
Whenever you hear politicians advocate the Alternative Vote (AV), challenge them that it is a flawed system, in some ways even worse than First Past The Post and they are probably supporting it for their own purposes.

Over 6 out of 10 voters voted against the Government.
See for more info.