Friday, 30 April 2010

A Sense of Proportion

My mind is not closed to Proportional Representation. But the constituency link is sacrosanct. What we have now are coalitions honestly presented to the electorate, rather than cobbled together after our votes have been cast. Party lists are an abomination. The Single Transferrable Vote only works in urban areas, and eliminates candidates for whom many people have voted, as does the Alternative Vote. The electoral reform that we really need is the vigorous contesting of every seat by every party on behalf of a candidate in every case capable of being that constituency’s MP. And we need party candidates to be selected by submitting that party’s internally, but locally, determined shortlist of two to a binding ballot of all registered voters in the constituency.

We can avoid the problems of other electoral systems while once again giving ourselves a party of the Welfare State, workers’ rights, trade unions and co-operatives. Consumer protection. Strong communities. Conservation rather than environmentalism. Fair taxation, full employment, public ownership, proper local government, and a powerful Parliament. A base of real property from which every household can resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State. And at the same time a party of the monarchy, the organic Constitution, national sovereignty, civil liberties, the Union, the Commonwealth, the countryside, grammar schools, traditional moral and social values, controlled importation and immigration, and a realistic foreign policy.

We can avoid the problems of other electoral systems while once again giving ourselves a party of agriculture, manufacturing, and small business. National sovereignty, the Union, economic patriotism, local variation, and historical consciousness. Traditional moral and social values, the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West, close-knit communities, law and order, civil liberties, academic standards, and all forms of art. Mass political participation within a constitutional framework: “King and People” against the Whig magnates. Conservation rather than environmentalism. Sound money, which global capitalism manifestly is not. A realistic foreign policy, including a strong defence capability used only for the most sparing and strictly defensive purposes. The Commonwealth, the constitutional and other ties among the Realms and Territories having the British monarch as Head of State or other such constitutional links, the status of the English language and the rights of its speakers both throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and the rights of British-descended communities throughout the world. The longstanding and significant British ties to the Arab world, support for the Slavs in general and for Russia in particular as the gatekeepers of Biblical-Classical civilisation, and a natural affinity with Confucian culture. Exactly as much central and local government action as is required by these priorities. And a profound suspicion of an American influence and action characteristically defined against them, including an active desire for a different American approach.

And we can avoid the problems of other electoral systems while once again giving ourselves a party of civil liberties, local communitarian populism, and the indefatigable pursuit of single issues. The Nonconformist social conscience, the legacy of Keynes and Beveridge, and traditional moral and social values. Consumer protection. Conservation rather than environmentalism. National sovereignty, a realistic foreign policy, the Commonwealth, and peace activism. The redress of grievances in the countryside. And the needs and concerns of areas remote from the centres of power.

Each of these parties would act as a check and balance on the other two. They would co-operate on matters of common interest. Proportional Representation might produce them, and together they would then be in government for ever. But that would be unhealthy. Instead, we need them in healthy competition. The reforms suggested above would bring that about.


  1. STV doesn't work in rural areas because they are too large. However, FPTP doesn't really work in large urban areas, as the requirement to have equally sized constituencies works against the notion that they ought to be communities with reasonably distinct interests. That notion is the rationale for the constituency-representative link. The systemn that would maintain that link, represent genuine communities, be easy to understand and provide representation for the various views held within large boroughs is Multiple Member Plurality, with constituencies of different sizes electing different numbers of representatives. I believe it's in use with some local councils.

  2. Oh, yes. The old District Councils here always had it. I'd never thought of it for Parliament, I have to say. Well worth considering, though.

  3. But with numbers instead of Xs?

  4. I'd rather have voting for one candidate, with the requisite number declared elected at the end.

    But either way, you see the problem: the diversity of opinion in urban areas would be reflected, whereas that in rural areas would not be.

    I am not altogether convinced that urban constituencies do not reflect natural communities. I can think of plenty that do. And several rural ones that don't, come to that. This one doesn't, for a start.

  5. Perhaps the notion of constituency as community is a cozy myth. Before offshore outsourcing and mass car ownership (and, more importantly, the run down of public transport, leading to mass car dependence), when management and workers shared premises and their children shared junior schools, there were communities. Now? Even small towns and villages contain colonies of settlers who interact with no-one other than the owner of the corner shop. Some of these colonies, with their perimters of high, opaque garden fences and their own miniature play parks, are surprisingly hard to drive into from the main streets, effectively existing as psychologically-gated communities. Given the wide social and economic gaps between their occupants and the long-established townsfolk or villagers, can any constituency that includes both really be anything other than a superficial collection of streets and postcodes?