The case against First Past the Post

Everyone knows that First Past the Post is a pretty poor way of determining an electorates wishes. It is justified on the basis that it merely systematically discriminates in favour of large parties but it fails even this test. To take the example of Britain, a country where deliberate gerrymandering is rare:

It is hard to see how anyone can justify a voting system capable of producing rogue results like this. But it is the discrimination against small parties an advantage..

Britain has a two party system as a result of First Past the Post and as a result fundamental fail to receive real debate. Britain has seen a major shift of power to Europe with no democratic debate. This is because the division on Europe has been within the two main parties. In any sensible political system the pro-Europe and the anti-Europe factions of the Tory Party would split but they are bound together because to fight an election separately would be electoral suicide.

In 1983 a fundamental issue did force it's way into the political system when Labour fought on a platform of unilateral disarmament. At the time it was the hottest political issue with CND able to mobilise unprecedented numbers at demonstrations. During the election at a nonviolent protest at a nuclear bomber base 750 peace campaigners were arrested. Yet still there was no real debate. Before the election the debate had been between CND supporters and the government. Once the election began the media focused on the Labour Party defence spokespeople who clearly did not believe in the policy they were advocating. The result was an electoral disaster for labour that only the distortions of First Past the Post could cover up.

Why Proportional Representation?

Democracy is about the will of the people. That means without distortion. If one can justify First Past the Post on grounds of stability then it is hard to see why any form of gerrymandering could not be justified. Proportional Representation is about choice. It is about voters having the chance to vote for a party that genuinely reflects their views, not a lesser evil. It is about flexibility. It is about new movements being able to find a place in the political system as the peace movement should have been able to in 1983. It is also about change coming only when there is majority support.

Why List PR

List PR means that candidates before the election organise themselves into lists. These lists are normally political parties but they may be coalitions of parties or even factions within parties. Voters would have a choice of voting for the whole list or selecting a candidate from within the list. The votes for each list are then added up (both for the list as a while and for candidates within the list) and seats are allocated directly according to the number of votes. The order that candidates fill the seats allocated should be determined solely on the number of individual votes candidates receive though it is true many list systems in effect allow the party to allocate the order.

Single Transferable vote is the usual form of Proportional Representation advocated in Britain but it is only a crude form of PR. Proportional Representation should be just that. The parties should get the same proportion of seats as votes. No more no less. List PR is the only way of ensuring this.