Monday, 11 August 2008

Not a Catastophe for Democracy

Tom Harris MP this morning describes proportional representation for local government as an 'electoral and democratic catastrophe' in the same post as he praises Alex Salmond for showing that minority administrations can work. Now surely by taking his logic Labour should be in a minority administration at Westminster because democratically they won a minority of the votes cast in 2005.

It's often the case of people defending First Past the Post in a multi-party system that they want to ignore the fact that the majority of people don't vote them even if they do manage to win the largest number of seats. Now that is hardly democratic, what about the votes that all the people cast for the third, fourth or later party. In first past the post they sometimes have the difficult decision if they want change to not vote for their principles but for the party most likely to beat the party they don't want to be their representative. In Tom's case should the electorate of Glasgow South not want Labour to be their government at the next general election the 53% who didn't vote for him last time (yes he'd want you to forget that last time he slipped to minority support in his constituency) would all be voting for the best placed party to turf him out, that just happened to be the Lib Dems on 2005 standings.

As for having three, four or more represent you at local level Tom is forgetting the whole. Those representatives are there to reflect the views of their electorate. At whatever level a proportionately elected body governs it will truly be more reflective of the views and opinions of those who elect it than FPTP can be in anything other than a two party system. As for making it Single Transferable it acknowledges the fact that we can't always have everything that we want but we will prefer somethings over others therefore ranking our preferred options to give us the best fit for what we want. I don't think Tom would appreciate going into a restaurant and the dish he ordered not being available because the largest number of the people in the restaurant wanted something else, even he he and a majority of the other dinners preferred something else off the menu and actually detested the one option that the chef was cooking for up to the next 5 years.

The only electoral catastrophe that Labour faced over STV was largely losing the grip over their wholly undemocratic socialist fifedoms, and having to actually find council candidates that could engage with the electorate rather than being voted in purely because of the red rossette. As for democracy it triumphed especially if he is acknowledging that minority administrations are workable and good for the Labour party.


  1. I have three councillors now, just not elected by PR (and they probably wouldn't be three Lib Dems if that was the electoral system!). I had three councillors for every ward I lived in in Leeds. It was only living in Scotland that I only had one councillor!

  2. Well Will I still have no Lib Dem councillors in the whole council. I haven't had one since the two I had in the Old Malden ward in Kingston.