Electoral ‘reform’? No, thanks

Electoral ‘reform’? No, thanks. The growing clamour for Proportional Representation ignores some powerful counter-arguments. Some of them are summarised in my comments on the report by Lord [Roy] Jenkins in 1998 which recommended a new hybrid form of PR for elections to the House of Commons. Click here to read them.

And I have just sent the following message to ‘Andrew’, author of a splendid comment on someone else’s blog:

“I just wanted to say hurrah in response to your lethal and wonderfully pithy demolition of the case for PR in elections to the House of Commons, in your Comment at http://www.thesharpener.net/?p=24: that whatever the results of any particular election, it would always allow the LibDems, with fewer votes than Labour or the Tories, to decide whether the prime minister and most ministers should be Labour or Conservative, with the power to put either of the bigger parties in power at any time, even between elections (as indeed has happened in Germany in real life).
“There are of course other objections to PR, such as the fact that the government that emerges from the secret horse-trading after polling day in which all the parties seek to construct a coalition is always one that nobody at all voted for, since it’s impossible in any system to vote for a combination of parties that hasn’t yet been formed; and the programme of that coalition emerging from a PR election is similarly one that not a single voter has voted for, since no-one can foresee what compromises and deals will be made in the process of putting together a coalition or alliance of parties after the election is over. The PR enthusiasts complain that under first-past-the-post we always get governments which only a minority of the electorate voted for: but under PR, we would always get governments that no-one at all voted for. There’s also the defect that since under PR no one party alone would ever have a majority in the House of Commons, no party would ever be able to carry out a controversial constitutional or other reform programme that was unacceptable to other parties which had won fewer votes but whose support was needed for a majority in parliament. There’s a lot to be said for the common-sense, rough justice principle underlying FPTP that the party with the most votes (almost always) gets to form a government and usually with a sufficient majority to carry out the programme it had offered to the electorate.”

12 May 2005