Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘proportional representation’

Make Votes Matter

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 30th June, 2018

Make Votes MatterBritain’s democracy is at a crisis point, with the Prime Minister shackled by the need to appease about 60 hardline Brexiteers in her parliamentary party as well as the whims of the 10 right-wing DUP members from Northern Ireland, whose support she bought with a bung of a billion pounds. Meanwhile, the Opposition Labour Party, which should be on the crest of a wave given the government’s incompetence and distress, is actually behind in the opinion polls, thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s endorsement of Hard Brexit and fears among the middle ground of UK voters that the party wants to turn Britain into a kind of socialist utopia. The voices of the Liberal Democrats and Greens, meanwhile, are muted by the fact that their parliamentary representation is disproportionately small — just one MP in the Greens’ case. This is a direct result of the country’s antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system, which means that many electors vote not for the party whose policies they agree with, but for the lesser of two evils — or who don’t bother voting at all, “because my vote won’t make any difference”. Some people might argue that the current system obliges both the Conservatives and Labour to be “broad churches”, to be able to have a chance of forming a working majority, but the Brexit situation has underlined the fact that there are deep splits within both parties, making it difficult for either of them to hold a coherent line. For these and other reasons, pressure is building for a reform of the electoral system to some form of proportional representation — which already exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland and was used in the European elections nationwide. The Single Transferable Vote (STV) system used in Ireland is probably the most effective in producing results that largely reflect the electorate’s wishes, and which give the voter the opportunity to differentiate between their feelings about different candidates or parties. So today, when  there is a national day of action in favour of fairer votes — proportional representation — don’t be surprised to see or hear a lot about STV. No electoral system is perfect, but STV gives more power to the voter, and would avoid the most grotesque distortion as of the current system, in which sometimes a party can win fewer votes but more seats.

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Voting for Change?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th February, 2010

The British House of Commons will be voting later today on whether to hold a referendum on changing the country’s first-past-the-post system of electing Westminster MPs with the Alternative Vote (AV), which would give voters a slightly greater say in choosing their representative as they could order the preferences — 1, 2 etc. For most supporters of proportional representation — which includes a majority of Liberal Democrats — AV falls far short of the ideal. The Single Transferable Vote (used in Nothern Ireland, amongst other places) gives a much fairer outcome. Moreover, the AV system being suggested falls short even of AV-Plus (which involves a top-up list to ensure a more proportional outcome) which was recommended by the late Roy Jenkins and his Commission way back in 1998. That Commission was largely a result of Labour’s 1997 Manifesto commitment to consider introducing PR, but of course fairer vtoes then disappeared off the government’s agenda and have only been resuscitated by Gordon Brown in the twilight of the Labour administration in the hope that this might somehow assuage public anger at the MPs’ expenses scandal. Some bloggers argue that AV would be even worse than first-past-the-post, but I hope the vote in the House today does approve a referendum, as this will then open up the whole issue of electoral reform. Those of us who want STV will then have an opportunity to make our case on a matter previously dismissed by the mainstream British media as ‘marginal’. Indeed, I’ll be taking part in a workshop at the Friends Meeting House in London next week aimed at taking the debate further.

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The Christian Peoples Alliance Is So Wrong on Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 26th May, 2009

Christian Peoples AllianceIn various parts of East London, where I live, there are huge billboards proclaiming that voting for the tiny Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the European elections is the surest way of stopping the BNP getting seats in the European Parliament. Alas, exactly the opposite is the case. The CPA hasn’t a cat in heaven’s chance of winning a seat at the European level (in London, they would need up to 10% of the total vote share to do that). Moreover, because of the particular method of proportional representation in use in the UK, voting CPA would not only be throwing votes away, it could actually make it easier for the BNP to get in; what is crucial in the electoral mathematics is that the Liberal Democrats get at least twice as many votes as the BNP or any other fringe group. The CPA is also falling into the trap that Labour has engineered of ‘talking up’ the BNP, in the hope of boosting its own chances.

I received an election address from the CPA today. Their slogan ‘For Honesty and Integrity in Politics’ is both apt and timely. But I am horrified by the use of the Cross as their election symbol and that their most prominent policy commitment is to a ‘Christian Europe’, in which there should be a ‘recognition that Christianity brought Europe the freedom, the culture and the values that we must return to’.  What about Ancient Greece and pre-Christian Rome? Moorish Andalucia? The cultural imput of the Jewish diaspora? Or the fact that London owes much of its current vibrancy to its religious and ethnic diversity, as well as to the important contribution of secularism? I am sure many CPA candidates and supporters are working from the purest of motives, but their message strikes me as way off the mark.

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