Saturday, 15 May 2010

Could PR actually give us something different?

Morlock, in the comments here, made me think: if PR makes it more difficult for parties to lurch to the left or the right, then maybe Cameron could actually achieve something useful, if only out of necessity.

The thought (such as it is!) goes like this:

Britain is in a financial crisis. The state is pissing away money faster than it can print it. Cameron has little option but to cut up the credit card and get the "swingeing cuts" axe out.

Blood starts pouring, the state gets 25% smaller (not enough, but hey ho!), people start getting angry, more cuts are needed, Cameron has the taste for power and so offers a PR referendum to the Limp Dumbs in exchange for propping him up for another couple of years.

The Limp Dumbs agree, Cameron cuts the state even more and in a rage against the Tories, the public votes overwhelming for PR.

The state is now half the size it was before, very manageable and the ungrateful public now lock the political model in at that level.

And then I woke up and my coffee was cold.


Shug Niggurath said...

Really not keen on PR. I know you're just thinking aloud, but it's quite easy to talk about PR v FPTP.

The single biggest problem PR brings is that it instantly locks politics into a party system, and worse locks out start-up parties trying to get off the ground, can you think on any like that???

Pretty much any party polling enough to get a seat needs the equivalent number of votes as winning a single seat under FPTP, or about 15000 votes. At £500 a candidate, getting less than a single vote per £1 when they are new, the costs for a small party to have a chance under PR are terrifying (£60k+).

I know the chances of winning a seat under the FPTP are slim, but only £500 and you have the chance of winning if you are known locally and on the same basis as an independent (independents could no longer stand at all under PR other than protest. We have an independent MP in the current parliament).

To me PR is just a lock in for the status quo, except the Liberals get to do what they just did every 5 years.

John R said...

But sometimes the right things happen for the wrong reasons - you just never know. Dem Tories may just get you where you want to go.

On balance I think this coalition has much to recommend it. Of course everyone has lost something they wanted, but that's the nature of things. It's certainly worth a couple of cheers and the benefit of the doubt for a little while.

Shug Niggurath said...

That should have been "votes as winning a single seat under FPTP, or about 25000 votes"

Furor Teutonicus said...

DON'T go for P.R. It is total utter fucking SHITE.

You thought you had it bad THIS election with horse trading after the event. Try that EVERY election, and a lot in between.

Then add to that the fact that a party, like the FDP now, with, and it CAN be a mere 5% of the vote, get to hold the "Winners" by the short and curleys.

Something they want, or don't want? "DO it or we will pull out of the coallition and force a general election!".

You find that, if not officialy and on paper, the SMALLEST party is in fact the one with all the power.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Shug, that's why it's pointless to talk about "PR" in such a sweeping manner, it is a silly catch-all phrase for "Everything that is not FPTP". And even FPTP is not entirely unproportional, is it?

You have to decide which kind of "PR" you want.

I like the idea of multi-member-constituencies best. You take the existing 650 constituencies and merge them into (say) 217 super-constituencies with three MPs each.

Then it's one man one vote for one named candidate, and the three (or however many) candidates with the most votes get a seat.

If you want to retain 'constituency link' (rather than giving people a choice of which one of the three to go to), then the winning candidate chooses which of the three sub-constituencies he wants to represent etc.

There is no need to have party lists (although there is no reason why parties shouldn't be on the list as well - if people can't decide which candidate to vote for, why shouldn't they be allowed to vote for a party?).

Sorted. But AV will do me for a start.

Curmudgeon said...

Arguably under an STV system with multi-member constituencies (as used in the Irish Republic) mavericks and independents have more chance of election than they do at present. PR does not have to mean party lists.

Likewise the Scottish system with FPTP and additional top-up members still maintains a constituency link for most of the seats.

We just don't know how any PR system would affect voting patterns as under the current system a lot of voters cast "negative" tactical votes, that they would no longer need to do under PR. I would expect the LibDems to get fewer votes, not more.

Barnsley Bill said...

A PR system will give you a permanent political class who no longer need to bother with electorates. They will do deals with whoever enables them to form a majority. In NZ it has meant pork barrel politics has moved to a whole new level and graft, corruption and lies are the main meal every single day. FPTP is flawed, PR is worse.
Fixing thre elctorates and closing the bangladeshi post office would be a far superior fix.
Imagine 100 mandelsons all pulling the strings without anybody ever voting for them. That is PR.

Shug Niggurath said...


See: Comparison of voting systems
I jemmied up this for OH after the election to demonstrate simple PR v FPTP for him, and for shit n giggles I included a rough guesstimate of the AMS scheme as used in Scotland, which is another one that retains the constituency link - and so allows for independents and small parties to get started - while having a proportional system.

The Scottish system is 73 FPTP + 56 PR (though these numbers were to drop so that it was a 50/50 split as per Germany), one of the first things that parliament did was preserve the numbers as is typically.

I think it's a reasonably good demonstration of how the three types of system would work.

Furor Teutonicus said...

You all do realise that you, and whatever Government introduces this, will be trying to explain the system to the people of a country that can't work out what fucking rubbish goes in what fucking bin, don't you?

Curmudgeon said...

The thich Irish seem to manage it!

@Shug Niggurath: that analysis of course assumes people would vote the same way under a PR system, which they almost certainly wouldn't.

Vladimir said...

On May 7th I was a big fan of PR. Since then my mind has been changed.

Glad to see Barnsley Bill contributing here, because his stories from New Zealand were one of the factors in my conversion. Maybe you recall DK linking to this description of New Zealand's 1980s reform government. Great things were achieved... until they brought in PR.

(Here, I am thinking of a true PR system involving party lists.)

PR gives a massive advantage to established parties with the support of mass media. Minor parties cannot campaign locally any more - in order to win a reasonable number of seats, they must win support across a wide area. How do you do that without the support of the newspapers and the TV?

You don't. Nobody gets a majority even with the backing of mass media. Every party must make deals. "Opposition"? It means nothing. Today's opposition is tomorrow's coalition.

That's why the social democrats love it. Everything is "fair" and "balanced" under PR, but the meanings of those words are the Orwellian definitions preferred by the social democrats. If we get PR we are fucked, by (as Bill says) a hundred Mandelsons.

Jill said...

They're all flawed, but I can't escape the feeling that it's only democracy if all votes cast are positive ones.

Mark Wadsworth said...

BB: "A PR system will give you a permanent political class who no longer need to bother with electorates..."

Well yes, that is a weakness of e.g. a national party list style system. But that does not apply to multi-member constituencies. There is no need for party lists with MMCs.

"In NZ it has meant pork barrel politics has moved to a whole new level and graft, corruption and lies are the main meal every single day."

Sure, but what type of electoral system do they have? If we abolished national political parties and only allowed 'local independent candidates' then pork barrel spending would be much, much worse.

Every MP would vote for any old crap, provided the government were prepared to spend a bit more taxpayers' money in his constituency.

"Imagine 100 mandelsons all pulling the strings without anybody ever voting for them. That is PR."

Nope. That's the House of Lords.

Barnsley Bill said...

We have Mixed Member Proportional.
A 120 seat house. 60 electorates and 60 list members. People have two ticks on polling day. One for the electorate member they want and one for the party they want.
There is a 5% threshold on the list so if a party does not break 5% they get no members.
The greens sneak in each time with a handfull of mp's. They call themselves green but obviously like all green parties are made up of unicorn collectors at best and hard out marxist nutjobs at worst.
What has happened is the main left and right party fail to get a majority and have to go cap in hand to one of the fringe smaller parties to form a coalition. This sees parties that won just a few votes above the 5% threshold hold sway and in a position to get major policy concessions.
We have no upper house.
Whatever happens you can bet your left nut that labour and the tories will stitch up a deal to create a system where the upper echelons of the party are protected with a list sysytem.
You need to fix the electorate boundaries and close of postal voting months before polling day so every voter can be authenticated.
Then fix the house of lords. On what fucking planet is it okay for mandelsnake to get booted out of government twice and then have a multimillion pound holiday in Europe to be brought back in as an unelected minister. Seriously. I do not know how the country could lay down for that one.
Fix the house of lords and cut the tartan taliban off at the neck.