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ARTICLES

The Electoral Game : Is Proportional Representation the Answer?

By Paul Cox

[THIS ARTICLE PRE-DATES THE 1997 GENERAL ELECTION]

The result of the periodical game of charades called the last General Election once again saw a Conservative Government reinstated, for which around 67.25% of the total electorate did not vote. Thus, in reality only 32.75% of the British electorate have a government which they can call their own. And out of that 14.685 million voters how many voted for that bunch of political careerists through ideological commitment or because they saw them as the lesser of two evils? The latter must surely be the higher of the two.

Only 31.8% of the total electorate voted for the current government’s predecessor in 1987. Yet through our archaic and fraudulent electoral system they had the representation of 375 MPs, or 57.7% of the seats in the House of Commons. The result on April 9th of this year saw a similar sham, with only 32.75% voting for the Conservative Party which will now govern our country for the next five years. The mass of the population will once again have no realistic representation in the corridors of power, corruption and lies we so foolishly call a Parliamentary Democracy.

The 26.55% or so who voted for the Labour Party will at least have the pretence that their voices will be heard. But what use is this impotent ‘opposition’? The Government is after all not even made up of the 336 elected Conservative MPs, but a handful of party faithful which for the next five years will collectively be known as the Cabinet. So if the majority of those elected on behalf of the party that forms the government have no power, except for the obligatory vote, what say do the 315 MPs of the Labour, Liberal Democrats et.al have in the running of the country? The vast majority, which includes the massive 10 million (22.33%) who did not even bother to vote, have no representation whatsoever, and under the present or indeed proposed electoral system have not even the slightest possibility of having their voices heard.

Supression

The future of electoral Parliamentary democracy holds out little hope for change, indeed quite the opposite looks imminent. The 1992 General Election saw the highest candidacy ever, yet resulted in calls from some quarters to increase the deposit level from the already elitist £500 to nearer £1000, the idea being to suppress the participation of fringe candidates. This will mean that the voters will have even less chance of gaining any true representation for their hopes and aspirations because only the establishment parties, representing the establishment ideology, will be able to finance themselves.

Electoral Reforms

For all the talk of electoral reforms the proposals of the reformist camp would be not in any way change the undemocratic nature of electing the government of the United Kingdom.

All the forms of Proportional Representation suggested as an alternative to the present Simple Majority System (first past the post) are merely slight improvements on a system that all would agree suits the two-party Conservative/Labour status quo.P.R. simply redefines the rules under which the state retains control over the masses whilst giving the impression of reform.

Despite all the reformist rhetoric of a greater democracy, Proportional Representation does not give any opening to the minority parties of left, right and centre, nor indeed to the people themselves. Is the 5% threshold so popular amongst the reformists their idea of a democratic requirement, and if so for what reason? Is is not true that it is merely a way of ensuring that the minority parties of Environmentalism, Marxism, Nationalism and Regionalism get no foothold into the corridors of power? If you are unsure as to the answers why not ask either the Electoral Reform Society or the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform if they support the use of a threshold to curtail the potential benefits that P.R. might bring to the likes of the Green Party. The answer is of course that they do, therefore the true aim of the reformists is not true democracy but the strengthening of the establishment and of their own secular power base therein.

Electoral Reform: The Options

The alternative electoral systems put forward by the reformists are many and varied. All of them, however, have a single common denominator of merely being different ways of electing the same form of Government by the Minority, albeit in a slightly more equitable way than the present system.

The Alternative Vote and Second Ballot are two options which do appear to offer an improvement to the Simple Majority System. Both operate on the basis of the single member constituency, thus appeasing those establishment reformists who consider the link between the elected MP and constituency to be sacrosanct. The Alternative Vote allows the electorate to vote 1,2,3….for the candidate in order of preference, thus if one candidate does not receive the required 50% of the vote, the votes cast for those aspirants with least support are redistributed until one candidate reaches the elusive 50% mark. The Second Ballot System, as operated in France, works on the basis that if one candidate does not receive 50% of the vote, those receiving less than the 12.5% threshold are excluded from the second round.

The iniquity of these two systems is simple: the minority party or independent candidates stand little or no chance of being elected due to the ever present threshold. It is true that the second or third votes of his supporters might well play some part in the final result, but this is hardly any reason to put such a system into operation. Any reformation of the present system must not allow such iniquity and endorsement of the status quo.

The Party List system is viewed as a pure form of Proportional Representation in that each party draws up a list of candidates and is apportioned seats according to their percentage of votes cast. Here again the inclusion of a threshold cancels out the pretext of the Party List offering the electorate anything other than a different way of obtaining the same result – the election of an establishment government. Another nail in the coffin of Party List is the fact that this system removes still further the connection between the electorate and the MPs due to the fact that it is the party and not the electorate that decides which candidate takes up residence in Parliament. How can we hope to elect representatives of our hopes and dreams when there are no links in the community? Then we have the Additional Member System, under which the voter has two votes, one for an individual candidate and the other for his favoured party. On first impression this does appear to give the voter some representation as it appears to compensate for the perverted distortion of a single member constituency. But in reality all it does is combine all the defect of both the Simple Majority System and the Party List. It gives us the distortion in seats in proportion to votes of the former system and the removal of accountability to the electorate of the latter.

The Single Transferable Vote is favoured by the Electoral Reform Society, and is seen as the most popular alternative in the UK. This is a system which operates using multi-member constituencies as opposed to the present single. Therefore, the direct link between constituent and individual MP is removed, to be replaced by larger constituencies with several MPs. Under S.T.V. the electorate cast their votes for candidates in order of preference 1,2,3…..similar to that of Alternative Vote. The individual candidate seeking election must obtain a certain quota of votes in order to be elected. This is worked out on the basis of the total number of votes cast, divided by one more than the number of members to be elected, plus one vote.

In its favour, S.T.V. does remove the security of the safe seat, but that really only affects the individual candidate and not the party, who will no doubt have more than a sufficient number of alternative nominees. The respective second, third and fourth votes of the elector will still probably go to the candidates of the major parties, leaving the fringe party with little or no chance of gaining representation. Independent candidates would become virtually unelectable, losing all claim of being the community’s own candidate.

The Way Forward

The true way forward towards a more just, democratic society is not to instigate a system of Proportional Representation, despite what the P.R. reformists might say, but to sanction a complete overhaul of the political system as a whole, not just the electoral system.

The current two-tier system of local and central government is so corrupted by both the ruling establishment and its despotic lackey political parties that its complete reorganisation is not just a political nicety, but a political necessity brought about by years of misrule.

The creation of a true peoples’ democracy should be the ultimate aim of any electoral system. Our present constitution is totally outmoded. The only right the people have is the right to vote, that is the right to vote for one or the other version of establishment-backed policies put forward by the establishment parties.

Community Government: A Local Dominion

The aim of local government is “to do for people what a group of persons what a group of persons elected according to law by a majority of the citizens but on election becoming representative of them all, conceive to be good within the limit of their legal powers.” (the Herbert Commission ‘Report of Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London’ HMSO 1960). Once elected, however, the opposite applies. Many local councillors, elected on a manifesto of false promises, proceed to feather their own nests and those of their political parties at the expense of the electorate, most of whom, alas, are too politically illiterate to understand the intricacies of local government and the corruption within. Opposition to this corruption is widespread but no real alternatives are offered by the reformists.

If we look at the present form of local government we see that it mirrors Central Government in every way, the only difference being the scale of power it wields and the range of services it controls. Once elected the councillor, just like the MP is given free reign to de exactly as he/she wishes and to complete ignore the promises made at election time. This situation does not create accountability which should be the mainstay of local government.

Local elections should take place annually with each dominion being substantially smaller, more regional even to the realm of the aspirant representing perhaps just 10 or so streets. The candidates for election must be members of such a micro-community, thus making the candidate elected to the Local Assembly a true representative or the people. Under such a system it would become probable that non-party independents would become involved, thus removing the party political theme of local politics.

Once elected to the Local Assembly the aspirant would involved himself in matters of local importance such as education, housing, the environment, social services etc. He should gain a knowledge of any problems within the community and on a regular basis inform the community of his progress, either by a newsletter or public meeting, both of which would be financed by the Assemblyman. It should be considered an honour to serve the community at this level, not an invitation to a cheque book.

In the case of a major cities where the sheer number of Assemblymen would make the Court of Local Assembly difficult to operate, the cities should be broken down to smaller regions, giving environs self autonomy. For example, if we look at Leeds then Otley, Pudsey etc. should have their own Local Assemblies.

Community Government: A Regional Dominion

The Local Assemblies would then themselves elect a number of representatives to sit on Regional Assemblies. These should join the numerically superior community elected representatives, all of whom would deal with regional issues such as law and order, transport and a regional equivalent of the Welfare State, covering the provisions of hospitals, etc.

The elections to the Regional Assembly should again take place annually, two months prior to the administrative and fiscal years commencing, thus allowing the incoming assembly to set taxation levels, and for expenditure budgets to be formulated in line with the promises made to the community.

The Regional Assembly should consist of approximately 1 community elected Assemblyman per 5,000 head of the population. The districts/constituencies should therefore be conceived with this in mind, by a symposium of representatives of both the Local and Regional Assemblies, preferably working on the precept of two member constituencies. The successful nominees should be required to finish first and second respectively and to obtain a minimum of 30% of the vote. Such a small vote requirement and the endemnicity of a 10,000 head constituency should ensure that fringe and independent candidates should feel confident enough to stand against the major parties and be elected.

This elected anatomy should be joined by the designated representatives of the Local Assemblies, which should number around 25% of those directly elected. A Regional Assembly serving an electorate of 1 million would be made of around 200 community elected Assemblymen and 50 Local Assembly designates.

Whilst this Regional Assembly might at first appear not to give the community total control over who represents them, we need only remember that the whole of the Local Assembly is up for election annually, and so poor performance and representation could result in deselection. Likewise the aspirant Assemblyman could also put forward his regional views to the Community annually at election time.

This represents a total overhaul of local government. It does not offer a first past the post system and neither does it offer the mistake of Proportional Representation, but the epitome of Community Government……Regionalism providing the services best suited to the needs of the individual region and not those of the destitute perspectives of Westminster.

To the cynic who suggest that annual elections would result in a capricious ruling body, I would argue that the opposite applies, since the fear of deselection should ensure that the Assemblyman always acts in the best interest of the community. Today’s MPs have far too much in the way of security by the way of the 4-5 year term of office and the safe party seat, both of which would be removed.

A Central Dominion

The function of Central Government in Britain is too outdated for a modern forward-looking society. The 651 Westminster tools of plutocracy should be removed from office, their function as obsolete as their political ideologies. In its place should come a National Assembly of England. Scotland, Ulster and Wales should have home rule.

England

The National Assembly should consist of representatives of all the Regional Assemblies of England, all of whom are selected not by the community but by the Regional Assemblies themselves. Contrary to this proposal undermining democracy, I would suggest that the extreme level of popularist democracy at Local and Regional Assembly Level would ensure that the National Assembly is far better formulated along these lines than by creating another elected legislature, which due to the very size of England would require an electoral system similar to the current one or P.R..

The main purpose of the National Assembly should be to co-ordinate at a national level the matters affecting the English Nation as a whole, such as defence strategy and foreign policy. It should also assist the integration of nation-wide infrastructures for communications, energy and transport etc.

The synopsis of my perspective is that the extensive changes to the system of government which we operate in England are in dire need of a radical version, and that the establishment cannot and must not be trusted and left to make that change themselves. My tenet has been thought through diligently but is by no means my definite aspiration. For reasons of space and because of the sheer complexity of Government, many areas have been ignored. For example, should everyone be allowed to have the right to vote?

My sole intention is to open up debate in a new direction, doubtless my personal vision will come under criticism from many who lack the fortitude to challenge the status-quo with radicalism. To those radicals who oppose my decentralisation of Government, I say please take up my challenge to debate the destiny of our land, we cannot afford to capitulate to either the establishment or the establishment reformists.

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