everything and nothing. not really sure yet.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Problem With PR

What with the current uproar over MPs expenses and Parliament's apparent loss of trust, many are now using the opportunity to call for wholesale change of the electoral system, replacing the first-past-the-post constituency based system with proportional representation. Frankly, a change to full PR would seem to be a backward step. Without the link to the constituencies, there will be no individual group of voters to whom MPs are accountable. Therefore, in the case of the expenses scandal, MPs would be held accountable only to their parties, which may or may not remove them from the party list - taking the decision out of the public's hands. Take a look at countries which have a PR system, and they are clearly far less stable, politically, than the UK. Israel is the case in point, where coalition governments are rarely stable (a problem only exacerbated by the Israeli-Palestinian and broader Israeli-Arab conflicts), and political patronage and corruption are rife. This is not to say that the first-past-the-post system is perfect or even the best possible system, far from it, but it would seem counter-intuitive to reduce accountability when it is exactly that lack of accountability that is at issue here. Additionally, in a full party-list PR system, the BNP would most probably enter parliament. It would seem that a multi-member constituency system, perhaps using a Single Transferable Vote method like that used in the London Mayoral elections would be more appropriate - it would increase representation within parliament (surely a problem when a party can gain a large, workable majority in parliament with between 30 and 40 percent of the popular vote), whilst maintaining accountability and, in fact, providing a much more interesting electoral system (certainly more exciting than the current voting process).