Of course the comparison here will be with a true democracy, not with what we have, but what would Proportional Representation mean to us now?

Our ‘democracy’ allows each of us to vote for the person to represent us in Parliament, and while this person may be a member of a Political Party they can also be Independent. There is no law against being Independent. So we elect the person we want to serve our constituency in Parliament.

The trouble is that we are now governed by parties that don’t receive more than 50% of the votes cast let alone 50% of those eligible to vote.  We are close to having only 50% of those eligible actually voting, and I am on record as saying I have not voted for any party or person for over 20 years. So with a 50% turnout, if there were just 3 candidates and they all got equal votes – the Member would be elected on just 17% of the registered population.  Hardly a great democracy I think you will agree.  And the system to decide who won each seat is the ‘First Past The Post’ where the candidate with the most votes wins no matter what proportion of the constituents actually voted for them.  So the problem is obvious.

PR can take several forms but the idea is for each Party to have the number of MP’s proportional to the number of votes they received across the country.  So if XY party received 60% of all the votes cast they would have 60% of the MP’s.  Sounds fine?  Maybe, until you think democratically so let’s consider some issues:

  • Who decides which Constituency has the person they voted for and which has a different MP forced onto them?
  • Every time the Proportional system is used to determine an MP, the MP would not have been standing for the particular constituency so nobody in it could have possibly voted for them.  By definition therefore, the notion that an MP represents her or his constituency is lost.  But that is what democracy is mean to be about.  They cannot have been elected by the Constituency.
  • This person is also incredibly unlikely to come from the local area or know anything about it, so is almost perfectly unsuited to be the MP.  A city dweller is certainly not well qualified to represent rural affairs and vice versa.
  • Now we get to what I consider a dreadful failure.  Suppose the total Independent vote across the country means we can only have two Independent MPs in Parliament.  We now have to choose two Independent candidates from the whole country but by the very nature of being an Independent – who would have to give way to who and who would they represent?  By definition any Proportional Representation system effectively rules out anybody standing unless they have a major party ticket.  Independents cannot really exist, but to achieve greater democracy we should have a house full of Independents.

Interestingly, the parties that would win by PR fight for it, and those disadvantaged fight to stop it. But it is hard for anybody outside the party political system to take part yet they are absolutely disadvantaged.

PR would entrench everything that is bad about our system and do nothing to solve the problems.  It would be yet another ‘sticking plaster’.  We need to start again.

Mike Hillard