Electoral Reform for the UK

Introduction

I have been in favour of electoral reform for over three decades. The recent election result, whilst a very good one, in my view, has not changed my mind. So here's a chance to discuss what we think it could and/or should look like. I am going to propose a model which is my preference. I expect disagreements but hopefully it will be interesting to look at the options. I have thought about this a lot, but to some extent it remains a work in progress, so some parts may not be fully thought through. I may well change my mind on some - or even all - of it over the next few pages.

A proposal

I want to see multi-seat constituencies with 15-20 MPs. Such a system is simple to administer, results in a proportional result and maintains the role of local MPs with local accountability. Below I will lay out how I could see this working and some of the specific things I think we could do that would make it very effective. But first some thoughts about the models I am rejecting.

What's wrong with First Past The Post?
FPTP produces some very spurious results. So many votes effectively do not count and parties and leaders with minority support have almost-unrestricted power to implement their policies and plans. It also means a very strong bias to confrontation rather than cooperation in policy making.

What's good about First Part The Post?
The previous post notwithstanding, it would be wrong not to acknowledge the strengths of FPTP. It does produce decisive results. Coalition governments are not necessarily weak and indecisive but they can be. More importantly, under some systems of PR, a failing government may still retain some power after being rejected by an electorate. We have seen with the 2024 election that the Tories have had all their power washed away.

This benefit I do not think particularly important. Moving to a proportional system would mean a big change in our political culture as Prime Ministers would not be able to rely on their own whipped MPs to get legislation through. I see this as a very good thing. It could be rough, initially but ultimately I think it would lead to better law-making. Hence, it is a price I am prepared to pay.

Conversely, the second benefit of FPTP is important to me. The direct representation an MP provides to their constituents, to advocate for them is important. Individual MPs can bring about important changes and I think it important that all constituents know who actually represents them. I think it especially important in our diverse nation, where the needs of Cornwall are very different to London. The needs of Birmingham are not the same as rural Wales.

So why not 'straight' PR with national party lists?
This is the simplest system: A party with x% of the votes, gets x% of the seats. Each party provides a list of 650 candidates with their leader first and if they get 50% of the vote, then the top 325 get seats.

My first objection to this is in the previous section. I think there is a lot of value to be found in keeping MPs tied to their locality. My second, and more important one, is that is gives too much power to the parties and the party whips and ends the phenomenon of independent MPs.

Political parties are a key part of a functioning modern democracy. They create a shared platform and make governance happen. They are generally a good thing in fact. They are not always a good thing in the extent of their power and influence. It would be a disaster, in my view, to give the parties more power. Quite simply, an MPs chance of re-election is dependent on currying favour with the leadership. A Labour / Conservative MP in the top 100 on the list would most likely get a elected. An MP ranked 400, not so much. On current numbers, LibDems need to be in the top 50. Upset the leadership and find yourself ranked 95.... Hence the party has total power over its MPs' careers.

Independent MPs are a key part of our democracy. By which I mean both MPs who are not members of a party (Martin Bell being a great example) and MPs who remain in a party but speak out against their leadership. Here I am remembering fondly Tony Benn who was a real headache for Blair or Dominic Grieve who stood up to Johnson. To me, any system that stops us from having such MPs would be a big loss.

So Multi-seat constituencies?
The bigger a constituency you choose, the closer you are to a proportionate result. The smaller, the greater the connection to the local population. My theory is that there is a happy middle that provides enough of both.

I have gone for 12-20 MPs based on the current seats because I want to make the constituencies geographical in a way that makes sense and also builds local governance better.

A few months back, I looked at Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as a bloc and Devon and Cornwall. I haven't re-run the numbers with the most recent results. Hants & IOW currently has 19 constituencies. In 2019, The Tories got 17 out of the 19 seats (90%) with 56.5% of the vote. Labour picked up the other two. A proportionate result would be Con 11, Lab 4, LibDem 3 and Green 1. The total constituency population is around 1.5m. Devon and Cornwall: 1.2m people; 18 seats, The Tories won 83% of them with 53.3% of the vote. Scotland would be four constituencies of 12-15 MPs. Similarly Wales would be two. The contituencies do not need to be exactly the same size.

Also on these sorts of numbers it would be possible for independents to get elected as something like 40,000 votes across the whole area would be enough. Difficult maybe, but I still think possible.

So, why do I think this is a good system?
1. It would produce a proportionate result
2. MPs would be a delegation for an area. (I.e. These are the Hampshire & IOW MPs. These are the Highlands and Islands MPs and these are the North Wales MPs. I would give them offices together in Port Cullis House. I would create a permanent research staff for each delegation. I would also want to create formal connections with their local government - which is why I looked at the constituencies by county, initially. I think this would foster cross-party cooperation on local and regional issues
3. Each constituent would have a (smallish) number of MPs they could write to and with whom they could raise issues. This means that if an MP is ill or also a minister, or unavailable, the constituents still have someone else they can still talk to.
4. The control of the national parties over their MPs is diluted.

I have lots more thoughts, but that will hopefully get the discussion started. I have not mentioned the Lords here but I would also connect this to Lords reform. I also want to see automatic voter registration and compulsory voting.

Thoughts?

AFZ


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Comments

  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    I think, and I've said this before, STV+ - just take the Irish electoral system, change the relevant words*, and adopt it here.

    My chief objection to PR (as someone who supports it) is the horse trading on a programme of government that happens *post* election.

    I'd be much happier with some sort of 'bloc' approach where it's done beforehand, and people go into the polling station with an idea of what they're actually going to get. This is the main thing that gives me pause when I'm advocating a change in the system. I know loads of countries do it. But smashing a coalition together *after* the vote and then deciding which bits of whose manifestoes survive strikes me as, not quite undemocratic, but more - post-democratic...

    I know you can do confirmatory votes amongst party members at the point of coalition agreement, but that salve falls over as soon as you remember the rather large typical numerical disconnect between members of a party, and voters for that party. I can't see it leading to a huge increase in party membership as the safety valve, more a 2010 style wave of anger from 'betrayed' voters.

    That's actually not a million miles from the broad coalitions within the major parties under FPTP, but I'm thinking of something more fluid than say Labour's relationship with the Co-Op party currently, to something more like the Co-Op being able to decouple from Labour from one election to the next and swim with whoever they wanted to as best fit for that term.

    *YMMV but it's a whole other can of worms to talk about the monarchy at the same time (and I support it anyway) so I mean strike out every 'president' and write in 'the Crown' - job done, get on with other things.
  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    I would also opt for STV within multi-seat constituencies rather than list-PR. This retains the option for the public to not vote for someone they don't like who'd be near the top of the list, or to vote for someone they like who'd be further down the list. Also independents would probably have more influence - both in chances of being elected, but also advising supporters on where to put their lower ranked choices (it does allow them to say to elected MPs that a) they had support and b) that their supporters also supported an elected member and they should acknowledge that in how they represent the constituency). Also, it's a system that is currently used in elections in the UK, so some voters have familiarity with it (I think that's an important point, as it's easy to confuse voters with multiple election systems).

    Probably for an STV election a ballot for 15-20 MPs is too long. 3-4 as we have for local elections (in Scotland at least) is very manageable, and with those short lists a local independent has a much better chance of election. That also to an extent matches with local authority areas - eg: I'm in South Lanarkshire where we currently have 3 full constituencies and parts of 2 more, so as a constituency returning 4 MPs this would serve as a coherent whole; if we were to have a 15-20 seat constituency this would cover basically the whole of southern Scotland - South and North Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Borders etc.
  • alienfromzogalienfromzog Shipmate
    I have some thoughts about something that's a bit like STV but not quite... still working on it.

    I admit that I'm thinking about bigger constituencies than is common but it delivers a proportionate result nationally with local connection.

    I.e. I would expect Devon and Cornwall MPs as a delegation to have some formal connection with the Devon and Cornwall Councils. As a step towards fixing how local and national government interact.

    However, as long as the MPs equate to roughly the same number of constituents pro-rata, they don't have to be the same size.

    A work in progress...

    I'll talk about the Lords soon.... :wink:

    AFZ
  • peasepease Tech Admin
    Just to note that the Welsh have very considerately voted to act as guinea pigs (or maybe canaries), and will be using PR (D'Hondt) to elect the Senedd in 2026.
  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    And, Scotland has been running an additional member system for 25 years, and multi-member STV council wards.
  • agingjbagingjb Shipmate
    STV in five member constituencies please (speaking as a voter with no love of parties).

    The Electoral Reform Society, which advocates this system, has all the information needed.

    https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk
  • alienfromzogalienfromzog Shipmate
    Yes Westminster is the laggard. IIRC, Northern Ireland is the leader.

    My point here is that whilst electoral reform is much needed, it is also an opportunity to reimagine our politics in lots of ways.

    AFZ
  • 15-20 MPs would lump together everything in Scotland north of the central belt. It's already kind of bonkers that Portree and Inverness are in the same constituency, extending that so Stirling, Castlebay, Aberdeen, Campbeltown and Lerwick are too is a weekend away with Sid and Dorris.
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    The thoughts of an organist.

    England: Each elector has 2 ballot papers, one for the constituency MP elected on FPTP, the second paper voting is on STV for the regional list.
    Constituency candidates are listed on the ballot paper by name only, no party. Regional are on a list system by party.
    Areas with metro mayors have larger constituencies to reflect their enhanced representation at local level.

    Scotland: Since devolution most Scottish affairs are handled by the Edinburgh parliament. I propose that Scots electors vote for Westminster on STV.

    Wales & Northern Ireland: As for England but half the number of constituency MPs to reflect the fact that devolution already gives their electorate a constituency member of their respective assemblies.

    Now I'll put on my tin hat and retire to my trusty Anderson Shelter
  • alienfromzogalienfromzog Shipmate
    Nice.

    I don't like split systems. Especially in Westminster, I think it unhealthy to have different categories of MPs.

    YMMV, of course...
  • alienfromzogalienfromzog Shipmate
    So I'm pondering what could be called an 'incorporated primary system.'

    I don't believe any such system exists, anywhere in the world but, clever people, could this work?

    1. Multiseat constituencies
    2. Votes for party with seats allocated proportionately
    3. Voters select a candidate thus they actually decide the party list, rather than the party.

    Here's an worked example, with 5 seats.
    CHOOSE ONE CANDIDATE ONLY

    Red Party:
    Mr A
    Mrs B
    Miss C
    Ms D
    Dr E

    Blue Party
    Ms F
    Mr G
    Prof H
    Rev I
    Mr J

    Yellow Party
    Mr K
    Mrs L
    Miss M
    Miss N
    Mr O

    And the results
    A 5000
    B 5500
    C 2000
    D 7000
    E 500

    TOTAL: Red: 20,000. RANK D, B, A, C, E.

    F: 3000
    G: 14000
    H: 1300
    I: 1200
    J: 500

    TOTAL: Blue: 20,000; G, F, H, I, J.

    K: 2000
    L: 2200
    M: 1900
    N: 2100
    O: 1800

    TOTAL: Yellow: 10,000; L, N, K, M, O

    So
    Red has 40% of the votes and gets 2 seats which are Ms D and Mrs B, as they topped the ranking. Blue also gets 2 seats: Mr G and Ms F and Yellow would have 1 seat: Mrs L.

    What I am reaching for is something a bit like STV but simpler. I think this would work with larger multiseat constituencies.

    Maybe I should just go for STV but I'm working this out as I go....

    N.b. It is not accidental in this example that some of the individuals elected do less well than those who are not. The point is that people vote in this theory for a party platform first and for an delegate/representative second.


    So, am I an idiot?*

    AFZ

    *Generally, yes but specifically?
  • JonahManJonahMan Shipmate
    How about a devolved administration for each country (Scotland, Wales, Scotland, N. Ireland) which all have the same powers as each other, with MPs voted according to one of the existing systems. And a smaller (than current) UK government in Westminster, with elections being done under a PR system. The former give the necessary local connection, the latter concentrates on national issues, and don't do the local caseload.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    So Multi-seat constituencies?
    The bigger a constituency you choose, the closer you are to a proportionate result. The smaller, the greater the connection to the local population. My theory is that there is a happy middle that provides enough of both.

    I have gone for 12-20 MPs based on the current seats because I want to make the constituencies geographical in a way that makes sense and also builds local governance better.

    A few months back, I looked at Hampshire and the Isle of Wight as a bloc and Devon and Cornwall. I haven't re-run the numbers with the most recent results. Hants & IOW currently has 19 constituencies. In 2019, The Tories got 17 out of the 19 seats (90%) with 56.5% of the vote. Labour picked up the other two. A proportionate result would be Con 11, Lab 4, LibDem 3 and Green 1. The total constituency population is around 1.5m. Devon and Cornwall: 1.2m people; 18 seats, The Tories won 83% of them with 53.3% of the vote. Scotland would be four constituencies of 12-15 MPs. Similarly Wales would be two. The contituencies do not need to be exactly the same size.

    Also on these sorts of numbers it would be possible for independents to get elected as something like 40,000 votes across the whole area would be enough. Difficult maybe, but I still think possible.

    So, why do I think this is a good system?
    1. It would produce a proportionate result
    2. MPs would be a delegation for an area. (I.e. These are the Hampshire & IOW MPs. These are the Highlands and Islands MPs and these are the North Wales MPs. I would give them offices together in Port Cullis House. I would create a permanent research staff for each delegation. I would also want to create formal connections with their local government - which is why I looked at the constituencies by county, initially. I think this would foster cross-party cooperation on local and regional issues
    3. Each constituent would have a (smallish) number of MPs they could write to and with whom they could raise issues. This means that if an MP is ill or also a minister, or unavailable, the constituents still have someone else they can still talk to.
    4. The control of the national parties over their MPs is diluted.

    I have lots more thoughts, but that will hopefully get the discussion started. I have not mentioned the Lords here but I would also connect this to Lords reform. I also want to see automatic voter registration and compulsory voting.

    Thoughts?

    AFZ


    I would go for multi-seat constituencies with 15-20 MPs. Residents could still opt to have contact with an MP of their choice from those elected.

    However, I am still not persuaded to move away from FPTP..... but I could be
  • stonespringstonespring Shipmate
    So I'm pondering what could be called an 'incorporated primary system.'

    I don't believe any such system exists, anywhere in the world but, clever people, could this work?

    1. Multiseat constituencies
    2. Votes for party with seats allocated proportionately
    3. Voters select a candidate thus they actually decide the party list, rather than the party.

    Here's an worked example, with 5 seats.
    CHOOSE ONE CANDIDATE ONLY

    Red Party:
    Mr A
    Mrs B
    Miss C
    Ms D
    Dr E

    Blue Party
    Ms F
    Mr G
    Prof H
    Rev I
    Mr J

    Yellow Party
    Mr K
    Mrs L
    Miss M
    Miss N
    Mr O

    And the results
    A 5000
    B 5500
    C 2000
    D 7000
    E 500

    TOTAL: Red: 20,000. RANK D, B, A, C, E.

    F: 3000
    G: 14000
    H: 1300
    I: 1200
    J: 500

    TOTAL: Blue: 20,000; G, F, H, I, J.

    K: 2000
    L: 2200
    M: 1900
    N: 2100
    O: 1800

    TOTAL: Yellow: 10,000; L, N, K, M, O

    So
    Red has 40% of the votes and gets 2 seats which are Ms D and Mrs B, as they topped the ranking. Blue also gets 2 seats: Mr G and Ms F and Yellow would have 1 seat: Mrs L.

    What I am reaching for is something a bit like STV but simpler. I think this would work with larger multiseat constituencies.

    Maybe I should just go for STV but I'm working this out as I go....

    N.b. It is not accidental in this example that some of the individuals elected do less well than those who are not. The point is that people vote in this theory for a party platform first and for an delegate/representative second.


    So, am I an idiot?*

    AFZ

    *Generally, yes but specifically?

    Isn’t this like open-list PR, which they have in the Netherlands? You often see candidates there be bumped further up their party lists in the election results because people can vote specifically for them, including popular backbenchers that aren’t favorites of party leadership (like Pieter Omtzigt of the CDA, who now has his own party, the NSC).
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    We have had preferential systems of voting in both State and Federal elections for over a century now, and proportional systems for much the same time. Some explanation of terminology - the preferential system results in the election of a single member for each electorate, while the proportional system gives multiple members from a larger electorate. Both systems require that you indicate your order of preference of the candidates. In 4 of the 6 States and in Federal elections, the preferential system is used for the lower house and the proportional system for the upper. Queensland has been unicameral for over a century now, and Tasmania reverses the pattern.

    When the question has been raised in the past in the UK, there have been comments that any change from the simple first-past-the-post would be beyond the comprehension of voters. The low number of informal votes cast here suggests otherwise and it's hard to accept that the general UK public could not cope with the change. There may well be many questions at the first election under the new system, but just a bit of experience will reinforce the message. In my day, we were taught the varying methods in primary/junior school and there was reinforcement in senior school. Much the same teaching continues today and advertising during election campaigns repeats the advice.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I can’t see how 12-20 member constituencies, in the north of England for example, wouldn’t lead to a situation where there would be some parts of the constituency where none of the elected members would have any meaningful connection, and where you wouldn’t end up with some people facing a four hour plus round trip journey time if they wanted to meet one of their MPs.

    I think it would greatly increase the sense of alienation people feel from the national government and from MPs generally.
  • A 4 hour round trip to see my MP would be a definite improvement!
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    In your setting it might not get worse, but it would be very unlikely to improve.
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    How many constituents actually meet and engage with their MPs now? I would wager it is a very small percentage.
  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    JonahMan wrote: »
    How about a devolved administration for each country (Scotland, Wales, Scotland, N. Ireland) which all have the same powers as each other, with MPs voted according to one of the existing systems. And a smaller (than current) UK government in Westminster, with elections being done under a PR system. The former give the necessary local connection, the latter concentrates on national issues, and don't do the local caseload.
    Though I'll need more discussion on the specifics of your proposal to make a decision on it, there's a general point there which shouldn't be missed. Which is that electoral reform should acknowledge the reality of devolution - to the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and also to the metropolitan areas. This creates a new intermediate level of government between the local authorities and UK government for some people, though the problem is that the extent of that devolved government varies from nothing at all for areas of England without elected mayors to the powers given to the Scottish Parliament. As you noted, with that extra level of government the work of MPs should theoretically be reduced, though for that to happen we'd need devolved assemblies across the whole of the UK rather than the patchwork system that we currently have, and for them to have similar powers over local issues - although if that means taking powers away from existing devolved governments there'll be a fight back as most of the pressure for devolution is to increase those powers.

    In relation to case work, one of the issues for MP workloads is that there's a tendency for people to "go to the top" and if they have issues contact their MP and/or the relevant government minister, even if in most cases it would be more appropriate to contact a local councillor in the first instance (there's a similar dynamic in campaigning - how much of general election campaigning is taken up with talking about pot holes, bin collections and other local issues? I certainly came across that chapping doors in the last couple of months - people complaining about the closure of local community halls, or failure of the council to fix a roof. And, also at the hustings we had. The issues most people actually care most about are largely the remit of their local government and generally the only way the UK Parliament interacts with those issues is in funding local authorities, potentially with some ring fencing). Adding an additional devolved government layer isn't likely to change human nature in that regard, and these devolved members are likely to pick up a very small fraction of the case work that MPs currently get. The biggest impact on MPs case load would actually be to encourage people to contact their local councillors as their first point of call for purely local issues - which in turn would need an acknowledgement that being a councillor is a full-time commitment with a corresponding salary (it's not good that many councillors find that to do their legislative role on committees etc and the case work that comes their way they work 40h+ per week, and get paid less than they'd get working in a local restaurant - often putting in a better paid job as well to be able to afford to support their family) and support staff.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I can’t speak for our MPs caseload overall. I do know that when I went to him it was in connection with Child Tax Credits. I didn’t need special favours, just to get the HMRC actually to listen to me and to do their job properly.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Hell Host
    BroJames wrote: »
    I can’t speak for our MPs caseload overall. I do know that when I went to him it was in connection with Child Tax Credits. I didn’t need special favours, just to get the HMRC actually to listen to me and to do their job properly.

    Although that's the point made in the other thread, the system should function well enough that it can do its job properly for everyone without the need to get an MP involved ( which in practice is going to be gated by all sorts of things).
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited July 10
    Thoughts?

    In most places, your large constituencies will combine urban and rural areas in a way that might not be ideal. It dilutes your "strong constituency voice" argument if the voice comes from a large region rather than a more concentrated area of particular need / concern.

    Our Australian shipmates will point out that in elections where voters are given the ability to rank candidates from a particular party, in practice almost everyone just checks the "party line" box. So I think if such a box exists (either a checkbox, or if the party specifies the ordering of candidates on the list), it will be hard to overcome low-information voters to preferentially deselect a real stinker of a candidate.
  • So I'm pondering what could be called an 'incorporated primary system.'

    I don't believe any such system exists, anywhere in the world but, clever people, could this work?

    1. Multiseat constituencies
    2. Votes for party with seats allocated proportionately
    3. Voters select a candidate thus they actually decide the party list, rather than the party.

    You're proposing multi-seat PR with plurality voting within each party list. That has major issues, I think. Suppose the reds in your area have candidates A B C D and E, and have enough support to elect two people. A and B are solid reliable candidates from the centre of the party. C sits on the left, D on the right, and E is a nasty bigot who enjoys support from the local bigots, but nobody else.

    Suppose one quarter of the local red voters are bigots, and all vote for E. The other three-quarters vote for the other candidates. With a preferential system, they'd find two compromise non-bigot candidates. With your system, there's a lot of planning and tactical voting necessary to elect two decent candidates rather than letting the bigot in.
  • I'd be much happier with some sort of 'bloc' approach where it's done beforehand, and people go into the polling station with an idea of what they're actually going to get.

    How does this "bloc" approach differ from our current large umbrella party type system?
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    I'd be much happier with some sort of 'bloc' approach where it's done beforehand, and people go into the polling station with an idea of what they're actually going to get.

    How does this "bloc" approach differ from our current large umbrella party type system?

    Each party agrees its own thresholds for co-operation with other parties. So very loosely using 2010 as an example (though clearly that was under the terms of FPTP) we could have gone to the polls knowing what would happen if any one of the three main parties had got absolute power, but also would have known what the programme would be if the maths meant a Liberal-Tory or Liberal-Labour coalition.

    I accept that under PR that makes a lot of work for the parties, but they can suck that one up frankly.

    Essentially all the horse-trading happens up front, so it's 'if we have to collaborate with XYZ parties, this is what you'll get; if we're collaborating with UVW parties, it will be this.

    So it's not as formal as the current umbrellas, because it'll all depend on the maths of the situation.

    BUT, then you run into 'what if the maths means the other party really needs you?' vs 'what if the maths means you're needed but less important?' - which is probably why it wouldn't work...

    Essentially I really don't like the manifesto bunfight after a vote - no one knows what they're voting for on election day.
  • So I'm pondering what could be called an 'incorporated primary system.'

    I don't believe any such system exists, anywhere in the world but, clever people, could this work?

    1. Multiseat constituencies
    2. Votes for party with seats allocated proportionately
    3. Voters select a candidate thus they actually decide the party list, rather than the party.

    You're proposing multi-seat PR with plurality voting within each party list. That has major issues, I think. Suppose the reds in your area have candidates A B C D and E, and have enough support to elect two people. A and B are solid reliable candidates from the centre of the party. C sits on the left, D on the right, and E is a nasty bigot who enjoys support from the local bigots, but nobody else.

    Suppose one quarter of the local red voters are bigots, and all vote for E. The other three-quarters vote for the other candidates. With a preferential system, they'd find two compromise non-bigot candidates. With your system, there's a lot of planning and tactical voting necessary to elect two decent candidates rather than letting the bigot in.

    The vast majority of the UK public vote party rather than candidate. I don't think it a problem to have a system that reflects that.

    In reality, high information voters may choose someone specific. The rest would tick the top name/s. Hence the party does have some control but not total.

    I think this fits how the public actually vote. Most of the time for a party, occasionally, particular individuals stand out and thus they can get elected. Party candidates would still have to be approved to stand. I want to dilute the party power, not remove it completely.

    I am still open to persuasion. I'd love to see it modelled and/or a trial run.

    The unsaid part of this, is that everything is a trade off. Choose your compromise, choose your preferred pros and cons...

    I think this is a good approach. Far from perfect but not bad, overall...

    AFZ
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Hell Host
    I think this fits how the public actually vote. Most of the time for a party, occasionally, particular individuals stand out and thus they can get elected. Party candidates would still have to be approved to stand. I want to dilute the party power, not remove it completely.

    Specifically which part of party power do you want to dilute, because you seem to be failing to account for the democratic structures within parties themselves.
    Also on these sorts of numbers it would be possible for independents to get elected as something like 40,000 votes across the whole area would be enough. Difficult maybe, but I still think possible.

    Outside urban areas this is going to be a virtually impossible hurdle given the relative number of resources vs the area over which you'd need to canvass.
  • pease wrote: »
    Just to note that the Welsh have very considerately voted to act as guinea pigs (or maybe canaries), and will be using PR (D'Hondt) to elect the Senedd in 2026.

    I was going to say that: FYI https://www.gov.wales/senedd-reform.

    Previously had "local" and "regional" members. There has been much criticism of the decision to substantially increase the Senedd's size. It would be good if the new UK Government would devolve more powers to Wales (as per Scotland).
  • SpikeSpike Ecclesiantics & MW Host, Admin Emeritus
    Although I’m broadly in favour of electoral reform, my issue with party lists is how people get on the list and who selects them.

    I don’t know how other parties work, but in the Labour Party, candidates are selected by the grassroots members in the constituency. A party list would take away that level of local democracy.

    Here in the big smoke, the Greater London Assembly is elected using the Additional Members System, whereby we have two votes - one for the constituency candidate and the second for the party list which then has members elected according to the proportion of votes cast. This is a system I quite like (even though a Reform UK Assembly Member got elected from the party list) but still brings us back to how that list is assembled. I voted for the person who was to be our Labour candidate. I don’t know how the others got on the list. All I know is that one of the people on the list had stood unsuccessfully to be our candidate. The irony is that the person who was our constituency candidate didn’t get elected (came second to LibDems) but the one who had been unsuccessful in his bid to stand here was elected to the Assembly from the party list.
  • I think this fits how the public actually vote. Most of the time for a party, occasionally, particular individuals stand out and thus they can get elected. Party candidates would still have to be approved to stand. I want to dilute the party power, not remove it completely.

    Specifically which part of party power do you want to dilute, because you seem to be failing to account for the democratic structures within parties themselves.
    Also on these sorts of numbers it would be possible for independents to get elected as something like 40,000 votes across the whole area would be enough. Difficult maybe, but I still think possible.

    Outside urban areas this is going to be a virtually impossible hurdle given the relative number of resources vs the area over which you'd need to canvass.

    Within the Commons, the leadership control the MPs via the whips. This means that the executive has a lot of power over the legislator that is supposed to hold it to account. The biggest risk, imv, of a list system is that the party gets another, powerful control over the MPs. Part of the reason I favour a local list system, is that I want the local party to drive it.

    Geography is complicated but I was imagining an area the size of Hampshire being practicable. Not easy, but possible. The trade off remains: bigger constituencies, more proportional. Smaller constituencies, more local connection, easier for independents...
    Spike wrote: »
    Although I’m broadly in favour of electoral reform, my issue with party lists is how people get on the list and who selects them.

    I don’t know how other parties work, but in the Labour Party, candidates are selected by the grassroots members in the constituency. A party list would take away that level of local democracy.

    Here in the big smoke, the Greater London Assembly is elected using the Additional Members System, whereby we have two votes - one for the constituency candidate and the second for the party list which then has members elected according to the proportion of votes cast. This is a system I quite like (even though a Reform UK Assembly Member got elected from the party list) but still brings us back to how that list is assembled. I voted for the person who was to be our Labour candidate. I don’t know how the others got on the list. All I know is that one of the people on the list had stood unsuccessfully to be our candidate. The irony is that the person who was our constituency candidate didn’t get elected (came second to LibDems) but the one who had been unsuccessful in his bid to stand here was elected to the Assembly from the party list.

    I agree and formal localisation of nominations would be a good thing, I think, but tricky to do, in practice.

    I don't think a split system is desirable, although I can't at the moment, fully articulate why.

    AFZ
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    <snip>Geography is complicated but I was imagining an area the size of Hampshire being practicable. Not easy, but possible. The trade off remains: bigger constituencies, more proportional. Smaller constituencies, more local connection, easier for independents.

    Hampshire has nearly four times the population of Cumbria in a little more than half the size, and the issue would be more acute in Scotland.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    <snip>Geography is complicated but I was imagining an area the size of Hampshire being practicable. Not easy, but possible. The trade off remains: bigger constituencies, more proportional. Smaller constituencies, more local connection, easier for independents.

    Hampshire has nearly four times the population of Cumbria in a little more than half the size, and the issue would be more acute in Scotland.

    Hmmmm...

    Just to say, thank you all. I'm really enjoying this conversation.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Hell Host
    Within the Commons, the leadership control the MPs via the whips. This means that the executive has a lot of power over the legislator that is supposed to hold it to account. The biggest risk, imv, of a list system is that the party gets another, powerful control over the MPs. Part of the reason I favour a local list system, is that I want the local party to drive it.

    The size of the areas you are suggesting make it equally hard for 'the local party' to organise as it would for an independent, in the worst cases the parties would simply control the constituency parties (as was) in the largest cities in a given area and then use that to dictate candidates.
    Geography is complicated but I was imagining an area the size of Hampshire being practicable.

    I'm having various reactions to this statement, none of which are fit to share. Where you have constituencies this size in other countries the largest and loudest voices tend to predominate.
  • Within the Commons, the leadership control the MPs via the whips. This means that the executive has a lot of power over the legislator that is supposed to hold it to account. The biggest risk, imv, of a list system is that the party gets another, powerful control over the MPs. Part of the reason I favour a local list system, is that I want the local party to drive it.

    The size of the areas you are suggesting make it equally hard for 'the local party' to organise as it would for an independent, in the worst cases the parties would simply control the constituency parties (as was) in the largest cities in a given area and then use that to dictate candidates.
    Geography is complicated but I was imagining an area the size of Hampshire being practicable.

    I'm having various reactions to this statement, none of which are fit to share. Where you have constituencies this size in other countries the largest and loudest voices tend to predominate.

    Fair enough.

    The reasons for this size is to maximise the proprotionality and because I want locality connections that map on to local government that would enable building a formal relationship between representatives at local and national government. I am very interested to hear reasons why it wouldn't work. I can see good arguments for smaller constituencies. My only contention so far is that I am not yet convinced that the downsides outweigh the upsides. Obviously, no system is perfect.

    I have been a member of the Labour party for over a decade. In theory I am a member of the local party as well - in the various places I have lived in that time (at least 4 different places). However, I have never been to a meeting and cannot really imagine ever doing so. It is not a context in which I would feel confident of comfortable. Thus my knowledge of local parties is very indirect and very limited. However, is it unimaginable that the major parties could have strong regional groups at around the sizes of English counties? I genuinely don't know.

    AFZ
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Hell Host
    I have been a member of the Labour party for over a decade. In theory I am a member of the local party as well - in the various places I have lived in that time (at least 4 different places). However, I have never been to a meeting and cannot really imagine ever doing so. It is not a context in which I would feel confident of comfortable. Thus my knowledge of local parties is very indirect and very limited. However, is it unimaginable that the major parties could have strong regional groups at around the sizes of English counties? I genuinely don't know.

    I think it's very hard; and the voluntary associations that manage to have a good regional culture that is distinct from the culture of the national organisation have to work very hard to generate and maintain it, and generally rely on a layer of professional staff. The risk would be the creation of a party structure that is even more exclusionary.
  • I have been a member of the Labour party for over a decade. In theory I am a member of the local party as well - in the various places I have lived in that time (at least 4 different places). However, I have never been to a meeting and cannot really imagine ever doing so. It is not a context in which I would feel confident of comfortable. Thus my knowledge of local parties is very indirect and very limited. However, is it unimaginable that the major parties could have strong regional groups at around the sizes of English counties? I genuinely don't know.

    I think it's very hard; and the voluntary associations that manage to have a good regional culture that is distinct from the culture of the national organisation have to work very hard to generate and maintain it, and generally rely on a layer of professional staff. The risk would be the creation of a party structure that is even more exclusionary.

    I've believed in public funding of political parties for a long time (based on vote share, probably). Perhaps local funding of local parties would be useful here?
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Hell Host
    I have been a member of the Labour party for over a decade. In theory I am a member of the local party as well - in the various places I have lived in that time (at least 4 different places). However, I have never been to a meeting and cannot really imagine ever doing so. It is not a context in which I would feel confident of comfortable. Thus my knowledge of local parties is very indirect and very limited. However, is it unimaginable that the major parties could have strong regional groups at around the sizes of English counties? I genuinely don't know.

    I think it's very hard; and the voluntary associations that manage to have a good regional culture that is distinct from the culture of the national organisation have to work very hard to generate and maintain it, and generally rely on a layer of professional staff. The risk would be the creation of a party structure that is even more exclusionary.

    I've believed in public funding of political parties for a long time (based on vote share, probably). Perhaps local funding of local parties would be useful here?

    Possibly, but I think you'd have to think carefully about how this would work wrt on the one hand astro-turfed parties with very lavish funding vs stuff that is much more grass roots (Reform vs Greens).

    It would be nice to avoid creating additional hurdles to party re-alignment.

  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    Thus my knowledge of local parties is very indirect and very limited. However, is it unimaginable that the major parties could have strong regional groups at around the sizes of English counties? I genuinely don't know.
    My experience is in Scotland, and English parties may organise themselves differently. But, here for larger parties (SNP, Labour) organisation seems to be at (Scottish Parliamentary) constituency level, whereas smaller parties tend to organise at local authority area. So, for example here there's a branch of the Scottish Greens covering South Lanarkshire but for that area there would be four SNP or Labour branches (or equivalent organisation under a different name).

    I can't speak for any other party, but for the Greens our candidates are selected by the branch (or, branches where constituencies aren't entirely contained within a local authority) which covers that constituency, with all members in the branches having a vote. For regional lists, the names on those lists and the order they appear will be the result of a vote by all members in that region. All candidates are selected by a vote for every election - there's no process where a sitting representative is automatically re-selected without a vote (though, of course, someone who has already been doing the job will naturally have an advantage in the vote than someone untried). I'm not sure why people who are not members of a party would have a right to say that someone would be a better representative of that party than someone else, surely the party is in the best position to decide who is a better representative of the party?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    <snip>The reasons for this size is to maximise the proportionality and because I want locality connections that map on to local government that would enable building a formal relationship between representatives at local and national government. I am very interested to hear reasons why it wouldn't work. <snip>
    I think many (most?) constituencies of the size you have suggested would map into multiple local government areas. Cumbria for example has (only!) six constituencies and they are divided between two unitary authorities.
  • I'm not sure why people who are not members of a party would have a right to say that someone would be a better representative of that party than someone else, surely the party is in the best position to decide who is a better representative of the party?

    Many US states have open primaries, where anyone who wants to go to the polling station and ask for the Democratic ballot can vote for who the Democratic candidates should be at the next election (and mutatis mutandis for Republicans).

    Suppose you have a party with extremist and moderate members, and suppose that the local party members tend towards the extremist side. That wouldn't be uncommon. The local party members would clearly nominate an extremist as their best representative.

    Suppose, as is likely, the electorate as a whole is very much less extreme than your party membership. The electorate would prefer one of your more moderate candidates.

    Your solution is "well, they can pay money to join the party, and then they get a vote".

    If you want an MP who is representative of the views of the people in their constituency, then why is allowing the people to pick who that should be a bad thing?

  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    If the electorate don't like the candidate a party puts forward they have the option to vote for someone else. The local party members can include the question of how likely they are to be elected in their decision making process of who to put forward as a candidate.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    <snip>The reasons for this size is to maximise the proportionality and because I want locality connections that map on to local government that would enable building a formal relationship between representatives at local and national government. I am very interested to hear reasons why it wouldn't work. <snip>
    I think many (most?) constituencies of the size you have suggested would map into multiple local government areas. Cumbria for example has (only!) six constituencies and they are divided between two unitary authorities.

    Yes. The North Scotland one would cover at least 10, probably more.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Hell Host
    Suppose you have a party with extremist and moderate members, and suppose that the local party members tend towards the extremist side. That wouldn't be uncommon. The local party members would clearly nominate an extremist as their best representative.

    Suppose, as is likely, the electorate as a whole is very much less extreme than your party membership. The electorate would prefer one of your more moderate candidates.

    But equally that can result in a moderate candidate being primaried by an insurgent well to the right, and the people who can be bothered to vote in the primary tend to end up swinging more extreme than the electorate at large.

    Obviously the money spent has a large impact and this is one of those cases where quantity ends up having a quality all of its own.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    edited July 10
    agingjb wrote: »
    STV in five member constituencies please (speaking as a voter with no love of parties).

    The Electoral Reform Society, which advocates this system, has all the information needed.

    https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk
    I agree. 15-20 MPs per constituency requires constituencies that are far too big. 5±1 per constituency strikes me as getting the balance about right between electoral choice, relationship between MPs and who they represent and proportionality.

    I'd say just adopt the Irish system more or less as it stands, and do the same with current UK devolved administrations and probably local government as well. Ireland is a Westminster derived constitution. It comes from the same traditions as the UK. Yes, it might mean a few exceptionalist uk politicians eating a bit of humble pie by recognising that somebody else does it better - but that will be good for them.

    I don't like party lists and I don't like added members. Both involve people becoming MPs without being elected by anyone, and give far too much power to party organisations.

    Warning - semi-tangential rant alert

    Something else I'd like to see changed is this exceptionalist nonsense of incongruent devolution. All four parts of the UK should have the synchronised devolved administrations each with the same relationship with the centre and a union parliament that deals only with the undevolved aspects of the state. So England, Wales and Northern Ireland should have the same devolved competences as Scotland. I realise that there's a bit of a problem in that England is bigger than the other three, but that's how virtually all other states that have different devolved provinces work.

    How can you call something a United Kingdom when the various different bits of it don't all have the same relationship with the centre?

    Even within England, the present piecemeal structure is an inconsistent mess. Only this week, Sir Keir has met various English regional mayors, separately from the rest of the English local authorities, yet alone the ones in the other three national units. And not only that, the different regional mayors don't even have the same sets of responsibilities and at least one of them as of last Friday morning, is also now an MP, without being required to resign his previous role.

    However, getting the Irish electoral system is too important for that to be delayed or obstructed by debate about sorting out the structure of devolution.

  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    edited July 10
    Enoch wrote: »
    I'd say just adopt the Irish system more or less as it stands, and do the same with current UK devolved administrations and probably local government as well.
    The current system for local government elections in Scotland is essentially the same as the system for the Irish Dail - 3 or 4 councillors elected by STV per ward. I suggested above that a similar system of 3 or 4 MPs elected by STV per constituency would be fine by me. It won't be as proportional as 15-20 MPs per regional constituency, but it's a system that works and is more proportional than the current system while retaining reasonable local representation and opportunities for independents.
    I don't like party lists and I don't like added members. Both involve people becoming MPs without being elected by anyone, and give far too much power to party organisations.
    Well, not elected by anyone except everyone who put a cross in the relevant box on the ballot paper. And, the power of party organisations to select candidates is effectively the same whether that's putting the person they want in the safest seat or top of a list.

    The biggest problem I have with PR in large regions (whether as a pure PR system or part of AM) is that independents have virtually no chance of being elected as they usually have local support bases (eg: campaigning on a specific local issue, or play the "only candidate living in the constituency" card) and won't usually have support across a large region.
  • Even constituencies of 3-4 MPs means the whole of the Highlands and Hebrides being a single constituency. I wonder if there is a feasible way to apply D'Hondt with an STV component for regional lists e.g. count first preferences as the "party" vote (and thus allocating the number of seats per party) then use STV to allocate the seats to individuals. A bit of thinking might be needed on how to deal with "surplus" when it crosses parties, and I suppose technically you could game the system by allocating your first preference to the party you support and use your other high ranks to screw with the rankings of other parties but I think the affect would be marginal. I suspect, however, that counting would be a bugger.
  • Alan Cresswell Alan Cresswell Admin, 8th Day Host
    Any election with preferential voting will be counted electronically, just as Scottish local elections already are - an initial count of the number of ballots in each box to confirm this matches the records from the polling place, and sorting so that each paper is face up in a neat stack which then gets fed into a scanner.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    A rather new avenue in American voting is ranked choice. Say your have five candidates running for a position. You are allowed to rank them in terms of preference. If no candidate gets the majority, the one with the least votes drops and the election clerk looks at the second choice of those who voted for the candidate and adds the second choice to the totals of the remaining candidate. It continues to third choice if none of the ramaining candidates still does not have a majority vote. See above link.

    This tends to break the gridlock the two parties have going more toward individual preferences. In the past, Alaska had been deep red, but now it is becoming more purple color wise.

    It might also encourage the development of multi-party preferences.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Admin, 8th Day Host
    I think that is a single transferable vote system ?
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