Saturday, May 08, 2010

There is nothing "unfair" about first past the post

Is it "unfair" that the horse that comes first in the Grand National is the winner?

And is it "unfair" that the bookies don't payout to the people who didn't back the winner?

Of course it isn't "unfair" - that is the system and our parliamentary and electoral system is first past the post. I'm getting a bit fed up of hearing various Lib Dem and Labour supporters of PR coming on television and being allowed to call this system of ours "unfair" without any challenge from the broadcasters.

For instance, in what way would it be "fairer" if the person who was the first choice candidate for more people in a constituency than any other was not the one elected to stand as that constituency's MP? Is that fair? Of course not.

The first thing to understand about our electoral system and the way our parliamentary democracy works is that it is based on an historic and important link between the people and parliament - the single MP constituency.

Every constituency has one MP and one MP only that they can send to parliament and the job of that MP is to represent the people of that constituency in parliament. There are flaws to this of course, not least the power of the party system through their whips to coerce reluctant dissenting party members - but we the people still retain that historic and very direct link to our government. Very few other systems can make the same claim.

Under a proportional representation system we can not have these single MP constituencies - because, as they are now, they are already "proportional". The candidate who gets the most vote also has the highest proportion of the vote - and so gets to sit in parliament. That is a fair proportional representation system is it not?

But what the Lib Dems and some Labour people want is something else - they want the number of seats in parliament to be decided by the number of votes cast nationally. You can not work this system and retain the historic and direct link between people and parliament - the only way to do it is to have a party list of candidates who get a seat depending on the national proportion of the vote.

What that will mean is that the parties will decide who gets to sit in parliament - not the people. For instance, I am in no way a Labour supporter, but I am always happy to see Frank Field elected to parliament. Under a party list system, Frank Field would be way down on the Labour list and would be unlikely to get a seat.

You have similar problems with STV, AV or AV+ - in particular, you will end up with MPs who are not first choice of most people, but MPs who are the least unfancied by most people. What a way to select the person to represent you in government.

To paraphrase Churchill, first past the post is the worst form of electoral system apart from all the others that have been tried. We can not change that system without fundamentally changing our entire parliamentary democracy - and that is a very dangerous thing to do, particularly given the track record of those who will be entrusted with this change.

But worst of all, changing that system will remove that very direct link between people and parliament. It will make government more remote, more detached and more inclined to act in the interest of government rather than the interest of the people or nation.

Is that really what you want?

I don't.


Anonymous said...

I agree Stan (sorry to be so boring but I'm not an educated chap, just a humble craftsman).

p.s. seems Gordon had a 'rant' at Nick on the telephone yesterday evening - who was it that said Brown was 'psychologically flawed'?

Quiet_Man said...

The only thing unfair about our fptp system is the disparity in the size of the constituencies. Resolve that and it will work well enough

Lightf00t said...

This is exactly what I was thinking yesterday, when the libs were moaning about the current system being "unfair".

To me, this is a prime example of the sort of left-wwing thinking that's destroying this country. These people are simply insane; they actually believe, or profess to believe, that there should be no winners or losers in life. But that's lefties all over - idealistic idiots.

We should keep the current system, and Cameron should be in number 10 right now, because, at the end of the day . . . . well, he won.

Senior said...

It is important that the link between people and politics is maintained, and the best way to do this is by ensuring that each constituency has an MP. The amount of constituencies should be reduced to 350.

Shahid Malik lost his seat in Dewsbury, but under proportional representation, so long as Labour wanted him to be in parliament, he could have sat in parliament. He wouldn't be there to represent the interests of the people of Dewsbury. He'd be there to represent the interests of the Labour Party and nobody would be able to vote him personally out of parliament. That would reduce trust in politics even further.

The first past the post system is very simple. You put a cross next to your favourite candidate. There is no simpler system. Alternative Vote may be fairer, but it is more complicated.

geebeetwo said...

For as long as anyone can remember there has not been any real connection between the actual person standing for election and the people in that constituency.
That was yesterday. Today many of the candidates don't even live in the bloody constituency.
The disparity in the size of constituencies is in itself unfair and it is all based on a process that started so far back it has no relevance at all to the modern world.
We all should vote for a party and stop pretending that our MP has any local power or influence. Most votes gets the party of choice etc etc. How can that be anything but a totally fair representation of what people want?

Stan said...

geebeetwo - you mistake of assuming that the connection is between the people of the constituency and their MP.

That has never been the case.

The whole point of the single MP constituency is to provide a link between the people of that constituency and parliament.

Why do you think that such a link has no place in the modern world?

Britain is the oldest continuous democracy in the world. You don't get that unless you have a very stable and proven system - which is what we have. You want to change that for some European system - a system that has delivered dictators to power and wars to the continent?

I don't want that, thanks all the same.