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The Scottish Raj, aka McLabour, will never agree to this.

One concern that may need to be addressed as seats are redesigned - especially if they cross boundaries, is that we don't end up with "ignored" boroughs.

If a town of 50,000 with a strong majority for one majority is increased in size to make it 60,000 by the addition of neighbouring boroughs, it could lead to the boroughs actually becoming an irrelevance.

I'm not sure I'm articulating this particularly well, for which I apologise.

I do agree with the overall thrust of the campaign though.

And can we cut the number of MPs from 653 to 450 as well? They don't have this many to represent the whole of the USA

Douglas Carswell's suggestion of multi member seats also deserves consideration.

Monday sees the publication of the long awaited review of electoral systems on the UK’s Parliamentary Election system which was promised in Labour’s 1997 manifesto.

What it will not print is a line from a previously leaked version which stated, “…that the first past the post voting system currently favours Labour”.

Voters feel increasingly disenfranchised and isolated from their elected representatives with 40% of the electorate who do not bother to vote at all. Labour colluded with the Lib Dems to give devolution to Wales, NI and Scotland and a proportional representation system, yet England languishes without a collective voice.

Also, in selecting our elected representatives in the London Assembly, Brussels and the London Mayoral candidate, there are many different versions of a proportional representation system.

Under Labour we have seen the rise of English nationalism because voters are aware of the unfair Barnett formula; we see the SNP spending our money freely north of the border; a post code lottery on health with England losing out, because we are ruled by a Scottish Prime Minister, Chancellor, Defence Secretary (and the list goes on), yet the English have no redress over their decisions because they represent Scottish constituencies. Unless the English get either an English Grand Committee or an English Parliament I foresee the break up of the Union.

Stop tinkering at the edges, gerrymandering the voting systems, confusing the electorate, playing with the out-of-date boundary commission changes, give the English a voice and consider the more competitive multi member constituencies (not larger government but representative government) which will see an end to safe seats and the never ending expensive fight over marginals. There are many MPs with safe seats with no realistic chance of losing that seat and are therefore more answerable to the party whips than the people who elect them. Added in to this mix an open primary system to select candidates rather than the party hierarchy and this was solve a myriad of electoral reform conundrums.

Sue Doughty - Not at federal level admittedly but they have a much greater amount of representation and decision making at lower levels.

"Sue Doughty" again, ex Lib Dem MP for Guildford......

Fewer MPs, equal sized constituencies, and STV would make for a much fairer system and remove the ridiculous inbuilt Labour majority. However, we have to remember that part of the discrepancy between seats and votes is due to very low turnout in labour strongholds.

" Mr Herbert describes Labour's inaction on "fair seats" as "yet another example of Labour's willingness to allow distortion of the electoral system for their partisan ends."

What brass balls you guys need to be able to say that! When FPTP was delivering Mrs T a majority of seats in opposition to the majority of the British people you had no problem!

Your opposition to PR essentially hedges on the fact that you just don't believe that you can bring a majority of the British people with you. Talk about an inferiority complex.

We do still believe in FPTP Jason O'Mahony. Why don't you read the thread before you make an entirely untrue accusation as you did at 16.42.

I would agree that change to properly balance the elector/consituency ratio is long overdue.

I'd also consider increasing in the number of MPs to a ratio of 1 MP to 40,000 electorate (in tandem with a reduction of Governmental layers) - improving individual representation again as smaller consituencies can reduce the "distance" from the voters and allow the MPs to be more hand's on. Although there may be downsides I've missed....

Malcolm Dunn, I'm not doubting your committment to FPTP, I'm just questioning the false indignation at being screwed by the current electoral system. The Tories were quite happy to have FPTP benefit them in the 1980s, when the centre left was split. Now it benefits Labour, and all of a sudden it'a a partisan evil? Please! On this issue, you're, bizarrely, no better than Labour.

Cllr Lee Chamberlain, more MPS. 40,000 electors to an MP takes us to well over 1000 MPs. They won't fit in the house. Think of the cost. What will all those extra backbenchers do? If your point is to bring the electorate closer to the decisions being made that effect them then we could have fewer MPs and localise many decisions to people like yourself. Then power starts to leave Whitehall and enter peoples' living rooms.


The structural bias in the system was actually pretty small in the 1980s, and even pro-Labour by 1992. The problem is mainly that, whatever vote shares are achieved by the two big parties, Labour have an inbuilt advantage, whereas most objections to FPTP are based on its disproportionality - not the same thing at all!

I fully support reducing the number of MPs - most demcracies have roughly the cube root of their population in their lower chamber, which for the UK is about 450. Reducing the number of MPs, especially if done over time, would reduce the Labour bias as demographics flow in their favour.

Why should it 'benefit' any party? I don't think anyone would disagree with regular boundary reviews so that boundaries are fair to everone with similar populations in each.
And yes Jason we are better than Labour in every way. If we weren't we would have used our period of hegemony to ensure the boundaries were rigged in our favour. We didn't ,they did.

I'm a Labour activist, yet I agree with you about the problem. Though I don't think fairer-sized seats will result automatically in a Tory government, I do believe a better democracy would result in better government in general, due to the higher quality of democratic accountability.

The problem with focusing wholly on the size of seats rather than the proportionality is that while it may go some way towards the Conservatives attracting the parliamentary weight you deserve, it does nothing for the LibDems and the smaller parties. If this is a matter of principle rather than opportunism, then a solution should be found that is fair for all participants.

Frankly, only a form of proportionality provides that fairness, though I agree that the constituency link is a truly important part of our democracy.

Forgive me if I am wrong but I detect a distinctive opposition to proportional representation from Conservatives yet have never put my finger on why that is so.

With Labour and the Conservatives potentially in a position to want to woo the LibDems after the next election, I fear we will end up with a form of PR that is politically expeditious rather than ideally suited to our needs. Wouldn't it be far more honorable for the three major parties and the regional parties to come to an agreement BEFORE the next election and conceivably in time for implementation at the next election rather than producing a system in three days of horsetrading with Labour and the Tories seeking to be the highest bidder? Would it be better to take this step in the interests of the country rather than in the interests of the political parties?

On the specific form of PR that would solve this problem, I would seek a system that retained the constituency link, which included the "fair size" proposals, yet which also ensure voters ballots counted for something.

However, I don't believe we should pin ourselves to the idea that a constituency can have only one MP.

For example, if constituencies were three times the size, yet had three MPs, we could operate localised PR in this manner with voters' second and third preferences transferring when necessary. You would also be in the position where MPs had to compete with each other so they would perhaps raise their game even if not in government, making the constituency link more effective than it is now, where MPs in "safe" seats can be tempted to work less hard.

This is just one option but there are others on the table that protect the constituency link.

While I recognise the Tory mindset of protecting ideologically-wrong traditions if they work, our traditional democracy clearly does not work.

Electoral reform should not be about party political gain, it should be about rebuilding the public's faith in their politicians and I know this is one issue where we could work together across the political divide to achieve something for the benefit of the British people.

Alex Hilton
[email protected]

Can't resist observing on Jason O'Mahoney's erroneous comments that the main supporters of PR were the Libs/Lib Dems, who would have held the balance of power under PR. The minority would then have been dictating to the majority - and no self interest there I think. ;-)

Three quick comments

This initiative is not about advantaging one party, it is about ensuring fair representation. Let’s make sure we all stress that.

The proposal is to equalise the number of electors. The fact that Labour seats tend to have a poor turnout is just one of those things.

Ideally Scottish and Welsh and urban seats would all be made larger, so naturally reducing the number of MP’s. If nothing else this will give the reform a degree of popularity.

Alex Hilton is balanced and logical. STV with fewer MPs and multiple constituencies would make for more competition, a fairer system, and would prevent the huge majorities that Labour had in its first two terms which, I believe, damaged democracy and themselves as they never had to properly debate or scrutinize legislation. There was just so much lobby fodder. Smaller majorities make it harder for government to exert its will (which classical liberals should like) and makes for a much more exciting and lively debate. On ID cards, for example, Brown has to win a lot of people over (I pray he doesn't). This is much more democratic.
Slightly off topic, what about a loosening of the whipping system too?

I agree that there is an imbalance between the number of MP's but surely the important point is how many of the electorate vote. At present only a minority vote, this leaves one wondering whether the Politicians are in touch with the electorate or only the politically committed members of the public.

I agree that the present situation is very skewed, largely through out-of-date census information and the sheer delay in getting boundaries reviewed. It does ned to be addressed as soon as feasible, and beyond trhe immediate fix a permanent solution put in place to ensure it never recurs. No political party, including this one, should ever avoidably benefit from where boundaries are placed.

Even so, we must not forget who is supposed to serve whom, and keeping communities together as far as possible is also an important aim. Admittedly this isn't so marked an issue at parliamentary constituency level, so hopefully splitting communities between different seats should be a rare occurrence, ideally non-existent.

I know the result of splitting a community at local level from being a ward by itself, with an appropriate name (Warren Wood in this case), into three separate wards, none of which acknowledges the community's name.

It doesn't feel right, it has different political parties representing adjacent parts of the same place, and it has reduced trust in the underlying political process (i.e. not the elected members themselves -- we have a very strong reputation!), just to satisfy an apparently purely bureaucratic convenience.

Therefore, go for this by all means, but I'd suggest don't be insensitive to the electorate's own proprietary interest in their own communities. An occasional small compromise might be advisable, here and there.

Without being too interested surely the first quote in the article is a bit misleading. As i understood it the difference in Votes/seats is more a function of differing turnouts - it takes less votes to return a labour MP in an urban area than to return a tory in the country. Adding this up accross the counry leads to an inbalance.

I am in favour of the idea of equalising the number of electors per constituency but in this situation it would still be perfectly possible for labour to win a majority on fewer votes than the tories providing the pattern on the number of voters is maintained.

Of course it's important to bare in mind that when PR is talked about, it does not mean a fixed set of seats equivalent to a percentage of the vote, even in systems based on a percentage vote nationally there are still going to be large numbers of candidates both Independent and Small parties failing to reach sufficient vote levels to get representation, because there are only a limited number of seats that there could be. Most countries using PR set thresholds - 5% being a common one.

The term Proportional Representation at best is misleading.

What do we mean by 'fair'?

On the one hand it sounds from some of the solutions put forward that we're only concerned with the size of seats. Fine, let's talk about that, and only that.

Because if we continue to talk about swings needed to deliver a Conservative majority, or every vote counting, or the unfairness of low turnouts in Labour heartlands, we are (whether we like it or not) arguing for PR.

And we need to seriously examine what it is we think we like about FPTP. One advantage that always gets brought up is the connection between MP and community. But that's only possible if the MP has a community to connect to - if the boundaries make sense (e.g. keep the Isle of Wight as a single seat).

Too right we should make the seats all the same size. Labour and Plaid Cymru here in Wales are grossly overrepresented because their seats average at something pathetic like 52,000 voters each. Arfon is a brand new seat and only 42,000 people can vote there!

There isn't a single Welsh seat at or above the English average and this is neither fair nor understandable. It needs fixing now.

I have been maddened by this imbalance and the lack of effort on anyone's part to redress it. Glancing down previous comments I get the feeling that they are predominantly urban opinions. In the rural areas (that are often vast) it would not be difficult to divide the already diverse communities or give them more M.P.s. As it is we keep having bits added or nibbled off. We cope but it would be easier if there was not the sense of injustice produced by tightknit urban communities. There is a great deal of difference canvassing in a town where you run up and down terraces of houses all close together and the country where you may have to walk for miles to reach a few dozen houses, some of which now have security locks (only those who know the number may enter) and if you can get in, very long drives. On top of that we have to win an extra 10,000 votes in order to stand a chance of winning! I have done both.

This needs to be considered as part of the West Lothian Question which has still never been fully addressed. At the moment the UK has two Regions with a large measure of delegated powers, Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales with only slightly less powers. When Northern Ireland was first formed it was given reduced Westiminster representation because it had such powers. This was only changed when direct Rule was implemented. Now there is a power shareing Executive in place it should revert to 12 seats from the current 17. It would be appropiate to make similar proortional reductions in the number of MPs from Scotland and Wales at the same time.

The problem oin England is the urban drift away from city centres to the countryside which over the 10 year intervals between boundry commission reviews leads to unbalancing of seats. In local boundry reviews for councils the review takes into account projected population changes at the mid point of the 10 year period, should this not also be applied to the parlimentary review which would give a fairer ditribution of seats and reduce the influence of urban drift which is the main cause of unfair allocation of seats.

"And can we cut the number of MPs from 653 to 450 as well? They don't have this many to represent the whole of the USA"

Thats because the United States Congress is the Federal Legislature. They also have legislatures/governments at the State level and lower.

To lower the number of MPs in this country without some for of serious constitutional reform Including devolving almost all of parliaments powers, would be a constitutional outrage.

450 representatives for 60 million people?
Get real!

The same electoral quota should be used throughout the UK using the most upto date electoral data. Agree we have too many MP's, should not be more than 600 and perhaps over a couple of reviews aim for nearer 500.

How about consideration of Fixed Term 4 year Parliament's with a requirement for full boundary reviews every 8 years.

In full agreement with Nick Herbert's statement and the points that he raises.

I am very glad you are taking this seriously.
In my own constituency in Harrow I have calculated that each voter is worth a value of about half a Scottish or Welsh voter.
We have a constitency size about 1.5 times higher than Scottish and Welsh seats, and growing. If you then take into account Welsh and Scottish votes on English only issues, my constituents are further relatively disenfrachised. That will mean their vote is worth about half the value of theirs.
How can this possibly be considered fair?

I think the Boundary Commission uses the last census data - so at the 2010 election the data will already be 9 years old, and even older after that. The disparities between constituencies soon rack up.

Make them instead use projected data for the midpoint between the initial review and the forthcoming review; this would ensure the numbers didn't go "stale".

If the Tories and Conservativehome are serious about this issue they must at the same time address the issue of fewer seats in Parliament.

This would not be popular with MP's and those aspiring, but it is neccessary to address this issue and I believe the Tories would receive large support for the electorate if a reduction was found to be sensible.

They might assist in losing the tag of the political parties being self-serving

There is a great deal of difference canvassing in a town where you run up and down terraces of houses all close together and the country where you may have to walk for miles to reach a few dozen houses, some of which now have security locks (only those who know the number may enter) and if you can get in, very long drives.
If they have security locks then presumably they don't want to be disturbed. The electorate don't have to talk to canvassers, maybe they already know how they are voting.

I imagine that canvassing rural homes with long driveways, a canvasser is probably far less likely to be mugged or knifed or otherwise attacked than for example in an inner city estate. I am sure long lists of drawbacks of either could be drawn up and people could argue about which was worse until the cows came home, or the stone throwing mobs went away. It's the grass is always greener on the other side stuff!

And what about fewer Westminster seats for Scotland and Wales to account for the disparities brought in by devolution?

I'm a Labour supporter but generally support what you're saying. Here's what I'd like to see for the House of Commons:

560 constituencies - one MP for each constituency
Elected by alternative vote - each voter has to rank the candidates rather than pick one - candidate has to get a majority to win. If he/she doesn't have a majority of votes, the bottom candidate drops out and has his/her votes redictributed.
England, Scotland, Wales and NI should each have the number of seats decided directly on the size of the population making it fairer (meaning that Wales would have fewer seats, Scotland would lose a couple).
All constituencies should have roughly the same population / electorate size.
Fixed four year parliaments with elections held on the first Thursday in May.
Boundary reviews implemented every 8 years (or two Parliaments)

Let me know what you Tories think.

I'm flattered that my past comments on this matter have been mentioned in the initial post.

As I've said before I do think that achieving this goal is going to require both some pretty major changes to the way the Boundary Commission approach the task but also some fierce trampling on local concerns and potentially even some awkward unnatural seats that lack local ties. It's the problem of national and local demands clashing - at a national level having equal sized seats sounds eminently fair and reasonable, but when it comes down the individual changes that are needed many local residents and, it should be acknlowdged, local parties fiercely oppose the changes as they prefer a slight numeric imbalance to being in an unnatural seat. For all the endless talk about the Isle of Wight, the proposal for one seat was supported by local Conservatives in the most recent review. Similarly the proposal for Na h-Eileanan an Iar to be given a single seat of its own also had the support of the Scottish Conservatives.

More generally the comments often made about Scotland being deliberately overrepresented are out of date. Scotland now uses the same quota as England. The reason Scotland has 59 constituencies rather than the 57 the exact numbers suggest is because in the Highlands and Islands the population are so spread out that five seats allows for better natural ties and geographic accessibility than three. These are the same rules as are applied to England. Wales, however, has not had its quota reset and so its seats are undersized as well, though again the problems of geography and islands in the north also make smaller electorates desirable there.

Nearly all countries that use single member constituencies allow for smaller electorates in very rural areas because of this, although there have been some tensions over the exact extent to which it's allowed - the "Playmander" in South Australia and "Bjelkemander" in Queensland which both saw the rural population of those states given far more seats per head then the urban are amongst the best known cases of malapportionment.

If the primacy of the quota is to be the number one priority then the Boundary Commission needs to be expanded in order to handle much larger review areas in one go. It also needs stronger political support at the ground level when it comes to difficult decisions - it's no good for a party at national level to demand much more rigidly equal sized seats be created if locally it's going to oppose the necessary changes to get those. If county boundaries are going to be crossed to get to the right sized numbers, Conservatives nationally and locally *must* support border spanning seats and be willing to let some border villages be pushed into a seat based on a town in the next county, even if they'd prefer to be in an oversized seat exclusively in their own county. On this policy, Conservatives *must* support the creation of a Solent seat no matter how unpopular it would be locally.

So if we are to pursue this policy what are people's answers to these questions:

1). Should there be any allowance for especially rural areas and islands to have a greater deviation from the target size? Or should numeric exactitude take priority over all other concerns?

2). Are you personally prepared to see your local village or suburb or area removed from its natural constituency and tacked onto a neighbouring one in order to balance out the numbers?

3). More one for candidates and local parties as a whole, but are you prepared to actively support the necessary pain locally rather than siding with villages who object to being moved to make up the numbers?

4). And are you willing to speak up for the Boundary Commission when they are faced with a hard task that has no universally popular solution, or will you jump on the bandwagon and throw around accusations of bias, gerrymandering and numeric obsession overriding the wishes of people on the ground?

5). If reviews are more frequent, can you handle the prospect of losing seats and having two sitting MPs contesting the nomination as a more regular occurance?

2), 3) & 4) may sound harsh, but they are the natural on the ground consequences of seeking to apply some of the aspects of this policy. There is no single set of boundaries that are going to please everyone.

There are, however, many far less awkard changes that can be made (e.g. using a single UK wide quota, combining more then just two London boroughs, holding faster reviews, using the figures at the previous election etc...) - I'll send my thoughts on these in.

The main problem is one of gerrymandering, i.e. as described on this page. There are too many seats which have deliberately been drawn to make them safe, and too few marginals. Current Conservative and Labour safe seats (for example, 'inner city' rotten boroughs, and their corresponding suburban or rural hinterlands) should be paired and marginals created.

So, for example, where you have 4 safe Labour urban seats and 2 safe Tory suburban/rural seats, they could be rejigged to create 1 safe Labour, 1 safe Conservative, 4 Marginals.

Therefore, when Labour form a Government you have 5 Lab + 1 Tory ... (Lab 43, Con 33 etc)

When the Conservatives form a Government, you have 5 Tory + 1 Labour ... (Lab 33, Con 43)

OR when you have an inbetween situation, e.g. Con 36, Lab 36, you could end up with 3 Labour seats and 3 Conservative seats.

Currently, there are too many seats drawn within local authority boundaries which means that, in the first past the post system, democracy simply DOESN'T happen.

We simply need a lot more marginals. This would be a lot more difficult, in my view, if we reduced the number of seats which is an unreasonable suggestion.

It is about creating more marginals, which means democracy, not the current unfair electoral system.

Nick Herbert’s argument against PR is excellent. We should never entertain any thought whatsoever on such an undemocratic idea as PR, which gives parties with least votes a share in Government. As Nick Herbert says, PR entrenches the same centrist policies in power perpetually, whichever party wins an election. This means no real choice in policy direction (e.g. on policy on the EU?). As he says, Government should never be a result of back-room deals but a result of what the majority of voters vote for.

Redrawing constituency boundaries so that each constituency has the same number of electors must be a priority as soon as we return to power. Also the number of constituencies in Scotland and Wales should be reduced so they have the same number of electors as English ones, or larger numbers bearing in mind devolution. Or perhaps Scotland and Wales could be given a choice: reduction in Westminster seats, or end of devolution. Perhaps more power could be devolved from Westminster to Counties throughout Britain.

NorthernMonkey @ 20.16 - How would you suggest that the votes of the bottm-dropped-out-candidate be re-distributed?? You couldn't just do it evenly all round as it would make no difference.

Fairness what do we mean by that? Everybody's vote having the same value? Then we need to increase turnout - compulsory voting with a ballot paper that has added to it - none of the above. There are now about 2 million people with second homes many of these choose to vote tactically where their vote maximises its values so most London Lib Dems will vote at their West Country holiday cottage even if it is not their "real" home. There are no real checks to stop people voting in both constituencies with postal votes this abuse is even easier. Voting on Thursdays is anachronistic weekends will increase turnout all studies show. What are real populations? Have you ever canvassed a remotely up to date electoral register? In my experience many people who think they may have problems with the system are less likely to register. The vast majority are entitled to vote. Also poorer people move more often so fall off the register more easily. Both these groups tend to vote Labour and this issue is not addressed in the above "fairness" arguments. I am a Labour supporter who is campaigning for Electoral Reform (but I do not support a direct switch to PR there is so much to do already!). I welcome proposals that will make the system fairer, but these need fairness in every respect not just short term fixes to favour one Party or the other.

Patsy, the voters rank the candidates under an alternative vote system.

If the bottom candidate drops out, his votes get redistributed based on the second preferences that his voters put down.

This carries on until one candidate gets a majority.

We've been round this one before.
The discrepancy is because of low turnouts in safe Labour seats, whereas the safe Tory seats like Sevenoaks, Surrey Heath, Wealden, and those in Bucks tend to have quite high turnouts.

But some of the boundaries are suspiciously drawn. Labour (and sometimes the Lib Dems) appear to have lobbied more effectively than we have - usually "doughnutting" or the odd ward here and there to tip a marginal.

It is not acceptable that some seats are allowed to start off so much smaller than others from before day 1, and perhaps the remit of the Boundary Commission should be changed to include projected populations rather than a fixed point in time.

But the electoral system is fair and should be defended very firmly by the Conservative party.

The good news is that a more popular Conservative party would - to some extent - tilt the bias back, as tactical voting would tend to be at least more neutralised in both directions, than being overwhelmingly against us in 1997 to 2005.

I have evolved a way out of this perennial problem and that is to make the seats relate to natural communities and disregard the number of electors this throws up.

BUT here is the trick. Let each MP vote in the House of Commons on a weighted basis so that they have voting power tailored to the constituents they represent.

Cameron with 78,053 electors in Witney would wield 78 votes
G Brown with 71,606 electors in Kirkaldy would have 72 votes
and the MPs for Wrexham would have 48 votes, for Newcastle East 57 and Isle of Wight 109 !

No more changes needed EVER, and precise fairness always. No more gerrymandering - PERFECT

Alex Hilton …what was it you were saying about Conservatives Alex , it has slipped my mind , something about child torture was it ?…Anyway this set me thinking.

‘Forgive me if I am wrong but I detect a distinctive opposition to proportional representation from Conservatives yet have never put my finger on why that is so‘.

Well I doubt his low reptilian cunning is inadequate to that task but lets pretend .It is because it breaks the MP community link, because it hands power to an elitist coterie in the centre and brokers between fragmented groups . Because it infantilises Politics by allowing people to avoid the balancing process in their own minds and vote in single issues , not coherent manifestos. This paradoxically , further empowers the poltical class and therefore benefit’s the Liberal elite across both Parties . Thus cross Party communitarian issues like capital punishment , the EU and immigration will slide further down the agenda while indistinguishable progressive groupings throw hankeys at each other. As if it was not bad enough already !
Democracy is not a matter of voting systems and this is what students of politics so often misunderstand . There are perfectly good systems in Kenya and in Northern Ireland .It is about the way the voter and the system interact and the cultural inherited knowledge of it ,often unconscious . Many discussions of systems are redundant for this reason .Hilton calls this “ favouring the ideologically incorrect if it works “.Not so. It is just a more subtle ideology than he will be used to

It has been predicted for a long time , first by Michael Portillo I believe ,that Gordon Brown will offer the Lib Dems PR rather than hand over power to the Conservative if he is beaten by the loss of Scotland or the loss of unfair seats. In other words , he will break open the constitution which if he was not abusing it would be working quite well, rather than face its consequences. I am somehow reminded of a Banana republic by our Supreme leader and not for he first time . He has no more belief in PR than anyone else which is quite obviously less democratic than FPTP. This is exactly why he has to be beaten whatever it takes

This is why the Labour Party have discovered a sudden interest in PR it has the same integrity as their Damascene conversion to British Nationalism. The injustice is that they have benefited from the break up of the UK as the unionist vote dwindles to the North for the last forty years . Oh how Brown would love it if he could present this audacious theft of our rights as a cross Party agreement to selflessly re-frame the constitution. The Conservative may do such thing but that will be the of it for me and I will not be alone The way for small parties to thrive in FPTP is to become bigger , they have natural advantage of being to blame for nothing which the Liberals exploit ruthlessly .

Majoritarian systems in the 20th century elected centre left Governments only one quarter of the time. PR has had an almost equal bias to the centre left ,( I doubt this is news to Mr. Hilton )..by the way.
Majoritarian systems will have two Parties competing for the centre vote This section will also tend to be a middling income of infinitely varying sorts . They may be tempted to prefer the right side of the equation because while they may well funded public services they are equally happy , if not more, with private income . So if the right Party favours income groups above them it can only do so by allowing them more retained income . If the left prefer the bottom fifth , 60% of whose income is the states then they will get nothing and yet pay. Essentially Blair convinced the middle group that he imposed their needs on his Party which would naturally veer left once in power .
He said they could be safe from his ideological wing and feel good about themselves ,according to certain paradigms carefully cultivated by the BBC and its cultural fifth column .He lied but that we know . Incidentally this is one reason the “leader “ is becoming more important as time passes. He is the broker between the swing voter and the Party. We can see the crucial importance of the new middle class Public Sector elite to Labour then ,and their determination to expand it. We can also see how they are always seeking to present give ways as universal in nature like tax credits ( Tax credit catastrophe almost cannot be unsaid )

So majoritarian two party voting provides a protection against “first cheat “ syndrome for the middling ..

The bottom fifth say willvote for other peoples money , whatever they think of the process. A middling group will differ for combinations of ideological and self interested motives . A Higher group seek cultural and political power may seek to exploit the compulsory paid for vote to predate on the middling especially those at the margins,.
Its buying power with other people’s money . The opposite of democracy which ceases to be a choice when too many are state employees or dependents . With 8,000,000 in the public sector we are already a long way down the road .You might say majoritarianism provides some balance to the natural imbalance caused by non-contributors having an equal vote in a mixed democracy.. When allied to the “political class “ bias mentioned above , it is an authoritarian system to be loathed and feared by Conservatives . Look at things in this way and you will see that the gulf between the elite of the left ad the labour voter (35% of which say the BNP is the second choice) , is so large and quite different the spectrum of Conservatives

Well to long to read but as I say it set me thinking

To campaign for fairer seats in the House of Commons.
It's time for 'fairer seats'
Just before Christmas ConservativeHome raised the issue of "unfair seats". On Monday's Platform Conor Burns explained the problem in much more detail:

When I first read the above I thought it was the Nanny State referring to obesity amongst MP's posteriors due to cheap HoC subsidised food and drink - I was obviously wrong.
The problem is that you can change the electoral boundaries, but it wont make much difference - we will still be governed by Brussels. Perhaps it was a reference to obesity after all.
(Sorry, Tim, I am demob happy - shortly to leave these shores for a couple of months)
Who said good riddance? Dont all rush

Joe James Broughton: To some extent you're right, although what I think complicates much of the discussion is a confusion amongst people between "gerrymandering" - where boundaries are drawn for political advantage - and "malapportionment" - where the number of voters (including those who don't turn out) per elected representative can vary quite wildly.

On gerrymandering, I think the Boundary Commission is innocent of any deliberate action. Within its terms of reference, which are set down in law, it is a lot harder to draw natural constituencies that are to everyone's satisfaction than many people think and very often the Commission can't easily compromise between competing viewpoints on some issues, such as how to divide up a town and its hinterland (especially when its seat entitlement changes). Whether to cut it up by a doughtnut or a pie method is usually pretty much an all or nothing decision. Ditto which village gets put in with the town to make up the numbers.

Yes Labour lobbied better than us - that's because for the 1990s review that created the current seats they gave central support, staff & resources to their responses to the various enquiries, we left it to local parties to handle (and often squabble amongst themselves over wards or try to make safe seats even safer!). Blaming Labour or the Boundary Commission or anyone else for our own foul ups is misplaced. As the Boundary Commission has a remit to avoid changes except where deemed necessary a lot of the changes are not going to be undone in one further review unless either the numbers require more big changes or it can be proved the existing seats "don't work".

I take Tim's point - Labour were entitled to lobby. It was up to us to. Although it should be non political - boundaries.

I always suspected the York area was a carve up against us. The large Vale of York has been abolished, and the circular and semi rural York Outer created, with a notional Lib Dem majority - although the May 2007 results (+14% since 2003) show we can win it.

Perhaps the next boundary review will create a City of Basingstoke, and another seat - Basingstoke Outer.

A start would be to revise the slow way the Boundary Commisssion works. For example there should be a fixed time in which a local enquiry must be held instead of leaving it for months and avoiding "holiday" periods. It's this sort of thing which quickly makes the figures out of date.

Forgive me if I am wrong but I detect a distinctive opposition to proportional representation from Conservatives yet have never put my finger on why that is so.

Nice to see you here Alex, hope you brought your long spoon ;-)

There are two basic reasons:
(1) Having constituency MPs puts selection power into the hands of local parties, not the central leadership, which leads to greater accountability and less careerism;
(2) Having constituency MPs makes it easy for the electorate to reject individual MPs be they ever so mighty (think of Michael Portillo).

Lee Chamberlain and others have made the point that PR gives disproportionate power to small parties. Yet they still laud the appeal of an MP being answerable not to a party list, for example, but his/her voters.

So here's my question: Why was it okay for 40 odd Eurosceptic rebel Tory MPs to hold the balance of power, but not for 60 Lib dem MPs? It's an almost Putinist form of "approved party", where the Lib Dems (Or Tories in Scotland) are not approved parties and therefore their voters should be completely dismissed, because they voted for the "wrong" party.
Tory opposition to PR is based on a fundamental feeling of inferiority, that you can't convince a majority of the British people to agree with you. I actually think you are wrong about that, and that in 1983, for example, a Tory/SDP government would have been something that might even have, shock horror, won the support of the majority.
As to the "smoke filled rooms" argument, give me a break! That's politics.

'Tory opposition to PR is based on a fundamental feeling of inferiority'- you really have no idea what you're talking about do you? The idea of maintaining a constiuency link, a vote for the individual or the belief in strong government by the Conservative party or another party are three slightly more credible reasons. Yours are not.

Malcolm, in Ireland we have both a constutuency link and a vote for an individual. If anything, our TDs (MPs) are elected primarily, as in the US, on a personal vote.

What exactly is strong government? Would Labour pushing the adoption of the Euro through parliament, which they would legally be entitled to do, be an example of strong government? Was privatising BA, which was opposed by a majority at the time, strong government? Was banning hunting?

I suppose this is an ideological difference. I believe in weak government and strong individuals, and I certainly don't believe that a minority of either reactionary rightwingers or headbanger socialists should have the right to rule my life because 40% of them can form a better organised mob against the other 60%.

Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the specifics can elaborate, but I've had it said to me on a number of occasions that the boundary changes in and around Derby were well argued by Labour, and produced a result that entrenched their advantage.

I think the easiest change to the current system is to use up to date data, and to review more often.

Differential turnout is not something you can legislate against, and will always be with us.

As has been said, identical sized constituencies would only work if we are willing to tear up historic and natural boundary lines. I quite like the idea of weighting an MP's vote according to his/her constituency size (with it perhaps being recalculated once every Term).

If we went down that route (differential weighting), we would need to change the way we determine who has 'won' an election and is invited to form a Govt. Instead of the Party with the most seats, it would have to be the Party with the most weighted votes!

Fairer seats in Parliamentary elections is all very fine but it won't happen until you get rid of the influence, even bordering on gerrymandering, of local authorities at the public enquiry stage.

As a former professional Tory Agent I know from personal experience the weight the local council, and that means the controlling group, can have on the final outcome.

In 1975, at the time of the Callaghan Boundary Commission, the Tories took control of the Calderdale Council. As Tory agent, I was secretary of the Calderdale Council Tory Group. I burnt much midnight oil devising a change of Boundaries for the Tory Group. Not blatantly partisan, but one which would give the Tories both parliamentary seats in a Tory good year , one, in a middling year, neither in a bad year. At worst, the Calderdale Council would be hung except in a very bad year for the Tories.

And that's pretty much how it has worked out, and to the best of my knowledge, those ward and constituency boundaries haven't been changed overmuch, if at all, since.

If only other local authority influences on the Boundary Commission, were as benign! The depredations on Tory Parliamentary representation really took off when we lost control of so many local authorities in the 80's and early 90's. Now we have made a comeback. Are we, should we, make use of that in the way we did in Calderdale? Can we, with so few professional Constituency Agents in the field? Should we, must we, leave it to the civil servants? Or are they too politically biased after ten years of Socialist, Labour government????

The answers are not too promising my brethren.

Alan Carcas

As mentioned the other day, the inherent unfairness in the system is due to each constituency, no matter what its size is, returning one vote for a MP.

Christina speight's suggestion is an excellent way of addressing this (Cameron with 78,053 electors in Witney would wield 78 votes, G Brown with 71,606 electors in Kirkaldy would have 72 votes).

This produces a fairer system without the disadvantages of PR.

There is a more fundemental problem that has a deliterious effect on the Democratic Process.

On our Salisbury District Council, and doubtlessly many others there is a disparity in the Vote that needs to rectified. The Ward that I live in is represented by two District Councillors on that basis I have two votes to cast in every District Council
Election, there are others Wards entitled to have three Councillors, and many have just the one Councillor. These latter two Ward Electors have either three or one vote to cast respectively.

Why should this be so? What happened to one person, one vote ? Why should I be allowed to support two Candidates, whilst near enough neighbours have the opportunity to vote for but the one Candidate. We are all voting for the same Council. It should be a straight fight between all the Ward Candidates, and the first second or third as appropriate should be the one(s) returned to the Council.

The current system does of course favour the main Political Parties, possibly that is why there seems to be a reluctance for change.IT however disadvantages any Independent would be Councillor. Way back on the day that Lady Thatcher was first elected to No.10. I stood elsewhere to be a District Councillor. An Independednt standing against two rustled up Conservatives. Fifty two per cent of that Ward's ELECTORATE gave me their vote. Having done so there arose the question of what they might do with their second vote. They might well not have used it, or excercised their choice between the two Official Conservative Candidates. That is what too many did, so it was that the Conservatives had the more votes and were elected.Both have long since disappeared off he face of local Politics, whilst I am still moaning on.

As I did not agree with so many of Mrs Thatchers Policies, for an instance the Sale of Council Houses, I really had no wish to come to terms with a Conservative Candidacy.
At the Time I was on a Branch Committee in another Ward, and Canvassed the Isle of Wight with the Late Robert Adley MP.in the hope that if the electorate there was unwilling to Vote Conservative, we should encourage them to vote Labour.

C'est la Vie, there are better men than I out there. No one should complain that he or she stood for Election and was pipped at the post. but one suspects that many Councillors elected are but placemen.

I still vote Conservative, but that is about it.

This is a very important issue, but I think the answer may be simpler than we think.

I think we can all agree that more up-to-date electorate sizes should be used when apportioning seats. The ‘time-lag’ in population change means that the Conservatives will always be playing catch-up.

But I don’t think the real problem is having to apportion by county – it’s the basic building blocks which are fundamentally wrong. And it’s a situation which is likely to get worse as we move towards unitary shire authorities.

The Bounday Commission uses local government wards as their basic building blocks when assembling seats. In the rural shires, that can make life fairly easy when they are just a couple of thousand voters. But in a city like Birmingham, where the wards are 15-20,000, it can create severe difficulties. For the 1997 set of changes, the Boundary Commission ended up proposing a Birmingham Northfield seat with an electorate at the time of just 55,000. If we move to a situation in the shires where the basic ward is 10,000, we may well find our interests suffering there.

It might be better to start calculating the seat entitlement on the basis of the Euro-regions, as that would then ensure slightly more stability. Lancashire lost a seat in the 1997 review, and gained the seat back again this time, all because its population has just fallen either side of the quota level. If done on the basis of the Euro-region, this might still occur at a regional level, but would occur less frequently.

This is an issue which can be solved by the simple expedient of not requiring the Boundary Commission to use local government wards as building blocks. I am surprised my good friend Alexander Drake has not been posting on here to praise the Australian system. They draw their boundaries with regard to the following four criteria:
• community interests within the proposed constituency, including economic, social and regional interests;
• means of communication and travel within the proposed constituency;
• physical features and area of the proposed constituency; and
• existing boundaries of constituencies.
However, the most important criteria is that of size. The proposals must ensure that when the new boundaries are due to come into effect (the ‘projection date’ - usually 3 years and six months after the redistribution is completed), the electorate of each seat does not deviate from the projected enrolment quota by more or less than 3.5%. This ensures that constituency redistribution closely matches population shift.

In Australian election reviews, it is often the naming of a seat which causes the controversy more than the boundaries.

As ever in life, the Australian model is the way forward!

One could argue that the boundaries favoured Labour even in their darkest days. Labour still managed 209 seats out of 650 in 1983 despite winning only 28% of the vote.
In 1997 we were entitled to just 165 seats out of 659 despite reaching 31% of the vote.
That is why I take exception when people unfavourably compare our performance since 1997 with that of Michael Foot in 1983.

One could argue that the boundaries favoured Labour even in their darkest days. Labour still managed 209 seats out of 650 in 1983 despite winning only 28% of the vote.
In 1997 we were entitled to just 165 seats out of 659 despite reaching 31% of the vote.
That is why I take exception when people unfavourably compare our performance since 1997 with that of Michael Foot in 1983.

You guys should get this on the Today program or something of the like, in some way publicicise this push for electoral reform, it would be very popular, although probably more so in the rural districts they already control.

Votedave: You've got to remember that in 1983 the anti-Labour vote was not as well consolidated as the anti-Conservative vote has been since 1997. In 1983 a lot of the vote Labour lost went to the Alliance, who generally just piled up the votes without taking the seats. We also lost some votes to Alliance. Conversely in 1997 a lot of Lib Dem supporters tactically voted Labour, turning a landslide into a rout.

That is why I take exception when people unfavourably compare our performance since 1997 with that of Michael Foot in 1983.
In 2001 though, the Conservative Party did actually get fewer total numbers of votes in the General Election than Labour did in 1983, it was a higher percentage because of low turnout with Labour being not nearly as strong as the Conservatives were in 1983 and the Liberal Democrats way less popular than the Alliance in the 1980s.

The 2005 result was up, but still below the total number of votes for the Conservatives in 1997.

Christina speight's suggestion is an excellent way of addressing this (Cameron with 78,053 electors in Witney would wield 78 votes, G Brown with 71,606 electors in Kirkaldy would have 72 votes).
Surely if it was going to be based on total voters, if it was to be done along those lines it would make more sense for the number of votes being based on the total voting for the winning candidate - so get 10,000 votes and win and the MP has 10 votes (or 10,000 for that matter - with computerised counting such calculations would be done quite quickly), someone with 20,000 would get 20 votes (or 20,000 perhaps depending on how the numbers were decided), someone with 30,000 - 30 votes (or 30,000). In addition surely this would hugely encourage people to turnout!

YetAnotherAnon, your suggestion seems like a good one as candidates would be encouraged to get as much as support from their constituents as possible and more people would be likely to vote.

Not sure if I can see a disadvantage with this system, or with Christina's idea.

Oliver Heald MP: "It’s time we had fair votes in the UK - and no – I don’t mean Proportional Representation!! Votes in different parts of the UK have different values due to the wide variations in the size of constituencies. This strikes at the heart of the democratic principle of equal voting rights for citizens."

Yes Oliver, you're right about the long overdue concept of fair votes in the UK but unsurprisingly your perversion of fairness is designed specifically to favour the electoral fortunes of the Conservative Party so absolutely no vested interest in your (warped) reasoning process by any chance?

Never mind about the LibDems, they're big enough to fight their own battles and at least they do win seats. What about the 283414 people who voted for the Green Party across 203 constituencies during the 2005 election but don't have a single representative in the Commons to voice their political preferences?

More people voted Green than DUP (241856 - winning 9 seats ) or Plaid Cymru (174838 - winning 3 seats). Even the SNP who managed 412267 votes still won 6 seats.

So what about the value of Green Party votes? What about their rights to representation?

Mr. Heald - the smug, self-centred narrow tribalism of your particular democratic caricature beggars belief!

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