Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 13 April 2009

Cameron thinks current electoral system is unfair

I read in the Sunday Times yesterday that David Cameron is planning changes to the way MPs are elected if he becomes Prime Minister.

He says that the current system "under which constituencies such as the Isle of Wight have tens of thousands more voters than others such as Orkney and Shetland - 'neither fair nor efficient'."

He goes on to say: “We should start by looking at the way MPs are elected. At the moment, some seats have many more electors than others . . . it means there are more MPs than there need to be,” he said. “I believe every vote should carry the same weight, which means levelling up the size of constituencies. That would help reduce the number of MPs, save money, and give people confidence that their vote really mattered.”

Right, well I completely agree that the way MPs are currently elected is unfair. I think there are more MPs than there need to be and I absolutely agree that every vote should carry the same weight and that every vote should count. However, levelling up the size of constituencies will not achieve this. There will still be marginal seats and safe seats under this system. Does Cameron seriously think that his scheme will enfranchise a Labour voter in Kensington and Chelsea or a Tory voter in Sedgefield?

What Cameron has done is to identify the problem and then reach for a "solution" that is still grossly unfair but will have the effect of increasing the Tory representation in parliament. At the moment there is a bias in Labour's favour, but the solution cannot surely be to retain the old unfairness but just nudge it back in favour of the Tories a bit to compensate?

If David Cameron was serious about reform of the electoral system he would be looking at the sort of ideas advocated by the Electoral Reform Society and Make Votes Count. Their ideas would enfranchise everybody in the country with real reform using a system such as Single Transferable Vote.

I welcome Cameron's contribution to this debate but only in so far as it will allow us to open up the discussion to include potential reforms that will actually make everybody's vote count, not just benefit the Conservative party as his proposals would.

UPDATE1: Malcolm Clark from Make Votes Count has also posted on this today.

UPDATE2: I have now sent e-mails about this to both The Sunday Times and David Cameron himself. If I get any response from either I will post it on this blog.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Mark you are extremely unlikely to receive a formal response from either quarter, quite simply because it is not in their interests to foment any dialogue about the nature of the uniquely arcane voting system used to elect Westminster Parliament representatives.

The more debate there is about this "specialist" subject, the more the public will begin to understand the fundamentally inequitable nature of a voting system that values votes according to their geographic location.

The Conservatives have one single strategy in mind between now and May 2010. Ensuring that the electorate clearly understands they are NOT the Labour Party.

Provided the ordinary voter gets that message, loud and clear, Cameron is home and dry.

Anyway, Cameron and the Times will see the words "Liberal Democrat" on your blog and dismiss your claims as predictable LibDem posturing.

Now, you might want to scream the word "Fairness" in response but since when was politics about being fair?

Peter Davidson
Alderley Edge

Mark Thompson said...

Hi Peter.

Maybe Cameron won't respond (he hasn't yet) but in a way that's not really the point. His comments have given those of us who want real change the opportunity and platform to challenge the logic of what he is saying. If he really wants to make things fair, he needs to go much further.

I see no reason why The Sunday Times would not publish my letter. It is a response to a prominent story in their newspaper. They may not of course but I think it has as much chance as any other letter.

As for your comment about me being a Lib-Dem and this undermining my argument, well I very much hope this is not the case. I actually joined the party last year, and one of the reasons I did was because of my support for electoral reform which I have had for many years. It is actually the other way round from what you imply. And even if that wasn't the case, it shouldn't matter anyway as I am quite happy to make the argument on merit as I have done here.