14 May 2010

U.K. election result disappointing for fair vote supporters

Proponents of a fair voting system for Canada can hardly be encouraged about the results of the recent election in the U.K. The new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition hasn't committed itself to much despite all the pre-election hype about proportional representation. All the two parties have agreed to is a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) system. The possibility of a successful referendum is probably better in Great Britain than it is here because voting reform is actually a relatively high priority among the British electorate; however, even if successful the result would be only a modest improvement. About all you can say for AV is that it's better than first-past-the-post and that isn't saying much -- almost anything is.

In this election, for example, under AV the Liberal Democrats would have increased their seats to 79 from 57, still well short of the 150 their share of the popular vote entitled them to. The Conservatives would have seen their seats drop from 307 to 281, still considerably more than the 246 they deserved. Labour's position would have changed little even though they earned 30 more seats than they received. And, of particular importance to Canadians, significant regional imbalances would still have remained between the parties. AV offers little to us.

Some of the other reforms promised have merit. Fixed-term Parliaments will better balance the parties' chances. Fewer MPs should make Parliament more manageable and reform of political donations and party funding is overdue. Statutory registration of lobbyists is an obvious improvement. And proportional representation was not entirely overlooked: a committee will consider fully proportional representation for an elected House of Lords, although again, the commitment is only to consider, not to actually change anything.

So the reforms should improve the British system overall, but proportional representation is nowhere in sight for the Commons. A disappointing outcome for fair vote supporters on this side of the pond. One consolation, I suppose, is that Canadians may at least realize now that coalitions are a legitimate and appropriate mechanism in a democracy.

1 comment:

  1. Electoral reformers here in Canada are going to have to grasp that right now, PR voting systems are not in favor here. 3 recent lopsided referendum rejections should be the indicator.

    Yes, AV/IRV is more incremental change, and yes, it isn't really proportional but it is still better then FPTP, and it's probably the best system with the best chance of passing here in Canada at the present.