Friday, 14 May 2010

Undemocratic

The Conservative wing of Britain's coalition is proposing a reduction in the number of seats in parliament, from 650 to 585, a cut of 10% (1). This is serious electoral manipulation, must more anti-democratic that the silly but rather irrelevant move to require a 55% vote for parliament to dissolve itself (2). The latter has caused more excitement, as it seems new and sinister. but reducing the number of MPs is far more serious, and will have a deadening effect on democracy.

Fewer MPs representing bigger constituencies is inherently undemocratic, as it makes them less accountable and more remote. Very much not the sort of thing you want when you are trying to encourage people to re-engage with politics.

I don't like bigger constituencies on principle, and I'm very wary of any electoral tinkering that doesn't include the introduction of proportional representation. It's just one side or the other gerrymandering.

Fewer MPs representing bigger constituencies is inherently undemocratic, as it makes them less accountable and more remote. Very much not the sort of thing you want when you are trying to encourage people to re-engage with politics.

It makes the MPs less representative, and strengthens the hold of the main parties, as minority/independent voices will get obscured by the Labour-Tory bland. Unless, of course, it is accompanied by Single transferable Vote, which is based on large constituencies each electing multiple MPs.

If anything, I see large constituencies effectively countering the introduction of Alternative vote - because there will be so many '2nd choice Tories' or '2nd choice Labour' votes that it will be almost impossible for other candidates to get elected.

Reducing the number of MPs is going to entrench the Conservative-Labour duopoly. I suspect it will more than counter the effect of Alternative Vote. A very bad thing, and I can't believe the Lib Dems signed up for it. Talk about shooting themselves in the foot.

reducing the number of MPs is written into their coalition agreement, however:
The parties will bring forward a referendum bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the alternative vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. (3)
Looks like the Lib Dem turkeys will be voting for Christmas.
1 - "Conservatives plan cut in seats to reduce Labour advantage," by Patrick Wintour. Published in the Guardian, 13th of May, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/13/conservatives-voting-system-fewer-seats)
2 - "The 55% trick: protecting you from democracy," by Vikram Dodd. Published in the Guardian, 13th of May, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/may/13/55-per-cent-coalition-rule)
3 - "Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition deal: full text," authors unknown. Published by The Guardian, 12th of May, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/12/lib-dem-tory-deal-coalition)

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