Only STV can make MPs really accountable to voters on their expenses claims and local issues, or major decisions on war and peace, the environment and the economy – indeed all issues. Only STV offers voters a genuine choice of candidates from the same and different parties, which must be essential for anyone who believes in freedom, choice and freedom of choice.
The current scandal of MPs’ expenses and allowances has triggered a popular demand for reform and some people think that proportional representation (PR) should be an important part of a reform package. PR has many advantages; it would for example:
- Produce a House of Commons that broadly mirrored the political views of voters
- Make it much harder for one party to have a majority in the House despite only a minority in the country
- Eliminate what are called “electoral deserts” of safe seats where the result is known before the election, parties do not bother to campaign properly and voters’ views are ignored – that is if they vote at all.
By forcing the parties to campaign throughout the country instead of only in marginal constituencies, PR may encourage MPs to be honest and careful with their expenses claims, but I am not convinced that PR in itself would have much effect on MPs’ expenses claims. Preliminary research has suggested there is a link between the safety of seats and the size of expenses claims, but most PR systems would not abolish safe seats.
STV, however, would have a very direct effect. Unlike other PR systems, STV would give voters real choices and abolish safe seats as it did in the 2007 Scottish Local Elections; all candidates would have to compete for election with rivals from other parties and their own. If voters felt that Joe Bloggs MP had exploited the expenses system, they could replace him with another candidate from the same party without any risk of splitting the party vote, or possibly from another party or with an independent. In practice, after using STV in several elections, voters may not need to replace sitting MPs because they would know they were going to have to compete for their own seats – and that would probably make them much more careful with their expenses in the first place. Of course, for STV to have this effect, voters would need legitimate access to MPs’ expenses claims so there would have to be complete transparency; they would have to be published in detail fairly soon after being made.
STV would also protect MPs from their party machines. By strengthening their accountability to their voters, it would encourage them to give their first loyalty to constituents and more give them more freedom from party whips if they wanted to vote against the party line.
Perhaps you already supported STV or, if you did not, I have (I hope) persuaded you to support it now, but what are you going to do about it? For a start and without even moving from your computer where you are reading this, please visit http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/voterchoice/ now and sign the petition to the PM. Next, please ask all your political acquaintances (who are probably sympathetic towards electoral reform) to sign the petition as well and then ask all your friends and relations to sign. Next I suggest you visit one or more of the sites listed in my short biography. You can join and/or obtain ideas for more campaigning. Finally, I invite you to visit www.stvaction.org.uk/stvnews and subscribe free of charge to STV News.
A former Liberal activist, Anthony Tuffin has been independent of party politics since 1988 to devote his political energy to electoral reform. He is now: