The Independent View: Benefit the nation and the voters

If the Liberal Democrats get about half UKIP’s votes (8% against 14%) but about 10 times as many MPs 20 – 30 against 2 – 3), will the Liberal Democrats stand by their principals and demand electoral reform?  In particular, will they insist on the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which they have always recognized as the best voting system for voters?

The Liberal Democrats have had five years now to learn the hard way what some of us warned in 2010, based on our observations of continental Europe where coalitions are normal; the senior partner takes the credit for popular decisions and blames the junior partner for unpopular ones.

If the Liberal Democrats had got STV for this election as a condition of entering into coalition in 2010, they could now be looking at winning about 52 seats for about 8% of the vote.  Admittedly, UKIP might be expecting about 91 seats but, if that is what voters want, so be it.

The real point of electoral reform is not to benefit this or that party but to benefit the nation and the voters.

With electoral reform for this election, the SNP could expect about half the Scottish seats (30) for about half the Scottish votes instead of all the seats (59) for half the votes and not be in pole position now to hold the UK to ransom.  Please see David Green’s excellent exposition on for more on this.

The SNP also supports STV, so will they also stand by their principals and demand STV for the next General Election even though First Past The Post will have given them disproportionately large representation this time?

The Liberal Democrats and SNP are very likely to hold the balance of power between them by this weekend.  Despite their profound differences on many issues, they both profess to support STV.  With their joint balance of power, they should both insist on STV as a red-line issue for supporting either of the two “major” parties, neither of which looks like getting more than about a third of the votes.

And if neither Conservative nor Labour will agree?  Walk away and go into opposition.

Notes

STV is Liberal Democrat policy, but readers not familiar with the system can find information about it by visiting www.stvAction.org.uk.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

* Anthony Tuffin is a former Liberal Party activist, independent of party politics since 1988 to devote his political energy to electoral reform. He is Chair of Make Votes Count In West Sussex, editor of STV Action and publisher of “STV News”

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds and The Independent View.
Advert

21 Comments

  • paul barker 6th May '15 - 11:15am

    Will the Libdems continue to back PR, will the Pope remain a Catholic ?
    UKIP will not get 14%, I predict 8%.

  • matt (Bristol) 6th May '15 - 11:31am

    Parallel voting combining 2/3 FPTP 1-member constituencies with a 1/3 STV element.

    It’s not ideal, it’s not beautiful, it’s not very proportional, but it gives more menaingful choice than many people have right now and it’s a reasonable way to reconcile the nation’s attachment to FPTP with the increasing calls for more proportionality and and more representation of the minor parties, whilst fending off party-list systems that give more control to party leaderships.

  • John Barrett 6th May '15 - 11:45am

    It will be worth remembering that when the SNP claim that a Westminster Government needs a Scottish voice or MPs to be legitimate that more Scots will probably vote for parties other than the SNP despite returning fewer MPs to Parliament.

  • Stephen Hesketh 6th May '15 - 12:05pm

    paul barker6th May ’15 – 11:15am
    “Will the Libdems continue to back PR, will the Pope remain a Catholic ?”

    Spot on Paul – its like asking a Liberal Democrat if they believe in fairness. They are facets of the same keystone of our philosophy.

  • Stephen Hesketh 6th May '15 - 12:34pm

    Stephen Hesketh6th May ’15 – 12:05pm
    [paul barker6th May ’15 – 11:15am “Will the Libdems continue to back PR, will the Pope remain a Catholic ?”]

    “Spot on Paul – its like asking a Liberal Democrat if they believe in fairness. They are facets of the same keystone of our philosophy.”

    Having said that some believe an unfettered free market redistributes wealth fairly and that AV is PR 🙁

  • Alex Hosking 6th May '15 - 12:42pm

    STV is not a pure proportional system and as it is still preferential we would likely still do better in relation to our first preference vote percentage than UKIP would as we would more likely be ranked higher by voters from other parties also STV would allow for incumbency benefits.
    The SNP would probably still win over half the seats in Scotland as well due, you don’t need half the votes to get half the seats under STV especially if you’re really popular and are likely to be ranked highly by other voters.

  • @Stephen Hesketh what do you define as an unfettered free market?

  • As Vince Cable today takes a strong EU Rferendum position would he hope right wing voters would support a referendum for PR sounds like cake and eat it

  • I can’t envisage a scenario where the LibDems if offered STV would decline it.

    I disagree with your analysis that things would just pan out as current polls plugged in to an estimate suggest. If people are voting under more proportionate system then people behave differently, the world is dynamic don’t use static data to model it. UKIP would probably gain a lot of seats but many may be the people who currently electing the “odd squad” of the Tories, so the position may move between parties the MPs who will vote the same way.

    The LibDems would probably loose voters to the Tories and Labour who are voting tactically and pick up from those parties other tactical voters, the proportion is likely to remain the same.

    The other factor that has to be remembered is that smaller parties that are likely to get more seats are more inclined to get more media scrutiny, both a blessing and a curse to them. It will give more impetus for discussing unfashionable views so they don’t just “break in to the scene” when no one has been challenging them properly (immigration recently, but also to a certain extent it would have made Labour more prepared for the SNP “surge” as they would be better practiced at combatting them nationally).

    A more proportional system will give unknown outcomes, so people should stop worrying about trying to weigh up if they “win” or ”loose” as it will take an election or two before people are fully used to it and an assessment can be made as to the impact of different parties. One thing is it will likely make more parties much clearer about what they are for, not just trying to be the least offensive.

  • Stephen Hesketh

    “Having said that some believe an unfettered free market redistributes wealth fairly ”

    Which markets are you thinking are currently “unfettered free markets” I can’t think of many.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 5:15pm


    If the Liberal Democrats get about half UKIP’s votes (8% against 14%) but about 10 times as many MPs 20 – 30 against 2 – 3), will the Liberal Democrats stand by their principals and demand electoral reform?

    Why on earth not? 20-30 MPs for 8% of the vote is still well under a proportionate share. As for UKIP, the argument doesn’t change – proportional representation would always give more seats to small unpleasant parties, in the past that would have been the BNP. Democracy should not be twisted because you don’t like the results.

  • I strongly agree with Anthony Tuffin that STV must be insisted on. Other so-called PR methods do not even try for proportionality other than by political party, and they do not even do that well. I regard those other methods as only semi-proportional. Only STV is the nearest to proper proportionality that we know how to get. Unfortunately nobody has suggested a way of measuring proportioality that deals properly with what STV is trying to do, so it suffers from the fact that we cannot quote numbers to justify what we are saying, but in real life even its party proportionality turns out to be good

  • Furthermore we need to insist that only STV will do because of what happened in the last Parliament over House of Lords reform. There was a draft bill that included STV ( even though with an additional nasty fearure) but when the bill was introduced by Nick Clegg to the Commons, this had been changed to the worst form of party list method. I was consequently very pleased that it did not get through. It is that sort of backsliding that needs to be guarded against

  • @Psi – Stephen Hesketh is part of the Humpty Dumpty Tendency: “words mean what I say they mean”.

  • @Anthony Tuffin – agree.

  • Kevin Chaffey 7th May '15 - 5:22pm

    Since the Liberal Democrats believe Fianna Fail to be a suitable partner, a party that twice tried to abolish STV in the Irish Republic, no further comment is necessary.

  • Malcolm Morrison 7th May '15 - 6:43pm

    If the result of the election turns out to be as forecast by the polls, then the case for ‘electoral reform’ – including adifferent voting system (of which STV is best) – will be irrefutable. But we also need reform of party funding and, maybe, the selection of candidates (who should be truly ‘resident’ in the constituency they wish to represent).

    I would have hoped that ALL the parties would see that it is essential in this modern world of more than two parties. If we belive in true democracy, then we need a system that will reflect “the will of the people” – which STV provides.

  • John Roffey 7th May '15 - 7:00pm

    Malcolm Morrison 7th May ’15 – 6:43pm

    “then the case for ‘electoral reform’ – including adifferent voting system (of which STV is best) – will be irrefutable”

    The problem is that those who benefit from the existing system [the main parties] are unlikely to make any changes.

    For the L/Ds to make this change they are going to have to become an extremely popular party to get the necessary support – which means adopting popular policies [which does not include STV}!

  • Malcolm Morrison

    “who should be truly ‘resident’ in the constituency they wish to represent”

    Why? Why can’t constituents decide who represents them?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter 3rd Jun - 7:46pm
    @Daniel - Levelised costs do not contain the cost of running a back up system. With respect, you paint a rosy picture about generating from...
  • User AvatarPaul Barker 3rd Jun - 7:31pm
    The term Banana Republic originally referred to Latin America with its Banana plantations & seemingly endless cycles of Revolution & Dictatorship. So Colonial but not...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 3rd Jun - 7:24pm
    John 2nd Jun '20 - 5:47pm Which Henry Ford?
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 3rd Jun - 7:23pm
    John 2nd Jun '20 - 5:47pm Sir Keir Starmer has his own timeline, to root out anti-Semitism. Have a look at Paddy Ashdown's memoirs, photos...
  • User AvatarPaul Barker 3rd Jun - 7:18pm
    I have not had the email, how do I get it ?
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 3rd Jun - 7:14pm
    Laurence Cox 31st May '20 - 6:44pm "events , dear boy, events."