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REPUBLICAN PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN
|VIRTUE FREEDOM ASPIRATION WEALTH PEACE|
|Rediscovering the Great British Republican Tradition|
REPUBLICAN PARTY NEWSLETTER
For a Civic and Constitutional Republic
Issue No 60 Friday 07 May 2010
Highlighting news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.
The election result that the voters delivered on Thursday has produced a “fine old mess”. It is difficult to see how the LibDems can form an alliance or coalition with the Conservatives as the latter are implacably opposed to the main condition of any pact with the LibDems – real progress toward "proportional representation". A pact between the LibDems and Labour would not produce a government with a majority and would lack authority in practically every sense imaginable.
The most likely immediate outcome is surely a minority Conservative government leading to another election soon – which may well deliver the same result. Before the new election the new government will have made itself highly unpopular with its austerity measures (as Mervyn King has pointed out) and these will take place against the backdrop of further financial turmoil as share prices collapse and as the euro slowly disintegrates amid clashes on the streets in Greece and elsewhere.
But Greece is only the tip of the iceberg for having bailed out the banks the sovereign debt of western nations is now becoming the major problem. The Bank of International Settlements has just reported “debt/GDP ratios [will] rise rapidly in the next decade, exceeding 300% of GDP in Japan; 200% in the United Kingdom; and 150% in Belgium, France, Ireland, Greece, Italy and the United States.” In other words financially Britain plc is heading over the abyss – along with most of the other “richest” nations of the world.
Ariana Huffington surely captured the mood of the times when she wrote this week that we seem to be living in the age of "Much Worse Than We Thought It Would Be". This is so whether you talk about the banking crisis, the Icelandic volcanic dust cloud, national debts, the Gulf of Mexico oil slick, unemployment, the state of the Afghan war or problems in the eurozone and so on. Whatever fragile new British government we have will be facing problems that are "Much Worse Than We Thought It Would Be". There is much talk of the need for stable government – but where is that going to come from?
In the newsletter of two weeks ago I put forward an alternative electoral system that would not create the problems of either first-past-the-post and proportional representation- the Kellowian “Weighted Representations” system. So what kind of result would this have produced if it had been employed in the election of this week? Weighted reps is intrinsically fairer than FPTP for every vote counts, but would it deliver any more of the desired stability?
The table below shows the results that weighted reps would deliver for the elections from 1992 including the 2010 election. It cannot be overemphasised that with weighted reps in place voting behaviour would be different because people would know in advance that their vote would affect voting power in the Commons chamber. But the results enable conclusions to be drawn nevertheless
The issue of stability depends above all on the overall majority that any one party can achieve. Under the existing system the Conservatives now have a negative majority of 19, that is, they are short of 19 seats and so this is what they will have to find from other parties to form an overall majority. With weighted reps this figure is little changed at 24 and so the position would be much the same in this respect. This accords with what seems fair for they did not after all win enough support to justify their right to govern outright alone.
Where weighted reps does make a big difference is in the inability of Labour to form a government for they would be 166 short of an overall majority as opposed to 67 on the present system. 67 is a lot but it is theoretically feasible that they could form some kind of government which is why at the time of writing Gordon Brown is still living in No 10. The figure of 166 would however make such an eventuality out of the question and so weighted reps would see the removal vans outside.
The main reason for the different between Labour’s position under FPTP and under weighted reps can be seen in the weighting figures in the right hand column. Whereas Labour has no weighting the Conservatives have 1.30 and the LibDems a huge 2.84. These figures are a reflection of the advantage that Labour has under the existing voting arrangements. It has to pole far fewer votes for every seat that it gains. The weighting counteracts this to an extent. Hence we see the difference in Labour’s position under weighted representation.
The other main effect of weighted reps is to enhance the power of the LibDems in the Commons. Whereas they have only 9% voting strength under FPTP under weighted reps they would have 19% -more than double. Few would argue that this is not justified. If they combined with Labour the pact could deliver 49% (19+30) of votes in the commons as opposed to the same total (9+40) under FPTP. However the LibDems contribution to this total would be greater. Again this only seems fair. Nevertheless the pact would under weighted reps still not deliver an overall majority.
The other main significant difference that weighted reps would produce is a far greater percentage of commons voting power for the Conservatives relative to Labour (even though their actual percentage at 47% would be unchanged). This is because again Labour is advantaged under the present system. Weighted reps give the Conservatives a weighting of 1.3 per conservative MP helping to correct the unfairness.
Thus under weighted reps there are three main differences produced
If you look at the voting strengths that the three parties have achieved this is surely a satisfactory situation. It is fairer to all, above all because it reduces Labour’s advantage returning it to the other parties.
Weighted reps naturally achieves more stability than PR would and that is the intention of it. But if the electorate has not very decisively favoured any particular party then it is only right that no party is in the ascendency in the Commons.
Above all under weighted reps the situation following the election would make one fact certain. Only the Conservatives could form a government. Their voting strength in the Commons would be 47%, that is, the same as now, but they would have more authority to do so. Labour would have none.
I would argue that the result that weighted reps delivers fully justifies it as a system that should be adopted. It would also make the immediate way out of the current situation produced by the election easier and clearer.
With weighted reps the next general election could well produce a viable result both from the point of forming a government and from the point of view of the electorate accepting the result as fair. The electorate would use their knowledge that every vote would count to deliver a more viable result.
Under the existing system the result may well be "Much Worse Than We Thought It Would Be"
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……. …….until next time