A strong case to demolish FPTP


downloadOn Monday the House of Commons debated Proportional Representation, as a result of a petition which I signed and which was started by a fellow Sussex resident, Tim Ivorson who lives in the Crawley area, whose MP, Henry Smith spoke in the debate. In my view Henry made a very strong case for PR even though he did not intend to. However just to recap, Sussex as a ‘community’ consists of many towns, villages and even a couple of Cities. The current geography of the 16 constituencies that cover the area makes a lot of sense in some parts of Sussex and absolutely no sense in others. For MPs to argue as Henry does that an MP should be identifiable with their constituency, becomes a rather strange argument when the coherence of the constituency is modest or even non existent. The area covered by the constituency of Lewes and parts of the Lewes District Council are so diverse, both geographically and socially that there is no real sense of coherence between Peacehaven and Lewes town centre. The same is true between Seaford and Peacehaven and Seaford and Lewes. Some residents of Seaford may feel that Lewes is a better focus than Eastbourne, and some in Peacehaven may feel that Lewes is a better focus than Brighton, but these views will be countered by other residents. The current arrangement for Sussex residents is of the 16 MPs representing around 1.5m people 12 are Tories, two are Labour, one is Green and one is Lib Dem.  If some form of mathematics is applied to the way people voted, the Tories are only reflecting 50% of the popular vote, yet have control of 75% of the constituencies, whereas Labour gained 30% of the vote and have a mere 12% of the seats. The Greens have gained a commensurate number of seats for their votes, but the Lib Dems would have doubled their seats if PR was applied in some way. Any way back to Henry:

“I am not necessarily against proportional representation in all forms. ….One of the great things about the constituency link is that ….. the local parties can decide the candidates and increasingly they are local residents, although there are exceptions of people being given preference by the central party.”

For me the problem lies here, that in effect the Parties determine who will be the elected MP because our system is a party dominated system, rather than based on the candidates.

“Under a proportional representation system with party lists, the party leaderships decide who goes on the lists and who is at the top, and therefore who gets elected to the assembly in question. That does not make for good representative governance.”

Of course this can be the case in large areas such as the European Regions, but if taken across 2-3 constituencies, the reality would be similar to the current arrangements.

“I believe in reform, as I said earlier, and constitutional evolution. One of this country’s greatest strengths has been its ability over centuries to evolve its political systems. I favour a House of Lords that is directly elected by proportional representation, because a revising Chamber would do well to reflect the broad proportional position in this country. Individuals would not necessarily represent small constituencies under such a system, but having a constituency link in the House of Commons and a broader political reflection of the way the country voted in the revising Chamber—the House of Lords or, if it were renamed, the second Chamber—would perhaps go some way towards getting the best of both worlds.”

For me this argument applied well to both the Commons and the Lords would give more opportunity for none party candidates to be elected and also ensure that across an area such as Sussex, that more votes would have an impact on who was elected. So in principle I agree with Henry that we need PR.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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