Electoral reform

My new voting system would divide Britain into fourteen regions, each with forty constituencies. Each constituency would elect one member of parliament, the one with the largest number of votes. Then all the votes of the region for each party would be added together, and ten additional seats in the Commons would be allocated, to make the proportion of members for each party in the region most closely resemble the proportion of votes. The candidates who got most votes would be given these additional seats.

An example. The Conservatives are strongest in rural constituencies, the Labour party in urban constituencies, and the Liberal vote is more evenly spread. Suppose the Conservatives with 35% of the vote came first in 18 constituencies, and the Labour party with 45% of the vote came first in 20, the Liberals with 17.5% of the vote came first in two, and the British National Party with 2.5% of the vote came first in none. Ten additional seats would make the membership of the Commons most closely resemble the proportion of voters for each party. The BNP with 2.5% get one MP, the one of their candidates who got most votes in her own constituency. The Liberals, with 17.5% of the vote, have 4% of the seats. They get seven of the additional members, to make up their proportion of members to their proportion of votes. The Conservatives have 35% of the vote, and 36% of the members. The Labour party have 45% of the vote, and 40% of the members. The Labour party get the other two additional members.

I chose forty constituencies and ten additional members simply to illustrate the system. Within this pattern, the number of constituencies and the number of additional members can be varied. Scotland would be one region, because of its national identity. Yorkshire has a strong regional identity. London, the vast urban sprawl, would be another.

The membership of the Commons would be proportionate to the votes of the country. Coalition government would be the norm, but then the Labour party is a coalition, with voters, members and MPs having widely differing views. There would be no tactical voting: a Labour voter in a strongly Tory constituency could know his vote would count. There would still be protest voting- a Conservative sick of his party but unwilling to vote Labour could vote Liberal.

That brings out the main difference from the Alternative Vote, on which we had a referendum last year. There, in a single member constituency a voter would list the candidates in order of preference. If one candidate got 50%  of the votes, she would be elected. If not, the candidate with the least votes would have his second preference votes allocated between the other candidates. This would be repeated until one candidate had more than 50% of the votes.

The AV system as proposed would strongly favour the Liberals, as Conservative or Labour voters are far more likely to give their second vote to the Liberals than to the other main party. It would not, necessarily, make the membership of the Commons more proportionate.

My system, (not entirely original) would preserve the link between member and constituency, but also allow a Labour voter in a Conservative constituency to have a Labour MP, and complain to that MP. Purely regional lists give too much power to central party organisations: here, local members would select their candidate, and the second-placed candidates with the most votes would be elected. Independents could still stand, but have a better chance of being elected if they formed party alliances with candidates in nearby constituencies.

My system also illustrates that a very important question in voting system design is, one vote or more than one? More than one favours centre parties, and would particularly punish the Conservatives in Scotland, where the ruling Scottish National Party is on the Left, and few second preference votes would be Conservative.

After the Referendum defeated AV, voting reform is not a current issue, but I have enjoyed thinking through implications and criticisms, and tweaks to address shortcomings; and a different writing challenge. My pictures illustrate my belief that no-one can rule without the acquiescence of the people (influenced by persons of influence) and that unless the people are broken-spirited and starving, that means the consent of the people. It is far less painful with democracy.

What criteria are most important in designing a voting system?

Rugby patriotism

A Scotsman on the ground in the mud. Where he should be.


It is always pleasing when the result goes so massively contrary to form, especially when it goes your way. With a try in the last minute! (Sporting language is always confusing. A “try” is a “success”.)


Unfortunately the facts got in the way of a good story. It was a penalty. And when I thought it was contrary to form- first win in Australia since 1982- it means retaining the Hopetoun Cup, as the last Test match at Murrayfield was also a win for Scotland. Unexpected but not incredible.

In Scotland and England, and around the World, football is more popular. Football, occasionally called “Association football” from the Football Association (of England), and therefore, occasionally, “Soccer”. In Wales, Rugby is more important, and they are fiercely patriotic about it.

I am Scots, and I am English: I am both, none of this half and half nonsense. The only time I am solely Scots is when Scotland is playing England at whatever. My fellow Scots and the Welsh disappoint me: many will want whoever is playing England to win. It feels to me like a perception of inferiority. We Scots think of the English all the time. They think of us occasionally.

Oddly enough, Swanston has a devoted group of rugby fans who could not care less about football, and I asked some about how they felt about the home nations. They do not care whether Scotland or Wales wins or loses, unless it affects England’s chances or final position in a competition. I thought that mean-spirited, I would have hoped that English rugby fans would have fellow-feeling for Scotland and Wales. It is indifference, though, rather than hostility.

On 9 June, Australia beat Wales 21-18.