UK elected upper house speeds up

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Wilf Day
UK elected upper house speeds up
Cueball Cueball's picture

That's a shame. The plan doesn't seem to include the ritual garroting and beheading of the former lords, as part of the peace and reconciliation process.

George Victor

All of which is sure to deflect attention from any government retreating to classical economic remedies. 

Wilf Day

David Cameron used to refer to overhauling the Lords as a 'third term issue' before the election, but has been persuaded the Government should press ahead as quickly as possible.

Ministers are to unveil revolutionary plans to replace the House of Lords with a slimmed down elected 'senate' containing just 300 members.

The first elections would take place in 2015 under Coalition plans to sweep away 1,000 years of history.

Lords reform would become a bigger prize for Lib Dem members of the Coalition than next year's referendum on Commons voting reform, ministers believe.

Crucially, elections to a new senate would take place using proportional representation, the electoral system long favoured by the Lib Dems.

It is favoured far more highly by Lib Dems than the alternative vote, the subject of a referendum on reform of the electoral system for the Commons, which is due to take place next year.

Attention has focused on what the Lib Dems will do if Commons reform is rejected. But sources say that focus is quietly shifting to Lords reform as the 'glue' that will keep the Coalition together.

'If the public ends up sticking with first past the post and rejecting the alternative vote for the Commons next year, actually the arguments for an upper House elected using proportional representation grow stronger,' said one Government source.

A draft Bill setting out reform plans is expected to be unveiled early in the New Year.

All great news for electoral reformers there and in Canada.

Fair Vote Canada is opposed to the Alternative Vote, which would be a step in the wrong direction in Canada.

AV exaggerates the tendency of the current system to direct all voters into a choice between two big-tent political parties.

Looking at the Western Canadian experience over three decades, political scientist Harold Jansen concluded: "AV was associated with an increased number of parties seeking office (the number of electoral parties) but not with an increased number of parties represented in the legislature (the number of legislative parties)."

Distortions in representation exacerbate regional tensions in Canada, but AV could make them even worse. A study looking at the possible effects of a wide variety of voting systems on federal election results in 1980 and 2000 found "for almost all parties regional imbalances would have been worsened if we adopted AV even (though slightly) more than under SMP [single-member plurality, or first-past-the-post]."

In the 1997 federal election the Liberals won 38 per cent of the vote but captured 51 per cent of the seats - the phoniest majority government in Canadian history. A study of voter preferences in that election projected that the Liberals would have gained 57 per cent of the seats with the same level of support had AV been used. Why? When forced to rank parties, most voters who supported other parties ranked the Liberals second, not because they wanted Liberal representation but because they disliked other parties even more. Similar projections of the 1980 and 2000 federal elections also showed the Liberal Party gaining even larger majorities under AV than first-past-the-post.

AV is absolutely inappropriate for parliamentary elections where the objective is to give equal representation to all voters.

Democrats consider AV part of the reform package for some very limited applications. Where the objective is to choose the most popular candidate for a one-person job - for example a party leader, speaker of the legislature or president - then AV is better than first-past-the-post.

AV wouldn't even help the Liberals where they most need electoral reform: the West and Quebec.

AV would do nothing for Alberta Liberal voters or most other western Liberal voters.

Would AV help Quebec federalists? In three-way or four-way races, who can say? To quote Lord Jenkins and his Commissioners, "its effects are disturbingly unpredictable." It depends who voters want to vote against on voting day.

From the latest EKOS sample from Quebec, about 13% of Quebec Liberals would make the Bloc their second choice, no doubt to stop Harper. About 16% of Conservatives would make the Bloc their second choice, presumably because they are nationalist and/or anti-Liberal voters. About 30% of NDP voters and 38% of Green voters would make the Bloc their second choice. The Bloc would pick up more than another 11% of the vote on second choices, putting them just over 50%. And that's not counting all those Quebec voters who would make the NDP or Greens their second choice and the Bloc their third. But support for Quebec independence is nowhere near that high. These are voters who would be voting against, not voting for.

Just like the BC voters who accidentally elected a Social Credit government in the 1952 AV election when the BC Socreds were, bizarrely, led by a federal MP from Alberta, but the Liberal-Conservative Coalition had collapsed and their voters were mad at each other, looking for a "none-of-the-above" choice.

AV is the one system with potential to distort federal election results even more than first-past-the-post. AV could produce an even less representative Parliament than first-past-the-post.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

It has the added benefit of getting rid of the Lords Spiritual.  Not to mention Baroness Thatcher and the appalling Lord Carey.