Wednesday, 10 June 2009

How to sell electoral reform - ditch proportionality!

As per, events seems to have overtaken me again although looks like it may be a typical Brown fudge.

Anyway, onto selling electoral reform. Firstly, don't call is "Electoral Reform"! It sounds incredibly dull (hell, it can be to which anyone who has sat next to me at a dinner party can attest!) I'm asleep already just at the mention of it. We need a better name, "voting reform" is all I can come up with. Any better ideas? Okay we'll stick with "voting reform" for the minute. At least it does what it says on the tin.

Secondly, proportionality. Just ditch it! Forget about it never mention it again (much). Ignore it. Really!

Whilst we all know that pluralism and working together is a good thing, most people will be persuaded by the argument that it will be a political fix.

Also, arguing for proportionality opens us to accusations of self interest which will, I'd argue, play quite well to discredit our "independent" credentials.

Making proportionality the headline opens us up to, in the minds of the public, powerful counterarguments (or smears!). Look out for a slew of further shallow articles on the danger of weak governments.

I actually don't think proportionality is the important thing. Being able without to vote for who you think is best free form tactical concerns is a far more important aspect.

Yes, we all want STV (we all do don't we?) and we know it's "more proportional" (hmm maybe also replace the word "proportional" with "reflective of/responsive to the voter's wishes"?) but we really can't hope to sell it on this point.

Proportionality just stinks of deals in smoke-filled rooms and party control and taking away power from the people (the less said about the Euro closed list system the better!). Actually lets say something about the Euro closed list system. Most people will understand proportional representation as being exactly that, a horrible closed list system that exists to support party control. One reason is that that's all they're used to (in England) but secondly, we can go on about the maths of transfers to we're blue in the face but it's not straightforward and to your average person the only way you can acheive proportionality is by using a party list at a high level (regional or national).

Proportionality will always be seen as a mathematical fix out of the hands of the voters.

I think they are two arguments and two arguments alone that we should use.

1. The voter should be able to vote for who they want without considerations of tactical voting and it should be easier for (popular!) independents to break through ("Safe seats are sleazy seats") - The FPTP -> AV argument

2. The voter should have intraparty choice so they can still vote Conservative (say) without having to vote for the one with the duck house - The AV -> STV argument.

Yes, you might then mention that STV is also then more representative of voters opinions but don't say proportional!

I would also argue that arugment 1 is a damn sight more straightforward to make than argument 2 (and needs to be won first). You can see were I'm going here...

Yes, of course I want STV and I take aboard Mark's argument that people only have one voting reform in them (and it would be great to do it all in one and obviously we should aim for that) but I agree with Jock Coats that we could and should put up with AV for an election as a staging post.

I am under no illusions (and nor is anyone else) that once Camron is in for the next decade (pessimistic moi?) all talk of reform will be thrown out the window and the status quo will then persist so I think we need to get something in that he can't undo and I just don't think we can win the argument for STV in the time left with the politicians or, more importantly, the public. If there is a chance of locking AV in (which has important benefits for the voters even though it is most definitely not proportional) we should grab it with both hands.

It seems the party is also waiting to see which way the wind is blowing.

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