Roads for votes!

David Cameron was accused yesterday of proposing relief roads for marginal constituencies to attract votes in next year’s General Election.

It’s rather like the old story that marginal constituencies, especially those served by the Central Wales Line, were spared the Beeching cuts of railway lines in the 1960s for political reasons.

Either relief roads are needed and are financially justifiable or they are not, regardless of whether the constituencies are marginal. Either a railway line is viable or it is not, regardless of whether it runs through marginal constituencies.

If the Prime Minister is deliberately selecting marginal constituencies to help, it is wrong of him. If he is not, it is wrong for his opponents unjustifiably to accuse him of a kind of bribery.

Such decisions should not be made for party political interest and should be seen not to be made for party political interest.

The underlying problem is the First Past The Post voting system, which creates safe and marginal seats. Politicians feel they have to concentrate on the marginals so they tend to ignore the safe ones.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) would change this.

With STV, every constituency would be larger than it is now and a handful of switched votes would be less likely to make a dramatic difference to the election result than it can now in marginal constituencies.

In many STV constituencies, at least one of the seats would be marginal. If the Labour and Conservative parties both knew that the Conservatives could win seats in any part of Scotland and the North of England and Labour could win seats in any part of the South of England, they would be unable to ignore millions of people in those areas. Picking out a few areas for special attention would become less politically profitable.

With STV, politicians and political parties would have to work everywhere for support instead of taking many parts of the country for granted. They would not be able to win elections by building a few relief roads or saving a few railway lines in politically sensitive areas. They would have to listen to all voters everywhere.

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