Getting a representative you voted for

56% of voters at last month’s General Election are represented by MPs they voted for. That could have been much worse, but the figure is as high as it is probably because of tactical voting so, although many voters are represented by the Labour MP they voted for, they would have preferred a Lib Dem MP or vice versa.

Even the worst form of STV (2-member constituencies) would have been much better in this respect. Although it would not have been very proportional, it would have been more proportional than FPTP and 67% of voters would have voted for winners. To put it another way, 67% (not 56%) of voters would be represented by MPs for whom they voted.

With STV in 3-member constituencies (which would be quite proportional), the figure would rise to 75%.

With STV in 4-member constituencies (which would be more proportional), the figure would be 80% while, with STV in 5-member constituencies (which would be adequately proportional and is about the constituency size the ERS recommends), the figure would be 83%.

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Votes and seats

There are some interesting facts about the 2015 General Election in an excellent report on Parliament’s own website, and I’m sorry I’ve only just discovered them when the coming 2017 election is about to make them out of date. But the information will still be valid; e.g. the comparison in Chart 3 between shares of votes and seats. I tried to copy that chart to this site but was unable to do so.
One aspect of Chart 3 that interested me especially was a comparison between the SNP and Liberal Democrats. Most commentators saw the election as a disaster for the Lib Dems and a triumph for the SNP. However, although that’s true in terms of seats and it’s true that the Lib Dem vote went down and the SNP vote went up, both considerably, the Lib Dems had far more votes than the SNP.
Nevertheless, First Past The Post voting almost wiped the Lib Dems out but rewarded the SNP with nearly all the seats in Scotland.
To be fair to the SNP and to its credit, it’s the only party that would lose by electoral reform that supports it; it supports STV.
A particular merit of the site is that, being parliament’s own, it is official. It is worth quoting from it and opponents will find it harder to argue with its facts than they would with information purely from us.
I’ll look out for similar information about the 2017 election and try to publish it well before the subsequent election.

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To transform unjust structures of society

The following letter appeared in last Friday’s “Church Times”, but should be of interest to people of all faiths and none if they believe in democracy.

It was written by Colin Buchanan, retired Bishop and former President of the Electoral Reform Society.

“The Church of England customarily does not instruct people how to vote, does not support any one political party, and rarely condemns the policy of any party. So our leaders urge us to know what the parties’ policies are, to make up our minds responsibly, and then to vote in accord with our consciences. The House of Bishops in 2015 classically advised us thus. And, local Churches, often ecumenically, provide hustings; we are indeed responsible democrats.

“I submit this is but motherhood and apple pie. The fourth of our five ‘Marks of Mission’ reads ‘To seek to transform unjust structures of society’. And, bluntly, we currently elect by a very unjust structure indeed. Two years ago 36.9% of the voters gave David Cameron an overall majority, conferring on him total sovereign power. Theresa May bids fair to repeat this. And when a government unwanted by 63% of the voters has gained power, it claims a ‘mandate’ to fulfil its manifesto.

“But cannot voters change their minds, and non-voters be persuaded to register and vote? Yes, but they are unlikely to make any difference. In 2015 three smaller political parties gained almost 25% of the votes between them and won 10 seats out of 650. Voting for them was largely a waste of votes. And voting for either of the two leading parties in the 300 or more ‘safe’ seats also has no effect. Our exhortations to get out and vote responsibly are dangerously near to deceit.

“People in glass houses should not throw stones. But the Church of England does not here occupy a glass house; we use the fairest system of voting known – the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies. It is also in use in Northern Ireland and in Scottish local council elections, and it not only produces true proportions in the governing bodies, but it also enables voters to choose between individuals as well as parties and their votes will not be wasted. Sadly, our own use of it is not well advertised – we are in the unusual position of practising but not preaching.

“My opposition to the present unjust system does not run to boycotting it. But surely those urging responsible voting could qualify their advocacy by saying ‘Yes, it is an unjust system; we need to change it; but don’t let that stop you voting.’ And the protest should continue.”

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Those of Faith Should Think about Voting Reform

This is a guest Post by David Smith

Christians try to engage with government over a number of public issues, but must often be frustrated by dumb government decisions.

On its website the Joint Public Issues Team (formed by several non established Christian churches) has posted a document entitled, “Faith in Politics: Preparing Churches for The General Election 2015”

In the section ‘Constitution and Democracy’, there is one significant omission, namely any mention of reform of the House of Commons or the way in which MPs are elected. I find this odd as it is the dominant chamber and is the body that gives the Prime Minister her enormous power. The authors appear to have assumed that now most MPs have adopted the ‘settled view’ that the existing First Past the Post ,(FPTP) voting system be retained, reform was off the agenda. I argue that this is too timid a view. Of course the document was written before an election in which the relative numbers of MPs from each party elected differed widely from the relative numbers of votes cast, but it could do with updating in view of renewed interest in voting reform. A Conservative government was elected with just 37% of the vote or just under 25% of those who could have voted. But it is not just that most of us did not want them, but also that under FPTP party loyalty ensures that there is virtually no check on the Prime Minister’s power.

As Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Under our system the temptations are almost irresistible. The effects on the quality of government are:

  • Those in power make stupid mistakes through not looking at the evidence,

  • They use their position to benefit themselves, their friends, or their donors, and

  • They bend the truth to avoid disclosing bad news on the grounds that they are the best people to run the country and thus must on to power.

The best remedy is not to try to identify and punish the transgressors but to lessen the temptations. I think this something that Christians and those of other faiths should argue for. I believe that the adoption of the Single Transferable Vote system for electing MPs would help in this. This is the system that the Church of England has used in its synod elections some the 1920s. In a booklet entitled ‘An Ethical Case for Electoral Reform: A Christian Approach’, retired bishop Colin Buchanan expresses the wish that the C of E ‘preach what it practises’. I have written to Lambeth Palace suggesting that at least parishes be encouraged to discuss the matter but nothing has resulted from this. Perhaps the non established churches can afford to be braver.

I believe those of faith need to take a lead because most of those currently interested in politics have allegiance to some political party which gets in the way of radical thinking about reform. Polls indicate that most people support a fairer voting system but need motivating to do something about it.

For more information on voting reform refer to:

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Not what it says on the tin

What a year 2016 was politically!

There are three things on which almost all ardent EU Leavers and Remainers probably agree:

 The UK’s relationship with the EU is the most important political issue of the day.
 The debate was far from civilized.
 The referendum was highly divisive and many people were going to be very disappointed whichever way it went.

We live in what’s known as a “representative democracy” in which MPs are supposed to make important decisions for us.

If MPs had taken this decision, the debate would have been far more civilized under the control of the Speaker, lies and exaggerations could have been challenged immediately and the press would have had less influence. Also 650 MPs, unlike the general public, would have had the background knowledge and research support to help them decide.

Moreover a parliamentary debate, unlike a referendum could have been far more flexible. Instead of just choosing between remaining and leaving as the public had to, MPs should have been able to propose, debate, and vote on amendments. They could have considered all shades of opinion, such as whether we should leave the EU but remain in the Single Market or stay in the EU and negotiate for changes.

We pay MPs to take decisions for us, so why couldn’t they take this biggest one of all for us? Elected by First Past The Post (FPTP), they are unrepresentative of us. In other words, our so-called “representative democracy” is not representative. It fails the most basic test. It’s not what it says on the tin.

Had they been elected by any proportionate system, MPs would have been more representative of party support but, unless they had been elected by Single Transferable Vote (STV), they would still have been unrepresentative of the public’s views on EU membership.

MPs elected by STV could have represented not only the parties properly and fairly but also any other groupings that mattered to voters. The UK’s relationship with the EU does matter to many voters. STV’s representation of non-party groupings is explained briefly in and you can click on “Contact us” or “Contact the Editor” if you have any questions.

Would the decision have been different if it had been made by democratically elected MPs? We’ll never know but, even if it had still been to leave the EU, it would have been a more measured decision; it would have taken more account of the many shades of opinion between remaining in the EU as it is and leaving the EU completely including the single market and all the other EU institutions. We believe that whatever the MPs’ decision was, it would have been more acceptable to the losers than any referendum decision could be.

To summarize, MPs elected by STV could have done what MPs are paid to do – take a very difficult decision in an informed manner.

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Reform in the USA

Maine became the first state in the USA yesterday to adopt ranked-choice voting (known as Alternative Vote (AV) in the UK) for gubernatorial, congressional and legislative elections. It is also sometimes called “Instant Runoff Voting” (IRV).

Although not proportional, it ensures that the winner has the support of at least half of those who have voted and expressed enough choices. It is very good for filling single offices like Presidents, Governors, Mayors, Police Commissioners and Chairpersons.

Only two of Maine’s Governors since 1974 have received more than half the votes in FPTP elections.

There are some legal questions to be answered before it becomes law, but it is a significant step in the right direction.

Please look at if you would like to know more about this.

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Boundary changes are sticking plaster solution

You can comment in your own words on the Boundaries Commissions’ proposals by pointing out that changing the boundaries of single-member constituencies for FPTP elections is only tinkering with the problem; it’s a short-term sticking plaster solution. For this kind of comment, it’s probably better to make a “general comment” although you can make specific comments (e.g. on your own constituency) if you wish.

One of the advantages claimed for FPTP is the alleged link between MP and constituents, but it’s not much of a link when constituents are shipped arbitrarily from one constituency to another just to make the numbers right. This can happen every few years.

The Commissions have to produce constituencies that are similar in numbers of voters. They are also expected to try to keep natural communities together (e.g. not cross county or district council boundaries) but that’s impossible if the constituencies are to be about equal in size, so they do sometimes split communuities.

The only long-term solution is to introduce proportional representation, where boundaries are less crucial. With STV, for example, about five of the present single-member constituencies could be merged into one five-member constituency.

That could be one recognized community, like a town or county. Then that constituency and the nation as a whole would be represented in Parliament in proportion to the votes cast.

The Boundaries Commission for England has published its proposals and you have until 5 December to comment on them.

The Commission is holding hearings around England, where you can appear in person, but you need to book your 10-minute slot in advance. You should visit to do that.

In addition or alternatively, you can express your views online and is the site to visit for that.

You may find it helpful to read “Review details” on the site before you comment but don’t let them put you off. The Commission’s purpose and powers are very closely regulated by the conditions established by Parliament, so it will probably ignore the kind of comments suggested above.

Nevertheless, every comment made online or at a hearing will be recorded and be on record for the public and news media to see. Imagine the impact if thousands of people call for PR!

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own Boundaries Commissions and will be consulting the public in their own areas on their proposals. If you live in any of them, you can search for your own Boundaries Commission’s proposals and how to comment on them.

Please post your comment or book your slot to comment in person. Please do it now – before you forget!

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Electing a Representative [Federal] Parliament

Canada is reviewing the FPTP voting system it currently uses. Here is a copy of James Gilmour’s excellent evidence of 6 October to the Canadian Parliament’s all-party Special Committee on Electoral Reform that is taking evidence on voting systems:

“For any representative democracy to function properly in the best interests of its citizens, the representative assembly those citizens elect must be properly representative of those who vote in the relevant elections. Canada is a representative democracy but, sadly, its various representative assemblies (Federal Parliament, Provincial Parliaments) have not been properly representative of those who voted in most of the federal and provincial elections.

“The root of this problem lies in the current voting system used to elect the assemblies: the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) voting system in single-member ridings. Over many years the results of elections in Canada, at federal and provincial level, have provided glaring examples of the distortions and instabilities that are the hallmarks of FPTP wherever it is used. At most elections FPTP manufactures false majorities, usually by giving an overall majority of the seats in the Parliament to a party that had only minority support among the voters. Sometimes FPTP gives this false majority to the ‘wrong’ party, i.e. not to the party that won the most votes, but to a party with even less support among the voters.

“It is less obvious, but at every one of these elections about half of those who voted were left with no representation in the legislature. Sometimes it is more than half, sometimes less than half, but with FPTP it always around one-half. The assemblies were not properly representative of those who voted. None of this should be acceptable in a modern representative democracy. We do know how to do better.

“If your aim is to the elect a properly representative Legislature, you must use a system of Proportional Representation (PR). There are many systems of PR, but in reality you have only one very simple choice. Is your aim to secure proportional representation of registered political parties or is your aim to secure proportional representation of the voters? Do you wish to entrench the power of the political parties or do you wish to empower the voters? This is a very simple choice, but it has far-reaching consequences for the representation of the citizens of Canada and for politics in the Federal Legislature.

“If you want only to secure PR of registered political parties, there is wide range of party PR voting systems available. Although they differ in detail, all these party PR voting systems have one common objective: to secure PR of political parties. Some of these systems offer the voter some choice among the candidates nominated by one party, but that choice is restricted. One serious consequence is that only by chance will most of these systems give proportional representation within the parties. It is common experience that the diversity of views within parties can be as important politically as the diversity of views among parties.

“If you want to secure PR of the views of the voters and make the Federal Parliament properly representative of those who vote in federal elections, you have only one choice – to use the Single Transferable Vote system of Proportional Representation (STV-PR), also known as “Choice Voting”. STV-PR is uniquely different from all other systems of PR: its objective is to secure PR of the views of the voters, i.e. to make the elected assembly properly representative.

“PR of the political parties will be the outcome of an STV election when that is what the voters want, but “party PR” alone is never the objective of STV. Unlike the party PR voting systems, STV is centred on the voters and the candidates. In contrast, party PR voting systems are centred on the registered parties. This difference determines the fundamental balance of power within the political system. Some political parties and some established politicians do not want to see STV-PR introduced, but that is because they do not want the balance of power shifted from the parties in favour of the voters. Those politicians do not want the representative assembly to be properly representative of the voters.

“To secure proportional representation you must elect together several members from within the same riding (= constituency, = electoral district), i.e. you must use multi-member ridings. The numbers of members elected together (“district magnitude”) will determine the degree of proportionality obtained. This applies to all PR voting systems, but all too often commentators confuse the effects of district magnitude with the effects of different PR voting systems. With the same district magnitude, all PR systems will give similar results in terms of the degree of PR obtained.

“The greater the number of members elected together, the greater will be the proportionality of the result. There is, however, an important trade-off between proportionality of representation and localness of representation. At one extreme, all MPs could be elected from province-wide constituencies. But that is neither desirable nor necessary. Completely acceptable proportionality can be obtained from much smaller ridings. For example, the 108 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are elected by STV-PR from 18 constituencies, each of which returns six members. A very satisfactory degree of proportionality is obtained and each part of the Province elects its own local representatives who reflect the diversity of views within the local electorate.

“Where the density of population varies quite markedly within a country or province, STV-PR can be implemented more flexibly to reflect local conditions and to respect the boundaries of existing “natural” communities. There is sometimes an obsession with equalising all the variables that can be varied when devising a multi-member scheme for STV-PR, including the numbers of elected members per riding and the numbers of electors per elected member. But there is more to equality of representation than equalising these numbers. In any case, variations in turn-out in the elections will make nonsense of the extreme effort often put into the quest for such equalness. In Northern Ireland turnouts in STV elections have varied by 25% between constituencies and there is a strong correlation between party support and turnout. It is thus pointless putting all the emphasis on equalness of numbers when devising the scheme of multi-member constituencies.

“Whenever there is a proposal to change from FPTP with single-member ridings to a PR voting system with multi-member ridings, great play is made of the link between the elected member and the electorate within the single-member riding. It is said that introducing multi-member ridings will break this vital link. Be aware that many who advance this argument are, in reality, just opponents of reform who fear they and their party will lose out if local voters are represented fairly.

“Surveys at all levels of government have repeatedly shown that the alleged link between the elected member and the electorate of a geographically defined single-member riding is much weaker than many elected members would wish us to believe. In contrast, the introduction of STV-PR would strengthen the link between the elected members and their local electorates.

“This may seem a paradox: how could the change to multi-member ridings possibly strengthen the local link? But it is a fact, as politicians elected by STVPR in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland will testify. It comes about because of the power that STV uniquely gives to the voters to choose their representatives. With STV-PR each elected member is elected because he or she obtained the support of a personal ‘constituency’ of voters. Those voters voted that member in and they can just as easily vote that member out at the next election without having to vote against their preferred party. That greatly increases the accountability of the elected members to their local electorates. By empowering the voters in this way, STV-PR creates stronger local links than exist within geographically defined single-member ridings.

“Even though the alleged benefits of the ‘single member link’ are usually exaggerated for political ends, the creation of larger, multi-member ridings is an issue of real concern, especially in those rural areas where the population density is lowest. This is a particular issue in relation to Federal Parliament elections in Canada where the number of MPs per Province or Territory varies from 1 to 121. It should be quite easy to see how the larger Provinces could be divided into multi-member ridings of sizes appropriate to provide fair representation of the voters (proportionality) and ensure local representation while respecting the boundaries of recognised communities within each Province. At the other extreme, there is no need at all to amalgamate any of the Territories presently electing only one MP to the Federal Parliament. STV can be applied equally well in both situations. Of course, by electing only one MP from the riding it will not be possible to achieve “proportional representation” within that riding, but in such circumstances other aspects of proper representation of the local voters are more important and should be respected. The effect on the overall proportionality within the Federal Parliament will be small.

“Although it is beyond the remit of the Special Committee, it should be noted that the recommendations and comments above apply equally to elections to the several Provincial Parliaments in Canada. STV-PR could be applied to all of these elections. STV-PR also has the unique feature among PR voting systems that it can used in non-partisan elections, i.e. in elections where the candidates are not nominated by registered political parties but are independent or are nominated by local community groups. STV-PR would thus be ideal for city council and town council elections where these are non-partisan. There would be considerable merit in moving towards a voting system that could be used easily and effectively for public elections at all levels of governance.

“The Special Committee’s mandate set out five principles on which any proposal for electoral reform should be based. The adoption of STV-PR would score very highly in respect of all five principles.

“1. STV-PR would enhance the effectiveness and legitimacy of federal elections because the democratic will of Canadians, as expressed by their votes, would be fairly translated into representation in the Federal Parliament. STV-PR would reduce distortion and strengthen the link between voter intention and the election of representatives. These dramatic changes should increase the public confidence of Canadians in both the electoral process and their political representation.

“2. STV-PR would encourage voting and participation in the democratic process because the overwhelming majority of voters would then be represented in the Federal Parliament by an MP of their choice and would see that their votes would count. These changes would provide powerful incentives for more electors to vote. STV-PR promotes a collaborative approach both within and among political groups while respecting their diversity. STV-PR would certainly remove many of the present barriers to the inclusion of groups that are currently underrepresented in the political process. A properly implemented STV-PR scheme would ensure the effective representation of all significant points of view within the electorate.

“3. STV-PR is an accessible and inclusive voting system which is not at all complex from the voter’s point of view. The voter simply marks the ballot paper “1”, “2”, “3”, etc to indicate his or her personal choices among the candidates who have offered themselves for election to represent the voter’s riding. The voter can mark as many or as few choices as she or he wishes. Practical experience of STV-PR in public elections has shown that it is accessible by eligible voters with recognised disabilities e.g. those who are partially sighted or blind.

“4. STV-PR can be implemented to ensure reliable and verifiable results are obtained through an effective and objective process that would be secure and would preserve vote secrecy for individual Canadians. Practical experience of STV-PR in public elections has shown that all of these objectives can be achieved both when the votes are counted manually (as in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland) and when the votes are counted in a computerised system (as in Scotland). In all three of these implementations the original paper ballot papers, as marked by each voter, are available and retained for inspection and verification.

“5. STV-PR would greatly enhance the accountability of Members of Parliament to their local communities because of the power that STV uniquely gives to the voters to choose their representatives. With STV-PR each elected member is elected because he or she obtained the support of a personal ‘constituency’ of voters. Candidates who show that they understand local conditions and are prepared to advance local needs at the national level will be elected and re-elected, if that is what the local voters want. With STV-PR most ridings would return Members of Parliament from more than one party: that would give local voters access to a wider range of political representation within their own riding which is especially important when their concerns are of a partisan nature.”

Dr Gilmour’s evidence will probably soon be posted on where you can also see other evidence given to the Committee.

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Dirty Work on the Boundaries

Colin Buchanan wrote an article about the English boundaries review, which Church Times published on 7 October.

It reads:

“LAST month, a 24-hour news flurry in England heralded a constitutional change. It was not Brexit; it was not another Scottish referendum; it was not even troubles (or solutions) in the Labour Party. It was a report of the Boundaries Commission for England, which decides the shape of our Parliamentary constituencies. And, unnoticed, it presages deep political troubles for this country.

“It began in 2011. David Cameron, leading the Coalition, and fearing another coalition in 2015, hoped, instead, to ensure a Tory majority. His solution, with a specious appearance of justice, was to reduce the size of the Commons, and give all the constituencies equal numbers of voters. Currently, most have between 60,000 and 80,000 voters (quite a few outside at either end). The Boundaries Commission keeps an eye on the numbers, relating constituencies to genuine communities.

“So, in the 2015 General Election, within the 532 seats in England, Tories held 70 seats with fewer than 70,000 voters, and 42 seats with more than 80,000. Labour held 91 with fewer than 70,000 and only 19 with more than 80,000. Cameron planned to reduce the Commons by 50 seats (33 removed in England), and, by that reduction, push up the average size, requiring all seats equally to have just under 75,000 registered voters, varying by no more than five per cent. The effect of this would be to reduce Labour-held seats, and sustain or increase Tory-held ones. This was to win the 2015 General Election. His Coalition partners opposed it, and Parliament delayed implementation until 2020, fixing boundaries in 2018 based on the numbers who registered for the 2015 General Election.

“When, in 2015, Mr Cameron won a Commons majority without this help, Parliament could not rescind the whole business.

“Thus the Boundaries Commission has now issued the first draft of its proposals for
consultation. (The public can respond via the Commission’s website.)

“THE Commission emphasises its own political neutrality: it exists simply to implement the law. But the Tories had enacted this law unilaterally in their own interest. Labour cannot easily oppose the principle of equality of voting numbers in each constituency, but is arguing that the vast numbers newly registered to vote in the EU Referendum as the basis. By law, the Commission cannot do this; and, in any case, if restarting now, could not complete its work by 2018.

“There is, of course, talk of a snap General Election soon (although the legally imposed five-year period for the Commons is difficult to circumvent), and that, of course, would be done with the existing (i.e. 2015) boundaries.

“Meanwhile, Labour whistles to keep its courage up, and pumps up its morale by forecasting a greatly increased future Labour vote, and a resultant electoral victory. The first of these is just possible; the second impossible.

“The harsh reality is that even a Labour Party with total inner cohesion and a vastly increased membership cannot win a General Election — even with the present constituencies (i.e. in the case of a snap election). Labour would need to gain 100 seats, almost entirely from Tories (unless it recaptured Scotland). But there are fewer than 50 seats in England and Wales where, last year, Labour came within 5000 votes of a successful Tory — and many marginal ones where its MPs were at risk themselves.

“The point is this: one-and-a-half million more people could now vote Labour, even in the existing constituencies, without changing the result in a single seat. This is because voting in the 400 or more “safe” constituencies makes no difference to the result: a Labour MP with a 10,000 majority can increase it to 20,000 without any effect in the Commons. Increasing numbers of Labour voters in safe Tory seats similarly waste their votes.

“Those sad facts exist even before the redrawing of the constituencies for Tory purposes. Implementing the boundary changes will further secure Labour’s exclusion.

“WHY write this as a Christian? Well, the Anglican Communion’s fourth “mark of mission” is “to seek to transform the unjust structures of society”. Our electoral system promotes an unjust structure of government, and we ought to “transform” it. The injustice lies not in slightly differing numbers of voters in each constituency, but in the appalling first-past-the-post voting procedure.

“Mr Cameron’s prospectus, “Give each vote equal value”, sounds like justice; but it is more like using a car wash to ensure a car’s good appearance and conceal its poor mechanical state. To sell a car like that is a swindle; for our votes remain hopelessly unequal. In more than half the constituencies, no individual vote has value: the result is known before the polls open; the MP chosen by the party caucus cannot be defeated.

“In marginals, votes gain perverse value by being cast “tactically”. The current upshot is a Westminster regime elected by 36.9 per cent of those who voted. Despite this, it claims a mandate to do whatever it wishes. And the boundary changes will further entrench the Tories, possibly on an even smaller overall proportion of the votes.

“Anglicans are especially well placed to protest, because our own synodical life has, for almost 100 years, led the way in voting justice. The single transferable vote (STV — backed by Caroline Lucas, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Nationalists, and all parties in Northern Ireland) delivers the result that the electors want, in the proportions in which they want it, without any tactical voting and with a choice between individual candidates as well as between groups or parties.

“The Church of England does it: we hold the high moral ground. But, of course, STV for Westminster would make an overall majority for one party highly unlikely, and would give third and fourth parties the place that their support deserves. So the two main parties continue to covet that overall majority at whatever cost in justice in our representation. These two parties would never elect their own leaders by first-past-the-post; but they insist that we should elect them that way. The winners control the system, and are tying it up for long years ahead.

“So, what can the voters do? First, they can protest. Sadly, despite the involvement of bishops in the House of Lords, and despite the Christian voices that bid us use our votes responsibly when elections come around, none of them ever criticises this deceitful system. Instead, they play along with it.

“Surely they could at least say: “The present voting system shrieks its deficiencies, but nevertheless cast your vote.” We need to create a national atmosphere of righteous opposition, as there was when Margaret Thatcher introduced the poll tax.

“And all voters who favour a party other than that of their sitting MP should press their MP on how he or she can truly represent them in Parliament. At issue is accountability to the voters.

“The Scottish Nationalists have found a limited place, but the Liberal Democrats have lost out: in England we have deeply entrenched a two-party system. The boundary changes threaten to take things further and entrench just one party. We are being taken for a ride.”

The Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan is a past honorary president of the Electoral Reform Society, and is the author of a Grove booklet reflecting on the 2015 Election: An Ethical Case for Electoral Reform (2015).

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PR hindered Hitler

Every now and again, someone claims that PR put Hitler in power. It didn’t, so let’s put that false claim to rest.

Most of them probably aren’t deliberately lying; they may believe it but they haven’t researched the issue.

The Guardian published a slightly edited letter from me on this subject yesterday. Here is the unedited version:

“Florence Ingram (Letters, 21 September) is totally wrong to blame proportional representation (PR) for the rise of Hitler.

Far from helping the Nazis, PR prevented them from legally gaining the absolute power they would have gained under First Past The Post (FPTP). They seized power illegally.

In the 1933 General Election, the Nazis had the most votes and won the most seats but, because the election was by PR and they did not have a majority of votes, they did not have a majority of seats so Hitler formed a minority Government.

At his war crimes trial after the war, Goering gave evidence that the Nazis would have won every seat if the election had been by the British FPTP system. (Source: “How Democracies vote” by Enid Lakeman.)

Unable to achieve complete power by a democratic PR election, Hitler and the Nazis subsequently seized power illegally by a Putsch.”

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