Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Electoral reform in the UK?

Unlike in Canada, the first-past-the-post system in the United Kingdom has always managed to produce massive manufactured majority wins for a single political party (see the second chart here), despite their multiparty reality. You can follow that link for more insight as to why the same voting system works so differently here and there, but it turns out it may not be long before those differences become moot.

The UK Labour party under Gordon Brown isn't enjoying the same level of support as it did under Tony Blair, see, and it's not at all unlikely that our reality could become theirs after the next election, with no single party being able to get a majority of the seats in Parliament. Unlike in Canada, though, the British way of dealing with a so-called "hung parliament" seems to be to ponder potential coalition governments rather than automatically giving the minority winner the reins all on their own. And the Independent (hat tip to Fruits and Votes) is now reporting that Nick Clegg, leader of the third-party Liberal Democrats, is setting electoral reform as one of the preconditions to any future power-sharing negotiations.

I shouldn't have to point out how exciting it would be for the Canadian electoral reform movement if the "motherland" and creator of Westminster parliamentary democracy were to adopt a proportional voting system.


Wild English Rose said...

Thanks for the post on my home country IP. I think you mean Gordon Brown not Gordon Campbell - even though he is Scottish :-)

The Lib Dems have supported electoral reform as long as I can remember, one of the reasons I have supported them - having grown up in a constituency (riding) where they weigh the vote rather than count it, it would be nice to think that your vote could actually matter rather than being a purely symbolic act.

Electoral reform has received a boost in the UK recently as all the new regional parliaments and assemblies (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, London) as well as the last European elections have used forms of proportional representation - and the sky is yet to fall in. The two largest parties still refuse to support it - mainly because they think it will reduce their chances of forming majority governments in the future, the current system delivers an enormous landslide with ~50% of the popular vote and majority government with less than 40%.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Oh, my god, how embarrassing--of course I meant Brown. Correction made.

(And now I'm cracking up at the idea of Gordon Campbell as the prime minister of Britain. Ahem. Don't mind me.)

In any case, I'm now officially rooting for a minority parliament--of either shade--in the UK! Exciting times.

Anonymous said...

Don't get your hopes up, IP. Having lived there for eight years, it is another one of these political manoeuvres.

There have been many calls for electoral reform by the Lib Dems, whether it is Paddy Ashdown or Charles Kennedy. The key is can Nick Clegg do as well as his predecessors. Given the split in his party over a EU referendum, highly unlikely.