Criticism of the Plant report.

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Evidence to the British Labour Party's Plant Committee, 1991.

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The first theme stated that Britain's change to proportional elections would not be just a technical change. Later, the interim Plant report (the short second of three reports) contradicted this, by saying (on p.6) there is 'no technical answer'.

From theme 2):
The committee is

'not convinced that there is a straightforward idea of fairness which on its own could lead us clearly in the direction of choosing proportional over plurality systems or vice versa.'

The Oxford dictionary defines fair as 'just, unbiased, equitable, legitimate, in accordance with rules.'

First past the post has been defended precisely because it is biased or unfair in favor of one party ( hardly ever with an overall majority of votes and sometimes having less votes than another party ) to give allegedly 'strong government', that is power even without a minimum of democratic sanction. Whereas proportional representation is by definition equitable.

The human right of free and fair elections includes a free and fair electoral system. To 'elect' means to 'choose out', so electoral freedom should be axiomatic. In practise, this is the need to reform the vote from an illiterate cross to a number order of choice, preference voting, as well as the more equitable proportional count.

( This unbalanced situation is reversed in economics. There the talk is all of 'the free market', which should be 'the free and fair market', especially to end the fatally exploited dependence of the Third World, as described in Ponting's A Green History Of The World. )

Theme 3 and 4):
Different political values underlie different electoral systems. The report distinguishes two main philosophies of representative democracy, the majoritarian and the proportional or 'microcosmic'. The former is held more appropriate to legislative assemblies and the latter to more deliberative assemblies. As the whole point of deliberation is to arrive at a decision, this seems schizophrenic.

John Stuart Mill denied that majority rule is democracy. He called it 'maiorocracy' or dictatorship by the majority. If words are to be given their proper meaning, he is strictly correct: democracy means rule by the people, not rule by the majority of the people. Nor is this a mere nicety of language. The peace of the world depends on a workable solution to the relations between majorities and minorities.

South Africa, after the 1948 and 1953 elections, and Ulster are oft cited cases of the dictatorial effect of the majoritarian system. The United States was stuck with its 'one-party south'. Multi-ethnic India seems to have tried to set up a Nehru-Gandhi majoritarian dynasty. Majoritarian notions of representation are not helping the former Soviet Union's minority conflicts within the newly independent republics.

A basic defect of the report is its lack of scientific method. To accept each of two 'conflicting views of representative government' as 'a fundamentally different view' with 'no neutral ground' etc (page 19) is to end knowledge. Progress depends on comparing competing theories or views to arrive at a comprehensive theory. This may be done by reconciling apparent differences, finding logical flaws in one or the other argument, and seeing how well or badly each theory works, in as many different circumstances as possible.

This last, the report makes one of its main canons not to attempt: 'We do not believe that the same electoral system has to be followed for all representative institutions.' (p.99)

This is excused because 'there is no ideal electoral system'. No scientist pretends that he has the ideal theory. To do so would be to give up trying to find anything more.

'There is no philosophers' stone, no algorithm, no Archimedean point from which this decision can be made.' (p.19)

Having said that, the report promptly produces its own philosophers' stone in Arrow's theorem of popular choice, or 'social choice theory' as it is called. Like theories of choice generally, it falls into two stages, the vote and the count, or aggregation of individual choices. The kind of vote used is ranked choice or preference voting. And the kind of count is majority counting. (Ian Maclean, Democracy And New Technology.)
In this respect, Arrow has a limited idea of democratic method, akin to the Alternative Vote. Therefore, Arrow's theorem does not imply the limitations of democracy, so much as social choice theorists' limited idea of it.

Maclean defines democracy in terms of majority rule. It is Arrow's followers' restricted conception of 'a majority' that restricts the usefulness of their deductions about democracy.
Take the Droop quota. ( A sixth form college lecturer in government once told me it has an arithmetic proof.) In single member constituencies, candidates compete for a single majority of just over half the votes. In a two member constituency, candidates compete for two majorities of just over one-third the votes each. Next is a three member majority of just over one-quarter the votes each, and so on.

In other words, when people, including experts, have talked about a majority, theyve only meant a single-member majority. But the Droop quota rationalises our idea of a majority to multi-member majorities. Properly applied, proportional representation is a rationalisation of the so-called majoritarian view of representation to a multi-majoritarian view. The majoritarian view does not imply 'a fundamentally different view of the nature of a representative assembly'. It is simply the most restricted or blinkered view of one.

The extension of the count, by the Droop quota, corresponds to the extension of the vote, as logically it should. An X-vote is a one- preference vote. A 'preference vote' or ranked choice is a many- preference vote. So, a one-preference X-vote elects a one-majority count (for one candidate over another). This is the least possible choice. But in a general theory of choice, a 1, 2, 3, .. etc many-preference vote elects a many-majority count, of 1, 2, 3, .. etc members per constituency.

This preference voting with quota counting defines the single transferable vote, as the general theory in practise. As such, STV alone satisfies all the conceivable conditions under which elections might be held.

Themes 5 and 6):
Representation of Constituents. 'This is obviously one of the strongest arguments in favour of plurality and majoritarian systems'. (p.57)
But it is not said why, in the section on those systems. Single members are local monopolies on representation, both as to their own and other parties. Monopolies generally are regarded as not accountable, for lack of competitive service. So, the burden of proof is upon the Working Party why the voters' choice should be minimised, and local communities broken-up by the most boundaries possible.

The report raises locality to a principle more important than choice. Logically, the electoral principle must have primacy in the electoral system. The local principle is answered by a whole range of more or less local assemblies. The scale of representation can be adjusted to make multi-member constituencies as local as you like, so there is no case for restricting electoral freedom to a minimum by single member systems (with or without additional members ).

Theme 7):
Citizens should understand their electoral system. If the report has its way, they will have to understand different systems and their use for different institutions. (p.99 quoted above) Before having to study the subject, I thought I knew all about it. But it was a minimal understanding of a minimal choice, which naturally recommended to me the minimal democracy in the first past the post system.

Enid Lakeman (How Democracies Vote) tells us that the idea of proportional representation by transferable voting was first put forward by Thomas Wright Hill in 1821. At his boys' school, committees were formed by boys gathering round the most popular children. At first these groups were unequal in size, till it was seen that some boys could transfer from their favorites (then from someone with too little support) to help a next best candidate.

This is an excellent way of introducing future citizens to democracy in action. The finer points of transfering surplus votes, like the finer points of any important subject, can be taught later. The Electoral Reform Society sends observers to the Republic of Ireland elections. They say the stages of the count, as they are written up, are keenly followed. Two Irish referenda favored STV over first past the post. Australian local government referenda showed a strong preference for STV over the Alternative Vote.

Theme 8):

'...the greater representation of women and minorities which is essential to the health of democracy may be achieved by less than democratic means'

So says the report (on p.85) in noting that the German Additional Members System (AMS) has a better record than first past the post, 'due to the role of party lists'. This admits that the Additional (Party List) Members System is less than democratic.

Tho allowing Dummett's view (on p.70) that STV best protects minorities, the report asks, in relation to STV (on p.104) if that might 'be better achieved by other constitutional means'. This, despite saying representation of minorities is 'essential', if not by STV, then presumably by 'less than democratic' AMS or pure list systems. However, we may safely say that more democracy is not achieved by less democracy.

Issues: Why Only STV Works At Different Levels Of Government

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Majority world governments would not be tolerable. And that has nothing to do with them being 'deliberative' rather than 'legislative'. There is no doubt of the need for global regulation to ensure sustainable growth with conservation. East vs West, neo-colonial North vs South or whatever two-party system would not work, because half the globe at a time cannot be left out of legislating world affairs. The main racial, religious, linguistic, political and economic blocs, to name but five, must be represented in the executive as well as the legislature. STV is the only voting method flexible enough to do so, just as it gave thoro> PR, including of immigrants, women and specialists, on the British General Medical Council in 1979.

Being made up of different nations, Switzerland is a model of the world, and has PR in both Federal Council and parliament. But, like the rest of the Continent, the Swiss lack a transferable vote to electorally transcend the division of society into party list counts. In any part of the world, the democratic transcendance of divisions is a condition for peace, whether the divisions are excessive nationalism or a partisanship as extreme as chauvinism.
Of course, no system can change peoples' hearts, but that is no excuse for denying them the chance to escape from tribal loyalties, in so far as they desire to do so.

The European Community was meant to secure peace between nations. But national sovereignty can all too easily be replaced by partisan sovereignty, under the rigid divisions of List Systems, including of Additional Members. In Ulster, the 1978 Lib-Lab pact's Regional List would have split the Catholics' vote between the SDLP and Sinn Fein party lists. Only the transferable vote allowed their proportional representation by one of the three MEPs for that province.
This was a crucial test between theories of choice, which STV is the only electoral system to pass.

The European scale of elections also shows up the Additional Members System as at cross-purposes with itself, tho this may be less obvious at other levels of government. There are too few seats for the Additional (List) Members to compensate proportionally for a large enough number of single member constituencies. It wont work. That's why the Germans dont use it for their Euro-elections, as well as their general elections.

In British general elections, Additional Members could come from 12 regional list constituencies. In contrast, PR by STV is an honestly multi-member system, in Robert Newland's 1976 draft, of 142 constituencies. On average, that makes STV representatives nearly twelve times closer to their constituents than Additional Members, whose System is thus an imposter.

The Plant committee gratefully endorses the Scottish Labour Party's decision for AMS to the Scottish Parliament. No mention of the Labour government's Royal Commission on the Constitution (four year's work) which chose PR by STV for Scottish, Welsh and regional English assemblies.
John Smith told David Steel (A House Divided) that Labour's Scottish Executive wouldnt have PR for the Devolution Bill. This lost Lord Home's support, and in view of the regional breakdown of the referendum result, it is quite likely that the Labour government's ignoring the Kilbrandon Report from the start, on STV/PR, lost the Scots their parliament in the 1970s.

Another ignoring of the Commission report does the Scottish people a further disservice. In seeking a measure of national independence, the Scots are to be landed with a system of partisan dependence in AMS.

For local government, the report cautiously favors a majoritarian system weighted by a proportional system (p.102) i.e. an additional (list) members system again. This would discriminate unfairly against Independents, who cannot benefit from each others votes, because the proportional count is only for party list candidates.
With STV, the candidates are all personally preferred to elective proportions of the vote, and Independents can benefit, too, from the transfer of personal preference votes. This not only helps Independents but the independence of party candidates, who know they are personally preferred by the people and do not owe everything to their party.

The same applies to other assemblies. STV university constituencies gave distinguished Independents to the Commons. But independent Cross-benchers would be obliterated from a party list-elected Second Chamber of Parliament.

The Plant report makes an issue of choosing voting methods to suit the functions of institutions. But it overlooks the functional role of the Lords. Of course, scandalous neglect of reform has left the Lords representing a medieval society. A specialised modern economy needs a working model of its functions in proportional representation of the occupations.

With the downfall of the closed shop in EEC legislation, the traditional defensive role of the unions is undermined. Instead of making the Labour party unpopular, by their old exclusiveness, you could encourage the TUC to take an important organised part in representation for all people, in their work, in an elected economic parliament.
Socialists like the Webbs (A Social Parliament) and the Coles (Guild Socialism) and HG Wells used to believe in suchlike ideas. There would also be some cross-party support for this constitutional reform.

Instead of doubling the strength of democracy with effective elections and an economic franchise, the politicians are set to double the strength of party oligarchy, with a second chamber of safe party men on regional lists.
Two party-political chambers are redundant, so the second one has to be nobbled by giving it fewer members or an undemocratic voting system (p 95):

' should not be seen as the rival of the House of Commons in terms of its democratic legitimacy. This obviously bears to some degree at least on the nature of the electoral system for both...'

Political and economic national parliaments could both be democratically elected by STV. They would match general legislation affecting the Commons or communities to its special effects on occupational constituencies. This is essentially a scientific relation of political theory to economic practise.
Some two million people in Britain already hold professional elections by STV, as well as much of the NHS.

Other Issues (1 and 2):
As the left-right divergence between the two main parties made for unresponsive government, the decline in their spread of support has made for unrepresentative government.
The report lets off first past the post much too easily, merely making its admittedly unrepresentative and unresponsive government a question of whether it may all come right in the end: 'the resolution...does depend on how one reads current electoral trends.' (p.103)


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Plurality Systems:
1) The discrimination against parties with a geographical spread of support cannot be justified, as requested, because it is a consequence of confusing the electoral principle with the local principle (as explained above).

2) The claim that first past the post (FPTP) 'is essentially... about choosing a government' needs severely qualifying. FPTP gives voters the most limited possible choice of government between one of two parties. Not always the one with the most votes wins. FPTP fails even on its own miserable terms of offering a minimal democracy.
A Second Ballot or Alternative Vote cannot alter the possibility that a larger party may have its support concentrated in fewer single member constituencies, and so 'lose' to a smaller party winning more seats. ( See Enid Lakeman, How Democracies Vote, p.65, Majority members and minority governments.)

3): 'It follows from the first part of this section that there is a strong case for using more than one system.'

Pointing out an inadequacy of FPTP (as the Plant report does) is no reason for retaining it with some other system. Additional Members from party lists merely adds, ad hoc, one wrong system to another. And two wrongs dont make a right.
The report here is not only badly thought-out but badly expressed, e.g.

'Given that we contemplate different systems, it is possible that claims may be made for different degrees of legitimacy.'

If it is possible to say some voting methods are more 'legitimate' than others, then why not just use the most legitimate one?

Proportional Systems
General Questions:

'Why is it seen as democratic that a party could become pivotal and play a central role in government for a very considerable period of time as the FDP has been in Germany when it gains a relatively small percentage of the vote (?)'

First of all, this is not a general question. It is a criticism of the West German experience of their Additional Member System, called the Double Vote. Most Continental countries just use party lists, without a single member system. They tend to have more parties.
And STV/PR in English-speaking countries, most notably Eire, has been different again.

The German AMS is as undemocratic in favor of the third party, as the British single member system is undemocratic against it. ( No wonder British Liberals speak warmly of the German system! ) The two main parties became so frustrated with the FDP as a fixture of power that, in 1966, they formed a 'Grand Alliance', and resolved to end Additional Members, tho this agreement fell thru. They became alarmed at the rise of extremist parties and split up again. And the FDP have been back in power ever since.

This century, the Labour party has favored first past the post, a system grossly undemocratic, mainly to the Tories' advantage - by an average of 95 seats per election during the inter-war years. (JFS Ross, Parliamentary Representation.)
In favoring AMS, among proportional systems, the Labour party gets ready to do undemocratic favor to the Liberals. The last people Labour seems to favor are the people.
Having been the Tories' fools, Labor are set to become the Liberals' fools.

The German AMS permits one X-vote for one candidate's party in a single member constituency and one X-vote for the List perhaps of another party's candidates. That may express a desire for coalition. But two X-votes cast in opposing ways, in a partisan system, contradict each other. It is not a question that 'this means to an outside observer that the individual is voting irrationally.' (p.84) The system itself is irrational.
The Double Vote does not 'allow...preferences as much scope as possible'. Because, an X-vote expresses only a single order of preference, for one candidate over another or one party over another. To prefer two candidates over a third requires a double order of preference, first and second choice.

The transferable vote allows a multiple order of preference, proportionally electing candidates in multi-member constituencies. This means you can rank candidates, if you wish, of one party and then another, effecting a coalition preference.
A third party's leader ignores this at his peril, as do his colleagues. Even if the support for that party's candidates does not change much, the order of preference for them may be revised as a result of their actions. This has a direct bearing on the next question.

If all parties are in a minority, after proportional elections, how can their wheeling and dealing, to form a coalition, be democratic?
This is not a question general to all proportional systems but to all non-transferable voting systems. With these, the voters have no say as to which combination of minority parties should form the majority in government. This lack of legitimacy makes party-proportional systems prone to reshuffled coalitions.
Here is, of course, the classic criticism of 'unstable governments' (e.g. Maude and Szemerey, Why Electoral Change? p.34-5. And a standard work, Enid Lakeman's How Democracies Vote.)

The greatest transferable voting from candidates of one party to another picks out the popular choice of coalition, from all the possible party combinations. General ability of the voters to elect governments is another crucial test in favor of STV over all other electoral systems. Nor is this mere theory. In Eire, the voters have sanctioned Fine Gael-Irish Labour party coalitions by cross-party preference of candidates, and hence cross-party proportional representation.

STV shows, in the eyes of the electorate, which parties have the strongest links, and so are the most like one majority party. Tho it may not be one, officially, in effect, it has been made one, democratically, with real support - and not the make-believe majorities of our make-believe democracy.
Nor is there the Continent's illegitimate pairings in government of rigidly divided, officially registered parties. There the people only elect parties, not governments.

Especially in times of national emergency, the voters might want to extend their preferences to some candidates from all parties, sanctioning a national government. Done from the top, as it always has been, national unity can be a very divisive business, as the Labour party found in 1931.

But by preferring candidates only of one party, STV also allows full expression to the divisions in society and any differences in direction they stand for. This is democratic, not manipulating results towards conflict or consensus, but allowing effective expression to both.
(This answers the ecological need for an adaptive but stable self-regulating system.)

Single Transferable Vote

The Plant report continues:

Given that one of the perceived strengths of STV is the degree of representation it might secure for minorities, the question is: Is representation the best way of protecting the interests of minorities when they will still be minorities or would this be better achieved by other constitutional means such as a Bill of Rights/ Charter of Rights, greater devolution of power, a more federal structure etc?

As this is one of the most serious problems for peace, we should use all these means to secure it. Practically everyone belongs to important minorities. STV is flexible enough to proportionally represent them all, as well as popularly sanction their coalitions, which is what majorities usually are. This makes STV indispensible to democracy.

Talking about 'permanent minorities', that 'must always lose' (p.70), is to excuse under-classes, including women in public life. Their attributes, like sex, race, creed or language etc are easily discriminated against, to serve the purposes of an inequitable society. Its abolition depends on ending the institutions that perpetrate it, such as the electoral ghettos of the single member system, condemned by Paul Harrison (in Inside The Inner City).
Party List systems are exclusive, too, and harden differences, not only into political dogmas, but in any conflict, such as race in Guyana, or with the resort to separate language lists in Belgium.

Devolved power may help reduce the scale of conflict. But the minorities turned into regional majorities may cause more problems for their own minorities. There is no getting away from Mill's mature conception of democracy. This would involve legislative and perhaps executive power-sharing.
Judicial power-sharing would lend substance to a formal Bill of Rights.

2): STV is proposed for the Commons its defenders have to explain: How there can be five member constituencies in sparsely populated areas and how they would defend the loss of proportionality which would be entailed by a reduction to three members and the impact this might have on significant fourth parties in Scotland and Wales.

Reconciliation is possible between STV constituencies true to the historic Commons or local communities and an even greater PR than STV would achieve within any of them. The reform could be in two stages. The first stage would be the Electoral Reform Society's proposals, in Robert Newland's Electing the United Kingdom Parliament. Traditional Shires and Boroughs would average about 5 members, most being 4 to 6.

This (binomial) distribution of seats per constituency is the statistical pattern you would expect demography to follow. There would be a couple of densely urban 8-members. Whereas Orkney and Shetlands, and the Western Isles might prefer to stay singles. Tho, even western Eire rejected reducing threes to singles, in the second Irish referendum that supported STV.

In the 1920s up to 1935, Eire had a 3 to 8 or 9 member system. But the largest party whittled it down, mainly to 3, with a maximum of 5, to over-represent itself. The report (on p.75) manifests a similar desire:

... three member constituencies would be more likely...STV in its fully proportional form is a highly unlikely runner for electoral reform in Britain.

Boundaries have been drawn and redrawn by remote central government decision, for bureaucratic or party-political ends. During the nineteenth century, single member constituencies arrived as the servant of the two-party game. The thrust of this report, and general Labour and Tory attitudes, is to keep the servant on.

The single member system, as the servant of national party politics, at the expense of local communities, was clearly shown straight after the 1979 election. The Conservatives ordered the Boundary Commission to make constituencies as equal as possible. In practise, this meant to over-rule local feeling and interests as much as they dare, to that end. At the 1983 election, the result was, that for a slip in the Tory vote from about 44% to 42%, their majority of seats increased by nearly a hundred.

The report claims 'there are also strong factors that work against STV.' (p.71) On average, UK multi-member constituencies would be 300,000 compared to the Irish 55,000. '...this is likely to have several negative consequences.' (The 'strong factors' have become 'likely'.) But this supposition has no weight by the standard of U.S. single member constituencies of 200,000 to approaching 300,000. Actually, the argument from scale of representation is fatal to the single member system.

The Plant Report goes on:

The problem then is how far in the UK we see constituencies as embodying some sense of identity, of being in some sense a natural community.

Churchill summed up this identity issue best:

I would rather be one-fifth of the candidates for the whole of Leeds than one candidate for a fifth of Leeds.

(Quoted in Joe Rogalay's Parliament For The People.)

A second stage of reform fully meets Plant's criticism that STV, in the historic constituencies called 'Commons', would not be proportional enough. Constituents could be allowed to prefer candidates in other constituencies in the region, and ultimately perhaps in the entire nation.
As MPs make laws that affect us all, so it is only democratic that our votes should be allowed to affect all of them. But this arrangement would be more structured than the original Hare's system, introduced by Mill, or Leonard Courtney's regional version. (The latter could share the same boundaries with regional governments and British Euro-constituencies.)

Just as transferable voting allows proportional preference for candidates within, between and across parties, so it should do, too, with respect to constituencies. This is not to deny the importance of parties or constituencies. On the contrary, they provide the voters with two frameworks of reference to exercise our choices by. In fact, the greater freedom of individual choice, the more essential these guides to affiliation of the candidates become.


...we are concerned to elicit from supporters of STV a much clearer account of the relationship of accountability between a member and his or her constituents than we have found in the evidence so single MP will be able to speak on behalf of the constituency as a whole...(p.105)

Thru-out most of Britain's parliamentary history, 'no single MP' but two members spoke for much the same rural and urban constituency areas that could now be proportionally represented by STV. That a single member speaks for the constituency as a whole is a fiction of the system. He is supposed to speak gallantly for those who voted against him, maybe a majority. That is the romance of chivalry not the reality of democracy.

Those habituated to the single member system have confused seats with constituencies: a representative is literally ac-countable to the portion or quota of voters who have elected him. Whether in single or multi-member constituencies (seats grouped by local community) that portion is roughly the same. Any elections are bound to be 'accountable only to sections', because sections represent quotas or kinds of choices made. The point is that the electoral system represent all the main sections of opinion.

The Plant report sees accountability, with STV in rural Ireland, in the following charming terms: Candidates

reserve bailiwicks (leading to) friends and neighbours catchment areas. This can have undesirable results in...patron client or parish pump politics ...which may impede a view of the national needs to which politics should devote itself...the logic of STV seems to drive candidates into this sort of activity. (p.71)

'An Anthropological Study' is cited. ('Anthropological' means a study of human beings.) One might not recognise the country, here referred to, as one of the world leaders in information technology.

The above quotation's tone of prim disapproval need not disguise that Irish MPs give the very personal attention, regarded as laudable in so far as it exists in single member systems (p 29-30):

It is also argued by defenders of the present system that what might be called the social work aspect of work for constituents is an important and rewarding part of a back bench MPs life and that they value what they see as an organic link to the constituency.

Whatever 'an organic link' is, apart from lending a mystique of legitimacy to the single member system.

That STV elects MPs on a quota, which is only a 'section' of the constituency, overlooks the great importance of the surplus votes, which are publically recorded. An MP, notably a party leader may have far and away more first preferences, even than colleagues of his own party. This show of personal popularity enhances his authority, inside the constituency and nationally. The single member, in his party's safe seat, cannot point to any such distinction.

No evidence is given that Irish MPs do 'impede...national needs', presumably by serving local needs too well. And British local representation is not held to account for this.

However, local and national interests could be reconciled by evolving cross-constituency STV. Candidates would have to achieve a rather larger regional or national quota of 60,000, say, than a three- member constituency quota of about 45,000 (or 50,000 votes each to elect 5 members, etc).

To pick up the extra votes from the millions of regional ( or national) constituents, outside his own local constituency base, a candidate would have to campaign on regional (or national) as well as local issues. A broader appeal would be encouraged. This equalising of the quota would be consistent proportional representation right across constituencies, just as STV alone achieves this within, between and across parties.


We need evidence about how the divisive tendencies of intraparty competition which seem endemic to STV can be mitigated.

Is it necessary to recite for the Working Party the 'endemic' schisms of its own party's history, and their abiding need of arbitration by the general public? That is the way to more 'effective parties', as there is no better way to solve internal dissensions than by authority of all the people.

On Plant's line of reasoning, we should also get rid of inter-party competition for its 'divisive tendencies'. For why should a divided party be worse than a divided nation? Which does the Establishment put first, its parties or its country?
Freely transferable voting may not only establish the true balance of support for a party's left and right - PR within a party - but also its degree and kind of unity. Similarly, PR across left and right wing parties, by transferable voting, may define the degree and kind of unity of the nation.

This comprehensive electoral freedom is not a luxury. It is the link by which individual wishes are concerted into community action. Without this, no country can call itself a democracy that is 'intellectually and politically respectable'. (p.42)

The report jibs at voters using their preferences to 'weaken the effectiveness of the party as a vote gathering organisation.' (p.75)

Is the objection to a voting system, that allows voters to show they might not be as partisan as politicians want? That is the voters' business: to be as partisan or otherwise as they please, and not be obliged to appear to vote in a purely partisan way, by a system that gives them no other choice.

Question four harks back to the high turnover of Irish MPs defeated by members of their own party (p.75). One electoral reformer was honest enough to tell me that Conservative MPs would never give up their safe seats. Hence, most Tory and Labour reformers have campaigned for AMS (p 89): would threaten the vested interests of sitting members much less than would any other alternative.

Democracy is not about party job security of politicians.

There is no point in devising elaborate proposals for reform of electoral systems which might be wholly justifiable in principle but which would fail to command a majority within the existing House of Commons.

This Plant report veto (on p 42) makes a nonsense of writing it, and tells dissenters they are wasting their time criticising it. Such 'realism' simply teaches subserviance. There would be no democracy in the former Soviet Union today, if reformers had followed that kind of defeatism. Reason may be ignored, under the Orwellian motto 'ignorance is strength'. But overwhelming state power has its limitations, too.

List Systems

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What is the constituency link with candidates on Lists for legislative bodies?
Answer: Regional and National Lists count constituencies by regions and nations.

The point Plant makes about 'power to national and regional party bureaucracies' should be that list candidates are made responsible to them, rather than their constituents. That 'party elites might have less traditional attitudes' for 'greater equality of gender and ethnic representation' is the promise of an oligarchy so benevolent it will not tolerate the democratic means to achieve it.

C.S. Lewis said he was a democrat because no man is good enough to be given power over others. We have seen enough of that, in the twentieth century and before. Seemingly, some people, especially in power, will never learn.

How far power to the parties can go is exampled by French Euro- elections from national lists. Tens of millions just had X-votes for parties. But a handful of voters, who were top politicians, such as Simone Veil, also each had one preference vote, that decided, for the whole nation, the candidates' order of election from a party list.
M. Mitterand had his name on top of the socialists' list, to boost the party vote with a little personal popularity. After the election, he promptly stood down.

One might have thought, at least candidates, placed lower on the lists, would be less likely of election, especially if their party's vote slumped. However, unsuccessful candidates were 'rotated' as MEPs. Everyone on the list got a ride on that roundabout! Nor was this abolition of personal freedom of choice just a French farce. 'Rotation' quickly caught-on in Germany. By 1984, it was raising a fever in the Green party: tricks of the trade!

A Romanian Communist spy bribed his way onto the French National Front list and into the European Parliament. 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' Or, as the Plant report says: 'there is obviously some loss of democratic input in this respect.' (p.105)

An X-vote for a party can only give PR between parties. The 1978 Lib-Lab pact's Regional List elects candidates first past the post on a party list. But that denies PR within parties, and across parties. In both cases, the system fails from split voting, either for candidates within a list, or, for different lists.

Only transferable voting can give PR in its integrity within, between and across parties.

Why is one of 'the different arithmetical procedures used to allocate seats under list systems' to be prefered to another?

Indeed, how can the public be expected to understand what the experts cannot agree on? (For STV, the Droop quota is in standard use, and is the simplest of its kind in use to understand.) The social choice theorists' problem is 'how can individual preferences be aggregated into some overall function which we can call the people's choice'? (p.20)

A 'party vote' begs the question, because individuals' votes are presumed to count for groups or parties, as communities within the community. ( That is, the question is regressed or left unsolved at one remove.) One doesnt solve a problem by pretending it doesnt exist.

Party lists have no place in the context of Arrow's theorem. Not only Arrow but Aristotle refutes the party vote - as the syllogistic fallacy of 'illicit major'.

Additional Member Systems

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'There are a number of issues which need much greater thought here' is the Plant report's way of saying that combining single members with additional (list) members demands a whole new range of arbitrary decisions: 1) Which method of majority counting to use in the single member system? (Which list counting method? has just been asked on p.106); 2) What ratio of the single to the additional members? 3) What thresholds against small parties? (This contradicts a count that imposes absolutely proportional partisanship on the public.) 4) Of two different classes of MPs, what links to each other and the constituents?

STV doesnt have any of these difficulties. As questions, they are not really thoughtful themselves. Far from asking whether this 'less than democratic' system is good enough, all that is wanted are details from the party of how to legislate for AMS.
(See e.g. Enid Lakeman's 'Power To Elect' on how the German electoral system is over-rated.)

The statement about the Hansard Society's version of AMS, that 'There would be no element of party list involved' is incorrect. The simple truth is that the party lists of all the candidates in the region are unpublished. The parties still share out the seats between them on the basis of a partisan count of the votes for (implicit lists of) candidates in the region's single member constituencies.

Robert Newland gave a devastating exposure of this system's irrationalities. (Representation, journal of the Electoral Reform Society, Jan. 1977.) Even he missed Neil Kinnock's observation that an unpopular candidate who lost his place first past the post might still be elected as an additional member, second past the post. The 'anomalies' are reviewed in Vernon Bogdanor's The People And The Party System.

There is no need to argue with the claim that AMS combines the best of both single member and list systems, because there is no best to combine.

A note on John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill

J S Mill selflessly championed Andrae's and Hare's system as one of those happy coincidences of a great scientific discovery. H G Wells, who also had a scientific training, appreciated some real scientific work had been done here.
But how little a change of heart is to be looked for, from the Plant committee in its final report, may be judged from the attempt to discredit STV, even by slighting Mill, in the eyes of the Labour party (p 69 and p 74):

it is arguable that STV was conceived by Mill to break the hold of parties on representative democracy because he and others were frightened of the control which working class parties might exert in a democratic system.
As was noted earlier Mill advocated STV partly because he was fearful of the role that major parties would play if the franchise were to be extended.

This 'frightened' and 'fearful' man was author of The Subjection Of Women, which argued for perfect legal equality between the sexes. Even William Lovett (Life And Struggles Of William Lovett) regretted he had allowed other Chartists to talk him into believing votes for women was a hopeless cause.
In his Autobiography, Mill holds that democracy would not be complete till 'proportional representation', which is also 'personal representation', was achieved.

Since writing this (very slightly changed) criticism of the Plant Report in 1991, I have come to believe that Mill was our greatest democrat.

Richard Lung

The interim Plant report's omission of the case for STV

Section one

The Plant report made no mention of the Labor government's Royal Commission on the Constitution, that urged the single transferable vote for Scottish and Welsh parliaments, as well as English regional assemblies. So, it was little surprise that the second report ignores all other cases made for STV, the PR of the English-speaking peoples.
It is not possible to have a dialog with a Working Party that goes on, as if they had never spoken. Electoral reform societies have campaigned for STV/PR over the last hundred years. So have distinguished specialists, such as JFS Ross and Enid Lakeman, and a great reforming writer, like H.G. Wells.

STV is the only system that the second report makes no attempt to see any merit in, let alone give a balanced presentation of the evidence for and against. That is wrong, from the viewpoint of either legal or scientific procedure. Scientific progress is towards generally applicable knowledge, in this case, of the voting method that applies fairly or equitably to any elections.

That 'no voting system is perfect' is the lamest excuse, since no scientific theory claims perfection. The report is not simply 'trying to resist the claims of STV' but suppressing information of them. To do so is biased or unfair. That is worth saying, because the Working Party cannot arrive at a working definition of 'fairness' (on p.3). Civilizations, from ancient times, are based on rules of equity, for example the Confucian or Christian 'do as you would be done by'. Converts to Islam find egalitarian harbor against racial prejudice. Greek democracy was first called 'equality before the law'.

But the Working Party's 'central distinction' ( in section 1 ii ) between Majoritarian 'legislative' and proportional 'deliberative' assemblies is unreal.
Even with the Alternative Vote, single-member majorities of 50%+ are only the most limited kind of majorities. The proportioning of majorities by the Droop quota, leads to two-member majorities with over two-thirds the votes between them, three-member majorities with three-quarters the votes, etc. So, there is no rational justification for different kinds of voting method for different assemblies.

No wonder the report asserts ( on p.6 ): 'there cannot be a voting system which satisfies all the criteria ... There is no technical answer. It relies ... on political judgement,..'
Arbitrary decisions are the consequences of arbitrary premises.

The tyrant's or 'elective dictator's' notion that legislative bodies need a monopoly of power thru a single member system is impractical, for peace's sake. The opposition need proportionate power to be properly consulted.

The report ( sec.l ii ) divorces deliberation from legislation, into different assemblies. But deliberation is over principles and legislation is their application. And this report ( sec.1 i) says: 'issues of principle cannot easily be divorced from those of practical application', in choosing a voting method. If you cannot easily divorce principled deliberation from legislative application, with regard to electoral law, you cannot do so for any other kind of law. So, sections l i and l ii contradict each other.

Modern science, say, since Galileo, affirms section l i. But the report does not live up to its 'view that the Labour Party cannot simply take refuge behind generalities ...' (p.2). For example, the Additional Members System has already been chosen for a Scottish parliament. Yet the report has not resolved the many practical problems of AMS; it merely poses them once more and says ( three times ) they're going off to Germany to see how they do!

In addition to these points, there is one other key question which will need to be considered further, and that is the method by which the 'additional members' might actually be chosen(!!) We do remain convinced, at this stage, however, that AMS deserves serious consideration for legislative bodies, in that it does keep a single member constituency link,..

In other words, the dogma of single members is settled first and the practical consequences, in section l(b), are left to follow as they may.
Foremost among these consequences of AMS is the 'pivotal position in Parliament' of small parties. The Working Party still cannot solve this problem. The West German experience points to the Liberal leadership having a job for life, as king-makers of either the Labor or Tory parties. The Liberal leader becomes a sort of life monarch.

Whereas, transferable voting would allow the voters to prefer candidates across party lines, effecting either a leftward or rightward or center coalition, if no one party had half the votes. But this is heresy to the hacks who live for party before country. As G.K. Chesterton said, actually there is only one party ( nowadays called the Establishment ). So, the general interest has no leverage against particular interests, even those busily degrading the planet.

Section two

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Indeed, these Working Party reports are like the 'semantic hell' of the Earth Summit. From 'even assuming ( as we do not ) that fairness can be given some agreed and unambiguous definition' ( on p.3, by p.10 ) the report gets round to recognizing fairness as a universal standard: 'An electoral system needs to be seen to be fair not just to political parties but to individuals and groups within society;..'

It fails to admit this is at the heart of the long-standing STV cause, and would lead to it as the choice of system. Transferable voting is election of the most preferred individual candidates, so that all their group attributes, including those of party, are proportionally represented.

Freedom of choice is denied by X-votes for party lists ( including lists of additional members ) to give mere proportional partisanship, miscalled PR. Party List systems are an oligarchic privilege over all other groups in society.

The section on list systems argues whether party elites give fairer representation, than the more democratic selection by local constituency members, for female and ethnic candidates.
The reader is not reminded that the comparison is between multi-member constituencies that require a range of candidates to catch all the main voting groups, and single-member constituencies, which mainly require a candidate from the dominant faction, usually white middle class professional males.
When he supported STV, Lord Shinwell called the single-member system 'undemocratic'. The holders of this monopoly on representation have a vested interest in the safe seats it gives them.

The desire is expressed ( on p.16-17) to achieve equal representation of men and women, with AMS in the Scottish parliament. Tho, true to form, the report cannot decide how, without making the system even more anomalous. The parties would have to bind themselves to gender parity but this party's report refused to bind parties to selection procedures ( on p.3).

Their objection is to state imposition on parties, but not of parties on the public by corporate voting. From gender, as well as party, being given the exclusive privilege of proportional election, every other human category, age, race, religion, language, class, culture etc, goes a begging. It is not practical or democratic to officially impose lists for them all, and each list X-vote would count against the other.

There is no substitute for ordered choice of individual candidates, whom voters may prefer by more than one attribute. Thus, STV, to the British General Medical Council, gave proportional representation to women, immigrants and specialists. Under a list system ( including lists of additional members ) if you were an immigrant woman specialist, you would have to decide which of these three attributes ( in effect different 'parties' ) to cast your X-vote for only its proportional representation. And you would not, by any means, be sure of helping to elect your personally preferred candidate, even in that one out of three categories you had been obliged to vote for.

Section three

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Double standards of criticism are brought to bear against STV compared to other systems.
Appendix one is about the meagre sum of new 'evidence' ( such as it is ) in the document. It claims to be a demonstration of the perverse result of an STV count. What should be said, in the first place, is that there is no agreed proportional counting method for party list systems, including lists of additional members. Indeed, the above example shows them to be fundamentally irrational from a democratic viewpoint, tho serving partisan privilege. Again the report is hiding behind generalities. And it rejects, out of hand, STV, which alone has an agreed method of proportional count, by the Droop quota.

In the second place, Riker's example against transferable voting does not have a transfered ( surplus ) vote, the very feature of STV that sets it apart from all other systems. Dummett's tail-wags-the-dog argument against eliminative counting was succinctly put against the Alternative Vote, as 'the worst votes for the worst candidates'.

( This meant that the next preferences of the voters for the worst candidate are the worst votes to determine who is elected next.) If Churchill's phrase has any meaning, logically there must also be the best votes for the best candidates. STV satisfies this criterion, because in a multi-member constituency, the best or most popular candidates may have more than the proportion of votes they need for election. This surplus of the best votes may be transfered, to their next best prefered candidates.

Dummett's statement that other systems are to be prefered as 'at least weakly monotonic' implying STV is not at all, cannot be taken seriously. To make out that STV is 'chaotic', because it takes account of the voters' ordered choice - to say that out of STV order comes disorder is a topsy-turvy argument.

Double standards come in again. X-votes, wrongly, are counted always as first preferences. Indeed, the two main parties obsessively campaign against 'wasted votes' or first preferences for other partys' candidates. A 'tactical vote' is only a second preference or less. The full order of choice, requiring a 'preference vote' lst, 2nd, 3rd etc, is suppressed information. For more than two candidates, the result of an X-vote really is disordered.

The German voting system combines two voting systems, the British single member system, with a second X-vote for a party list. The latter could be like the Regional List proposed, in the Lib-Lab pact for British Euro-elections. Such a British version of AMS would combine two kinds of split voting: between candidates of different parties in single member constituencies, and between candidates of the same party on a regional list - which gives PR between, but not within, parties.
The reduction to absurdity of party lists ( whether or not of additional members ) is that an X-vote for a party could elect a list candidate that no-one individually voted for!

The Euro-Parliament presidency, the Tory and Labor leadership contests don't allow self-defeating split voting from the grossly eliminative first past the post. But the humble public has to put up with that. The politicians use an exhaustive ballot, like the Alternative Vote's more measured elimination, in turn, of each candidate with the least votes, which are a measure of the least chance of winning.

A still more highly ordered system is the rational measure of popular choice by transferable voting in multi-member constituencies, which is the only method that follows all four main scales of scientific measurement. As such, we may safely say, that of all systems, STV is the least prone to disorder of the voters' wishes.

Section four

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'Matters of judgement' ( on p.7), as to what communities constituencies comprise, can be an excuse for arbitrary decisions without reference to the facts. The Working Party ignores once more that the most fragmentary system, of single members, is a recent break with the historical Commons of Shires and Boroughs which would make fair-sized multi-member constituencies today.

Terms ( on p.8,10,15) are repeated like catchphrases: 'clear' or 'strong constituency links', 'stability' and 'accountability'. They are undefended assertions in favor of single-member constituencies, and against STV. But the first report disdainfully complained about Irish MPs being too accountable to their local communities.

STV's being too accountable was also characterized by the first report as instability, in its 'divisive tendencies' to allow voters to prefer individual candidates of the same party, as well as different parties. But this STV freedom to express a degree of national unity, as well as party division, combines stability with adaptability for the nation.
The only instability is to job security for complacent politicians.

STV is smeared ( on p.7) with

Margaret Thatcher's notorious statement that there is no such thing as society ... in the sense of community identification through constituencies, there are only individuals and their preference orderings.

The truth is Mrs Thatcher was as opposed to STV as the Working Party is.
The point of democracy is that the unity of the community is conditional upon individual freedom. Failure to realize that is why European unity is going wrong. And STV is so important because it does apply that democratic principle.

It does so in a way consistent with a scientific law. This is a statement of the conditions under which a general rule applies. STV applies to every kind of election at all levels of government.
This is just what the single member system, AMS and Regional List do not do. To promote these choice-impoverished systems, against STV, has put 'fairness' as well as 'technical answer' at a discount, by saying the essential is impossible.

If a voting system is good enough for one kind of election, it is good enough for them all. The report's denial of universal standards, both ethical and scientific, cannot be condemned too strongly for vesting particular interests of party oligarchy in electoral procedure. And it makes a cynical mockery of the new Labor leader's promise 'to give power back to the people' thru constitutional reform.

Further evidence to the Labour party's Plant Committee on electoral reform, 1992.

Richard Lung

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