Playing the game.
Previously unpublished snap from the 1930's.
In Britain's February 1974 general election, the Liberals won 14 seats first past the post. But the votes for their candidates ran at 19% of the total vote, worth over a hundred extra seats on a party-proportional count.
The seemingly simple and obvious answer to this 'injustice' was to conduct that count to give the Liberals additional members. The national campaign for electoral reform was launched in 1975.
But asking Why Electoral Change? Maude and Szemerey concluded:
Least of all do we believe that there is anything 'fair' - let alone useful - about making a major constitutional change only to suit the current interests of one or two minority parties. The national interest transcends these, and ought to be allowed to prevail.
An ad hoc hypothesis is an idea brought in to defend a theory from being faulted; an idea which cannot logically be derived from, and so justified by, that theory. The idea of additional members fits Carl Hempel's criterion ( in The Philosophy Of Natural Science ) of an ad hoc hypothesis merely to save some current conception against adverse evidence, without being logically justified by current ideas, and without offering a new and more discriminating test to add to our knowledge.
The single member system's electing a governing party on a majority of seats is the current conception. Its disproportionate results are the adverse evidence. But proportionally sharing seats for party votes is not logically justified by a governing party majority system of winner takes all. Ad hoc additional members from 'party' votes do not give more discriminating test of voters' individual choices, which would add to our knowledge of public opinion.
Instead, the election of additional members merely presumes a partisan count upon the ambiguity of the spot vote, as for a person or the party they belong to. This does not suffer scientific disproof of a supposed impersonal partisanship of the voters.
The partisan presumption on individual choice is supported by the common kinds of wrong reasoning, exposed in any textbook on logic. Typical works on scientific method soon introduce, as guiding principles, the need to avoid the fallacies of 'begging the question' and 'ambiguous terms'.
For, a scientific theory must not presume what one is supposed to be trying to prove. And a scientific experiment must not be conducted in such ambiguous terms that it could be held to mean anything and therefore proves nothing.
In an electoral test of public opinion, the ambiguous terms of the spot vote are such that it can mean a choice, either for an individual or his party or both. It can even mean neither, if the spot vote is merely a tactical vote to keep out some disliked candidate, at all costs. The spot vote, counted as a party vote, begs the whole question of partisanship among the electorate.
Corporate voting for a 'party' is unscientific voting for an unobservable.
Nor need it follow that voting for a party candidate implies voting for
others in his party. This would only be logical if all the candidates of a
party on a list were political clones; and, if each party were a different
political species that couldn't be crossed with the other.
Party list systems would have us believe that party members are people of the same quality with the same policies, who have nothing in common with people and policies from other parties.
Maude and Szemerey dismissed the 'facile argument' that voters would like to vote for one list candidate as much as another. That proportionally counted party votes fairly 'reflect the views of the electorate' is 'nonsense'.
Politicians' overwhelming consideration may be for their party careers, as
Perhaps the people have their own priorities for cannibalising the constitution. Andrew Marr ( Ruling Britannia ) sees local elections as makeshift referendums against currently unpopular government policies.
Single-member general elections obscure personal with party choice. But by voting for the party with the prefered leader, they may sneak back in the most important personal choice - a presidential election, that Britain's party system of government is not supposed to have. Tho, John Mackintosh's punch-line, to The British Cabinet, was: Britain now has 'Prime Ministerial government'.
These are but intimations to the enterprising, beyond party flatland, of hidden dimensions of electoral freedom.
In 1976, the Hansard Society meant to convey by 'additional' members that they would still be responsible to constituents like single members. Accordingly, under-represented parties would have the appropriate proportion of their candidates elected, who were the best runners-up in single member constituencies.
In 1977, Robert Newland, of the Electoral Reform Society, delved into the inequitable consequences of having second ( or third ) past the post MPs. Vernon Bogdanor followed-up their 'anomalies', in The People And The Party System, already suggesting by 198l that the Additional Member System ( as such ) was no longer a serious contender for reform. This now appears to be the consensus.
However, it is instructive to glance at where this version of AMS goes wrong. In trying to reconcile the simple majority and party proportional principles, AMS corrupts both of them. Additional members can proportionally prevent simple majorities form a one-party government. They also create disproportionate representation in a single member system.
Additional members, like single members, would be lucky nominees in constituencies where their respective parties were relatively popular. Worse still, an MP might become unpopular enough to lose a seat, yet be elected as an additional member.
Additional members would be elected on having a bigger proportion of votes
than colleagues in bigger single member constituencies, who won more votes
for their party. An additional member has no chance to prove he could win, by
voters' preferment, a substantial enough proportion of support to warrant his
election, which would necessitate being in a multi-member constituency.
( In other words, AMS was a failed attempt to by-pass the single transferable vote. )
British reformers, who wanted to keep the single member system, had hoped
additional members could be drawn from constituencies, instead of impersonal
party lists. The German Double Vote gives a second spot vote for just such
lists. Falling back on this system is a tacit admission of failure to more
than half-offer the British people personal representation ( of even the most
limited or monopolistic single-member kind ).
The Germans, themselves, who adopted an additional member system, after the war, didn't resort to the second vote, for lists, till 1953.
Ad hoc additional constituency members were meant to be a prop for the functional theory of government by simple majorities. The theory is more important than the ad hoc saving clause, just as a house is more important than a buttress to save it falling down in an emergency.
Once the house seems safe again ( such as from revolutionary doctrines ) the prop may be taken away. Sir Ian Gilmour's Inside Right expressed such a hope. Tho, he didn't revert from AMS, with the 1979 Tory victory, as Douglas Hurd did.
But it must be said that the progress of science, or dependable knowledge, depends on developing a theory to pass the test of all the conditions it may be subjected to. British, like German, Euro-elections are set to have only party list members, not additional to single members. Thus, proportional partisanship usurps single member representation. On the previous analogy, this end-result of the ad hoc viewpoint is to demolish the house, leaving the voters to shelter under the buttress.
In an otherwise wise reminiscence, The Dilemma Of Democracy, Lord Hailsham suggested that different voting methods be tried for different levels of government. But this actually defeats the purpose of scientific investigation. Politicians naturally aren't going to employ voting methods for elections that show-up their obvious drawbacks. That would militate against tolerable government and only show-up the leaders to be people of the poorest judgement.
Therefore, the use of various voting methods implies their allocation to the government levels where their failings are less obtrusive. ( The Plant report's advocating particular systems on principle is an apology for this. ) Unfortunately, it has also meant suppression of their unsatisfactory nature.
In 1997, Labour MEPs Ken Coates and Hugh Kerr were denied membership privileges for a year, and effectively driven out of the party, for refusing to sign a 'gagging order' on a centralist PR system, for future British Euro-elections, not discussed with the public. Two other Labour MEPS, Alex Falconer and Michael Hindley, were to be penalised for six months for refusing to sign a document banning criticism of government policy.
This is in curious contrast to the Labour government's admirably apt and disinterested terms of reference to an Independent Commission on Voting Systems, in 1998.
Ken Coates is known as a long-standing left-wing writer for industrial democracy. Possessing partnership with the workers explains why Germany's post-war labour relations were so much better than Britain's. This important but neglected topic should be parleyed.
The Labour MEP whip's forced conformity anticipates the lot of party list MEPS:
List MPs are prisoners of the system. According to Mr Robert Hendrick, a Belgian MP representing a small middle-class shopkeepers' party ( as Belgium has no five per cent electoral threshold ), they are civil servants of the party leadership and of the interest groups behind the party. They have to keep their noses clean with the party leaders and the interest groups to get the most important jobs in their parties and to be well placed on the list next time. Sincere politicians, who campaign for issues and try to implement ideals says Hendrick, tend to be put low on party lists - or put out to grass entirely.
Under this system Sir Winston Churchill would almost certainly not have been in the House of Commons in 1940!
( Maude and Szemerey p.27-8 )
Compare the following quotation:
I could recount what I have seen and heard in other countries, where this kind of inquisition tyrannises; when I have sat among their learned men, for that honour I had, and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning amongst them was brought;
( John Milton's Areopagitica. )
Uncombined, party list systems are never proposed for British general elections. We know they are not appropriate. Yet 'good Europeans' and bad democrats foist them on British Euro-elections. Maude and Szemerey, p. 38:
The party machines knew approximately what percentage of the national vote their parties could expect to have. They could therefore be sure that, say, the first 15 or 20 on their list would be elected ... The voters had only a marginal influence, deciding the exact dividing line between the parties.
In France, therefore, fewer than 100 people actually decided who were to be the 81 members of the European Parliament representing the country's 53 million population.
As Britain shuns straight party lists for general elections, a combined
system has not been tried for Euro-elections. Germany doesn't so use the
Double Vote, because there are too few European seats, for the
disproportionate results first past the post to be corrected by enough
additional members. The fewer and larger the single member constituencies,
the more likely they are to approximate the national swing of voters'
support, and so nearly all go to the leading party.
The inconsistency of the two axioms or leading principles, single member party monopolies and partisan shares of seats makes the Double Vote inherently unstable.
This system's 'correction' may not only be insufficient but inappropriate. An AMS would discriminate unfairly against Independents in local elections, because only under-represented parties can be compensated by additional members. Also, the independence of party councillors on local issues could prejudice their standing on their parties' lists.
Supporters of a combined system countered that no voting method is suitable for all government levels ( which is false ). They have given-up on the scientific endeavor to find a general system of elections. A whole tradition from John Stuart Mill to Enid Lakeman exists to point it out to them. And obvious failures to do the electoral jobs required at different levels is a sure sign that the Double Vote is a false theory of elections.
Basson and O'Connor, in Symbolic Logic, for instance, state the axioms of a theory must be true in relation to each other, so they can logically derive more ideas and interrelate them into a coherent system. The purpose of the exercise is so an idea is not tested in isolation but as lending credence to a whole body of knowledge.
But the Double Vote is like an incompatible marriage whose partners have nothing in common and disagree with each other at every turn. Who would want to marry someone - in a failed attempt - to make up for their shortcomings? On the other hand, who'd want to marry a partner supposed to compensate for one's own nature, as if it was something to apologise for? Who would want a corrective partner, especially if the 'correction' were an inappropriate presumption?
The formal viewpoint of the Double Vote is that the lists are equal partners with constituencies. They have half the MPs and their own vote. But the Double Vote is still a compensatory system, even if the compensating buttress is held in equal esteem to the house. The Double Vote is a 'compensated parties system' that appears to give equal treatment to the inferior function of compensation.
Germany's 5% threshold of the popular vote for party lists to win any
seats is to prevent small extremist parties holding up larger parties to
coalition ransom. The Scottish parliament is to get the threshold another
Scotland is to have slightly less list members than single members. There is no more basis for just this balance of the two kinds of MPs. There is no basis for there being two classes of MPs. In a democratic society, MPs, and therefore their voters, should be clearly equal, not of an ambiguous status towards each other.
( Welsh elections with a Double Vote are to have yet a different mix, with only one-third of the members from the lists. )
A large majority ( of supposed partisans ) proportionally represented effectively dictates to a small minority, by excluding them from the system. The 'elective dictatorship' of the simple majority system has not been vanquished. The implication is that the Double Vote is too vulnerable to unstable coalitions otherwise.
The monopoly of the proportional count, parties are given, cannot be carried out consistently for fear of the practical consequences to government-forming with this system of partisan privilege.
Pretending that Double Vote/ AMS isn't an ad hoc compensated parties system only leads to another ad hoc 'correction', a re-correction by the 5% threshold.
The threshold may have denied militants a 'voice' other than that of explosive subversion. But the threshold certainly split the vote, for a not unnatural desire to save the world, between an emerging Green party and their sympathisers, the FDP. In some Land elections, neither achieved any representation with well over 5% of the votes between them. This anomaly could have been avoided with transferable voting.
For the sake of argument, we suppose the German Double Vote is the best
way we know how to patch-up existing electoral theory. How well, or badly,
then do the two axiomatic halves of the Double Vote react upon each other to
justify their combination?
This is discussed in the next part of: How not to do it.
The Germans believed the British single member system offered personal
representation to balance against their vote only for parties. The Double
Vote offers a spot vote for a personal candidate and a spot vote for a party
list of candidates. But two separately counted votes deems them incompatible
functions, effecting an arbitrary ban on the knowledge of one with respect to
No scientific experiment would be deemed valid under such inadequately controlled conditions of testing personal as distinct from party choice. Enid Lakeman said 'its personal element is illusory'.
i) The 'Personal' Vote
In single member constituencies, a personal choice of candidates cannot be made with respect to the party of one's choice, because there is only one person per party standing. Personal votes cannot be split between two candidates of the same party. But the standing-down of a party's candidate, or a new party candidate, could redistribute the voting enough to change which party's candidate came first past the post. In short, there is potential vote-splitting between parties.
An oligarchic trap awaits with regard to the first X-vote, if Britain
follows the German model. The number of single member constituencies would be
halved. A shire like Worcestershire would have two ( instead of four ) single
( Whereas the much-maligned single transferable vote would be local to the shire as a four member constituency.)
Local caucus re-selection of half the single members would be a 'musical
chairs' scramble for those fewer, safer seats. Democracy becomes a rubber
stamp, like the monarchy.
( Whereas Vernon Bogdanor says, STV is better than primaries. All the voters would be able to order a choice of several candidates from each party. )
Larger constituencies, being more typical of the national picture, would
fall more often to the marginally leading party, with simple majorities of
rather less than 50% or 40%. ( Compare 80% representation with four
STV-elected MPs. )
In 1983, 61% of the seats went to 42% of the votes for one party. But Britain could expect more disproportionate representation from its halved number of single members than caused all the fuss about distorting the people's wishes, in the first place.
Since the second X-vote can be used for the PR of a third party, this might encourage tactical voting for the less disliked of the two main parties, in single member constituencies. Judging by Britain's 1997 election, tactical voting is already acute. Larger single member constituencies are less winnable by smaller parties.
In Germany, the third party, with about 10% of the vote, soon never won a single member constituency. This is an even more drastic put-down than aroused a reforming sympathy for British Liberals, who at least got a toe-hold and built-up local power bases in the purely single member system.
What can be said against the single member system can be said with
redoubled force against it as half of a combined system. In the 1983 general
election, the Liberal-SDP Alliance, with its even distribution of support
thru-out the country, could have expected less than half its mere 3 1/2% ( 23
) single members for 25%+ the national vote. The Double Vote would have given
the Alliance almost all its quarter of the seats as list members.
Just because of their less concentrated support than Labour, on 28% the votes, the Alliance would have looked a lame-dog party that needed helping over the electoral stile.
The Double Vote's so-called personal representation would more exactingly impose one of two big party nominees mainly with a job for life in safe seats. For the 1979 general election, the national campaign for electoral reform guessed, on party swings, to within four seats, what candidates would be elected.
The Double Vote amplifies the grievance against a single member system to redress it. The patient's having to endure more pain is treated as a means of being made better.
ii) The 'Party' Vote.
The second spot vote of the German system may be a cure worse than the disease, making the 'personal' vote electively meaningless. Voters 'choose -out' no-one, if the rejected constituency candidates are saved for the lists from the less safe seats. If the third party only put its most popular candidates in single member constituencies for 'personal' votes, they would have the least chance of being elected. They have to have places on the list as well. So, the big parties' constituency candidates, too, can hardly be denied that safety net.
The typical procedure for a party list vote is: You have a vote on a party list; you may place your vote against an individual candidate on that list; therefore your vote counts towards electing anyone on that list. This is the fallacy of 'illicit major' in the syllogism, where a major term is illegitimately distributed in the conclusion.
The alternative to the German caucus-ordered list is to elect the individual candidates with the most X-votes on a party list. If the party is proportionally entitled to, say, three additional members, the first three candidates past the post on the party list are elected. It is possible that the third candidate got no personal list votes, yet he would still be 'elected' to make-up the party's proportional entitlement.
In the Commons debate on the ( uncombined ) Regional List for the 1979 Euro-elections, Labour's Home Secretary had to admit the possibility of List members without one vote by their name.
Most European countries use caucus-ordered lists with the spot vote exercising some first past the post influence. Maude and Szemerey point out how ineffective this is. In 1979, '22 of Belgium's 24 MEPs came from the top of their respective party lists. Seven of those elected had fewer personal votes than unsuccessful candidates below them.'
Just as the Double Vote's constituency vote fails to control for split voting between parties, the list vote fails to control for split voting within parties. In neither case does the order of election account for the accident or happenstance of who stands. For example, constituency votes might be split between two left wing parties, letting in a rightist party candidate. A list vote might be split between two right wingers, letting in a left winger.
These two kinds of party-monopolised votes are for a single party seat constituency and party-exclusive list of candidates.
Party list systems are in a dilemma of the oligarchic or split-voted election of individuals. Party lists lack a coherent principle of electing representatives. ( Transferable voting is such a principle of proportional representation. That is the difference between a scientific and an unscientific electoral procedure. )
Not only does the Double Vote undermine the legislative function of personal votes ( however limited ). These simple majorities also cease to count decisively in their executive function of electing a majority party government.
The party vote is meant to reflect all sections of opinion but lacks the local constituency channels for this legislative function. Instead, the party vote takes over the personal majority vote's executive function. Additional members from the lists go mainly to a third party, under-represented by single seats. They usually hold the balance of power, as king-makers of either the first or second parties. The mainly third party additional members are nothing if not executive MPs. The constituency members are pre-eminently legislative MPs.
( After-note: In short, the two votes and two classes of MPs, put legislative and executive functions at cross-purposes, in self-contradictory additional member systems. )
Anti-reformers believe constituency MPs a better class than list MPs. But regional list MPs may have more general duties, like generals outranking MPs detailed to the constituencies. Removed from the public, they owe their allegiance to the party list managers.
The Double Vote is an absurd executive mechanism. The way the German system squeezed the Federal Democrats out of the single member system may have destroyed the credibility of any but two main parties as big players. Yet neither of the big two can move without the confirmed stooge in the system.
It is not certain whether Britain would settle down to the same two party system in each region or nation of the UK. ( As it is, the Celtic fringe ensures a multi-party system. ) So, the classic criticism of Continental 'PR' could apply to a British Double Vote. Several parties could spend months working their way thru various coalition combinations. For this reason, unstable government is inherent in any party-proportional count, despite an attempt at its marginal suppression with a threshold.
( A transferable vote of ordered choice for candidates of different parties confers a majority on a prefered coalition, if necessary. This way voters elect the government. )
Suppose Britain did have just three key parties. Would one ( possibly squeezed ) Centre party be a force for 'moderation' with only an unpalatable choice between two polarised party manifestos, it can have little influence on? Every AMS election yields a Middleman party the undemocratic choice of one 'extreme' after another. This sacrifice of democracy to the Centre is not so much a control of instability as a third party caucus' chosen course of instability.
The centre party could become a prey to left or right wing infiltration, or corruption, not ideological, merely stagnant. Any system with a narrowly undemocratic basis of power is vulnerable to manipulation. Compare the subversion of the purely single member system's local caucuses -- a possibility that remains with these monopolistic constituencies in a combined system.
The Double Vote falls too short of genuinely democratic arbitration for
even politicians to accept and get on with the job of government.
Constitutional unsettlement awaits in vacillation between two inadequate and
contradictory conceptions of democracy, by simple majority and/or
This is because there is no logical principle to accommodate them, as transferable voting accommodates preference to proportion.
In West Germany, 1966, the Grand Alliance of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats intended changing to the British system, to cut out the Middleman party's additional members. In frustration at coalition flux from party lists, Italy brought in single members. Since the war, France has twice reverted from party lists to a single member system ( with the Second Ballot ).
Indicative of this crisis of indecision is a European Policy Forum study, in July 1997, that stated: Adopting a system of proportionally representative voting may have adverse consequences for good government.
Australia pioneered electoral theory and practise ( despite political abuses such as the compulsory voting of all preferences ). But New Zealand has no reform tradition, a society for that purpose only being heard of by 1979. The New Zealand Labour government's electoral commission recommended AMS, which was duly passed in a referendum.
But the Labour leader, visiting Britain, early in 1997, complained that proportional representation ( meaning the AMS ersatz PR her party made law ) is like the bronze medallist at the Olympic games deciding which of the two front runners should take the gold and silver.
Labour ( NZ ) knew the FDP used their power of coup d'etat to switch,
without election, from their leftward-moving Social Democratic partner, to
put the Christian Democrats in office.
Of course, British Labour's advocates of AMS don't believe they will be hoist with their own petard.
In a referendum, conservatives could make a powerful case against an additional member system. The single member system, left alone without additional members, may be 'unfair' to smaller parties, but at least it lets the people put the party in government they gave most seats ( and usually votes ) to. Better to let the people have some choice of government, and cut out the Middleman caucus, who are always in power, whether the voters want them there or not.
Also, a second X-vote for additional members on a party list need not go to an individual they chose on that list.
The voters have two basic rights taken away from them with the German Double Vote: individual choice and electing a government.
Anti-reformers could argue that there is no point in the voters having personal accountability and majority decisiveness in government elected by the single member system, just to have it taken away from them, with party-boss appointed non-constituency additional members to give pivotal power to small parties.
There is enough truth in this, as far as it goes, to give pause to voters
in an AMS referendum.
And the truth couldn't go any further without STV as the option.
AMS is already the system to be used for Scottish and Welsh assemblies. Tho, the Labour government's Royal Commission on the Constitution, in 1973, recommended unanimously the single transferable vote for all regions and nations in the UK. ( The chairman, Lord Kilbrandon went on to support STV for elections in general. )
Had the Labour government followed the Kilbrandon report's advice, it would have had the much respected Scottish Tory, Lord Home's support for an assembly with PR. Scotland would have had its parliament twenty years sooner, with the democratic PR of STV, instead of the party-privileged PR of the Double Vote.
The other official body to unanimously recommend STV/PR was the first
Speaker's Conference on Electoral Reform, set up in 1916. ( The government
was to break its pledge to support this particular recommendation, which
proved enough to ensure its defeat. )
In the same year, H G Wells wrote, in The Elements Of Reconstruction:
From the days of Hare and John Stuart Mill onward there has been a progressive analysis of the character and effects of voting methods, and it may now be taken as demonstrated that, wherever the common and obvious method of giving each voter in any election a single non-transferable vote is adopted, it follows necessarily that there can be no real decision between more than two candidates, and further it follows that the affairs decided by such voting will gravitate continually into the control of two antagonized party organizations. This is, of course, tame stuff compared with heady shoutings and accusations against plutocrats, rich Jews, privileged families and party funds, but it is the simple essential of this question. Voting, like any other process, is subject to scientific treatment; there is one right method of voting which automatically destroys bilaterality, and there is a considerable variety of wrong methods amenable to manipulation and fruitful of corruption and enfeebling complications. The sane method of voting is known as Proportional Representation with large constituencies and the single transferable vote... The advantage of this method is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of demonstration; it needs but an hour or so of inquiry to convince any intelligent person of its merit and desirability and of the fatal and incurable mischiefs of any other method...
A tradition in English-speaking countries persists that individual liberty is an electoral right embodied in transferably voted proportional representation. Carl Andrae, on the Continent, had no John Stuart Mill to champion his innovation, subsequently called Hare's system after its independent English discoverer.
Continental 'PR' soon went corporate, with dogmatic voting for a party,
neither liberal nor scientific, an enemy to individual freedom and general
knowledge alike: '..and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a
rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.'
( John Milton's Areopagitica. )
If the Independent Commission on Voting Systems recommends rightly, and is
endorsed by the Labour government, this country could make its most
significant contribution to the Constitution for over 300 years, in
advancing, electorally, knowledge in freedom.
( After-note: Written in 1998 to the Commission. )
( In the final section of Robert Blackburn's The Electoral System In Britain, 1995. )
The case is really for the party-proportional principle ( P. 407-11) with three subsections ( p. 411-24 ) on three reasons for a more party proportional Commons. Besides a few passing mentions of AMS, about the only attempt to make any sort of case comes at the end of those subsections:
Blackburn states that a 'strong reason' for prefering AMS is the
'simplicity' of how political parties can put more women and ethnic
candidates on the party list of additional members.
This is the simplicity of dictatorship over democracy, or of a few people telling everyone else who will run things.
Yet, Blackburn says ( p. 405 ): 'The exact details of the additional
member system can be tailor-made to suit the indigenous conditions of the
In other words, AMS supporters haven't worked it out. There is no clear way to do so. Instead, they've left the politicians to play about with it. ( Compare the Scottish and Welsh assembly elections. )
Not even the AMS count ( which is hardly a detail ) was simple enough for Blackburn to explain. The German system uses the D'Hont rule. This was also employed for the Lib-Lab pact's Regional List. In the Euro-elections debate, MPs decried the rule's description. They were not helped by the Home Secretary telling them that all they had to do was apply their minds to it.
Whereas, Blackburn gives a good, if minimal, account ( p. 373-5 ) of how STV works, the system he is concerned to rule out.
Moreover, in the 1997 election, the Labour party stole the thunder of the argument for party list patronage. The local caucuses worked together, nominating half the candidates as women, as well as some ethnic candidates. The election disproved the prejudice that the British people are more prejudiced than 'party elites'.
Blackburn closely follows ( p. 404-5 ) the criteria of the Plant report. These don't include voters' freedom of choice, tho to 'elect' only means to choose-out. Lord Plant backed Blackburn's book as including the best case for electoral reform. It is evident from his case for AMS, that never was, that there is very little to be said for it.
Blackburn follows ( p. 406 ) an opinion of the Plant report that STV's multi-member constituencies are only permissible in a small country, like Ireland, where electorates are approximately those of British single member constituencies. By this standard of electoral chauvinism, democracy should be impossible in the USA or India, because their single member constituencies are as large or larger than British multi-member constituencies would be.
Blackburn ( p. 404 ) regards as 'axiomatic' that electoral systems be particular to the traditions and institutions of countries. The repetition that Britain's single member system is 'traditional' ( p. 428 ) doesn't make it any the more true. And indicates the lack of a valid argument.
A truer picture, perhaps, is a European pattern of vacillation between two inadequate and conflicting conceptions of democracy by single members and /or party portions. The Plant report was based on this dilemma, which some 'reformers' would condemn Britain to, by introducing list systems and additional (list) member systems.
Blackburn ( p. 382 ) invokes the Treaty of Rome provision for uniform Euro-elections as a 'Trojan Horse' for PR in Britain, not appreciating it is a Trojan Horse for the Blackburn thesis of ethnocentric electoral systems ( on p. 404 ).
However, the treaty requirement should not be allowed to level down all countries' human rights, electorally, of unity in liberty, denied by systems counting an absolute party divisions.
Scientific standards, not arbitrary decisions, should be observed. If there 'cannot be a voting system which satisfies all the criteria' and if there really is 'no technical answer' only 'political judgement', as the second interim Plant report said (on p. 6), then the people are left wide open to a Cheaters' Charter to dignify time-serving as tradition.
The Plant report recommended the Supplementary Vote. Whereas, Blackburn,
following the report's point of view, recommended the Additional Member
The former gives a first and second choice ( or rather a preference vote limited to a double order of choice ). The latter gives a single member vote and a list vote, for a proportional count limited to parties as corporately privileged groups in society.
If Britain's institutions and traditions can stretch to either of those two systems, they can stretch to a complete preference vote for an impartial proportional count with transferable voting.
Sir Angus Maude and John Szemerey: Why Electoral Change? The case for PR examined. This does well to expose the 'power to the parties' of the lists, and their unstable coalitions. The section heading 'STV fiddles' is merely intemperate. It is complained STV breaks up simple majorities ( while acknowledging elsewhere 'STV breaks up ghettos' ). A ( failed ) Irish government attempt to gerrymander ( whittled-down ) STV constituencies, referred-to, has since given way to an independent Boundary Commission.
More proportionality is equated with greater instability and being less representative (e.g. p. 50 and 52 ). This would follow from the usual confounding of 'proportional representation' with proportional partisanship, which afflicts even the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
Peter Hain: Proportional Misrepresentation ( 1986 ). The title would be a
good one for the proportional partisanship that passes as 'PR'. Less factual
than the Maude and Szemerey booklet (1982) like which it is essentially a
party pamphlet, tho of 'the Left'. Claimed to be the first book against
Richard Lung's evidence to The Independent Commission on Voting Systems.
"Honesty is the best politics."