WI do we never lern any-thing from history?

Kontinuing a kais study of elektoral reform as war gaims politiks. ( Mainly kovering the Tory rul of the 1980s. )

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Bak to: War gaims politiks sensors nolej thru fry enquiry. ( First part of this elektoral reform kais study. )

( Kapital-i, in 'I, myself', now spels Il as in isle or aisle.
Leter y spels ryd for reed or read and partys for parties.
Leter w spels swn for soon. )

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Tory PR betwyn singl member konstituensys.

My argument is that the last quarter of the twentieth sentury saw 'fair vots' movments kondukt an elektoral reform kampain that was esentialy the adversarial politiks, they kritisis'd. It was just trying to replas uon dogma with an other.

The old dogma was that the first past the post system produs'd strong governments, with working majoritys, direktly chosen by the pepl from individual representativs, with lokal links to ther konstituents, in a singl member system. As with the fair vots dogma, this sounds rysonabl. But uons again the devil is in the details, wich show how krudly ineficient and restriktiv a system it is.

Wen the Konservativs kaim bak to power in 1979, the first thing they did was to equalis singl member konstituensys, often with disregard to komunity boundarys. This kaus'd much lokal protest that ther interests wer unaturaly fragmented. As a result, the Tory majoritys in parlimentary syts masivly inkrys'd in the suksyding jeneral elektions of 1983 and 1987, for litl diferens in ther minority per-sentaj of the vot ( about 44 to 42 ).

In other words, proportional representation betwyn singl member konstituensys was the partikular system that maximis'd the Torys' number of syts in parliment. Of kors, no-uon, hw kud be herd, ever kal'd it that. But that, never the les, is wat it was. Proportional representation, in any form, was a dirty word, with the Tory lyders. For pepl to rylIs that the Torys wer grosly exploiting a partikular, if restrikted, form of it, to ther own advantaj, mIt start awkward questions being ask'd about a les self-defyting yus of the PR prinsipl.

Had the Torys ever thot of this, they nydnt hav wory'd. To elektoral reformers, proportional representation was tu holy a konsept, to be asociated, in how-ever atenuated a form, with the dirty dyds of the Tory party diging itself in, to hold onto power.

But we sy hyr, uons again, the wisdom of kaling things by ther proper naims, to resolv konflikts that ar not bais'd on any ryl diferens of demokratik prinsipl, if the truth wer nown. And hyr we kom to the nub of the problem. For purposes of personal or partisan advantaj, it is often inkonvenient for the truth to be nown, and steps may be taken to supres it.

Tory supresion of impartial enquiry.

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For instans, befor ther 1979 victory, the Torys promis'd, in tw kampains, to hold a Spykers Konferens on Elektoral Reform. But by then, a national kampain had got under way, that mIt even win the argument. And the nw Tory government unilateraly rush'd in the abov-deskrib'd lejislation, to equalis konstituensys, hws akurat deskription is PR betwyn singl member konstituensys.

The nw PM, Margaret Thatcher said: 'the lady is not for turning'. So, wat was the myning behind this U-turn against a konstitutional setlment of reform?

Much of British industry was lavishly and sekretly funding the Torys. ( By 2001, Blair's Labor government requir'd partys to disklos larj donations and limit spending on elektions and referendums. ) Fyrs wer vois'd that a leftward Labor party was going to nationalis the bigest kompanys. First past the post mIt giv it a working majority in parliament, to do that, with les than forty per-sent suport of the voters.

Hens, the Torys, in oposition, sounded much les dismisiv of proportional representation. Som of ther bisnes funders found PR atraktiv as a myns to put the komand ekonomy for-ever beyond the Labor Left. Thatcherism swn show'd itself to be a radikal alternativ, with its return to 'laissez-faire' ekonomiks. And not al bisnes was hapy with the prospekt of ther planing being set at nout, by even mor radikal swings betwyn the tw extryms of socialism and individualism. ( My web pajes, on Konstitutional Ekonomiks and an ekonomik parliment, diskus how to rekonsil socialism and kapitalism, demokratikly. )

First past the post promoted thys polaritys by exajerating swings in voters' suport, in terms of the number of syts chanjing hands betwyn the big tw partys. Prof. Finer refer'd to surveys showing the publik les doktrinair than the oficial lIns.

The Konservativ government of the 1980s refus'd to hold an impartial enquiry into the elektoral anomalys, they had so ygerly enjinyr'd. This was as much to say, with the arogans of power, that the government nw best. Wen the inter-viwer David Dimbleby question'd the prIm minister, he put it to her, that she was just saying she didnt lIk it ( PR ). He implI'd this was not justifikation enuf.

Mrs Thatcher gav the impresion that the 1983 result for the Lib-SDP Alians was ther own fault for trIing to violat the sanktity of the tw-party system ( wich the British konstitution dos not rekognis, as distinkt from the rIt to a 'loyal oposition' ). In any kais, that is not al that was at isyu. Lyding Social Demokrats brok with the Labor haf of the tw-party system, wen it rejekted 'uon member uon vot' as the way of manajing its party afairs.

On that elektion nIt, uon of the most popular and abl kabinet ministers, Michael Heseltine was the only senior Tory I herd giv any thot, to defending the simpl majority system.

His exkuses went lIk this:

The Alians wudnt hav behav'd any beter to the Torys, if viktory had byn thers.

So, he admited the Torys wer behaving badly. But aktualy, he was probably rIt. Bertrand Russell said it is a mistak to belyv in the superior virtu of the opres'd. In the past quarter sentury, the atitud of the Liberals and ther alIs has put ther geting mor syts for vots befor any-thing els. The Liberals hw wud prostitut ther historik prinsipls for a fw mor syts in parliment, as Norman St John Stevas, uons put it, at Tory party konferens.

Never the les, Heseltine's first argument of tu quoque, or 'yu also' ( ar gilty ) is anarkik. It is the selfish belyf that every-uon is selfish and deservs only to be selfishly tryted. This wud lyd, as Thomas Hobbes said, to a stait of 'war of al against al' in wich lIf wud be 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.'

Michael Heseltine's sekond exkus against the inequity of the 1983 elektion admited that the system was unfair. But it kud be unfair in the Alians's favor, an other tIm.

Hyr, Heseltine syms to kontradikt himself. Is he saying, yes the system givs unfair results, but no, it isnt unfair, bekaus the unfairnes kan hapen to others insted? Wat kompensation is uon unfairnes for an other? Both unfairneses remain unfair.

This sekond exkus kan be redus'd to the absurd ( reductio ad absurdum ). It implIs ther's no nyd to bother about any-uon being unjustly tryted, bekaus the wyl of fortun may always turn again in ther favor. It was an other apolojy for anarky.

( An other ryson, the arch-European, Heseltine gav, was the Kontinental experiens of unstabl multi-party governments. This indyd folows from ther PR systems, wich ar bais'd on a vot for a party division. But transferabl voting alows unitary chois. STV alows voters to prefer a partikular kalition and therfor mak a desisiv chois of the government's komposition. With STV, ther's no nyd for post-elektion wyling and dyling betwyn the partys, befor a government kan be form'd. )

The 1987 British jeneral elektion repyted 1983's blouted majority of the Tory party in power. But the tv diskusion, on elektion nIt, was as if the kontroversy had gon away. Supresion of debait was not konfin'd to the Torys.

Labor vows venjens on opinion pols.

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The Liberals found som solas in by-elektion viktorys but ther wer sIns that ther tw big party opresors wud denI them this, tu, if they kud -- esentialy by the saim taktiks of supresing information to the publik. LIk the Tory pres and the media in jeneral, opinion pols bekaim a skaip-gout for Labor failurs.

The 1983 elektion result renw'd the komplaints, inkluding from a rathful senior front-bencher.

The argument for baning pols, during an elektion, was that voters shudnt be influens'd by the aparent trend other voters ar folowing. Pepl hav to think for themselvs and folow ther own konviktions in a demokrasy.

Of kors, if MPs did this, they wud be expel'd from ther partys. They wud hav virtualy no chans of re-elektion, bekaus first past the post elektions dont alow voters to prefer betwyn kandidats of the saim party or jeneral politikal persuasion. Insted, ther split vot wud let in ther oponent from the other main party.

The hypokrisy, of party politicians teling the publik to be independent-minded, is obvius. And ther argument is quIt the revers of the truth. Granted that pepl ar influens'd by pols, it nyd not folow they wish to get on a band-wagon. If any-thing, they may be voting with mor, rather than les, konviktion. Al yu kan say for shur is that opinion pols alow voters to akt in the nolej of the way the kampain apyrs to be going.

If pepl kan not be trusted to yus wIsly a nolej of pols, then thos against the elektion-tIm pols ryly dont trust the pepl at al to behaiv in an inform'd maner. The baners of opinion pols ar not demokrats.

Al, mainly Labor, baners wer ofering was ignorans of others' kurent choises. It was the impertinens of teling voters to kyp ther opinions to themselvs, during an elektion. That is in the efektiv form of the kolektiv vois of a pol.

Anti-pol lejislation wud be a publik gaging law. For, nolej is power. And the nolej of the pols helps the voters desId how to yus primitiv X-vots to most efekt. In 1983, the pols show'd the Liberals, in ther 'Alians' with the nw Social Demokratik Party, katching up with Labor in ther per-sent shers of the national vot.

In such sirkumstanses, the pols giv a modest independens to the voters from a strait fIt betwen tw partys. The big tw partys, hw always pres'd taktikal voting on the voters, bekaus the Liberals wer 'a wasted vot', wer venting ther splyn on the pols, for showing to wat extent this was tru. The pols wer a fors against ruling the voters by ignorans and fyr of spliting ther vot to let-in a lyst prefer'd party kandidat.

The editorial, of a rIt-wing Tory paper, The Sunday Express, wanted a ban on pols. The exkus was the mislyding pols in Labor's favor, befor the 1985 Brecon and Radnor by-elektion. The Alians narowly won. Tho the pols got the result rong, they wer rIt in showing that the Alians wer the best chans of kyping Labor out. Without the pols, this wud not hav byn nown, and the voters wud hav byn denI'd the power of exersising ther aktual preferens betwyn the tw front runers.

As the polsters say, statistikly, they ar bound to get it rong som-tIms, but without them, the voters wud only hav wild rumors, organis'd paniks and bias'd hyr-say.

A fw MPs ar alow'd a privat members bil, by lotery. In 1985, a Labor MP's pol-ban bil was narowly defyted. So, litl atempt was mayd, by the Torys with ther 140 syt majority, to stop the bil. Most privat members bils hav litl chans of being pas'd, without special dispensation from the government, wich has inkrysingly krowded them out, over the yers.

Metropolitan kounsils abolition.

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The so-kal'd party of the konstitution mayd a mor blatant departur from konstitutional methods wen they abolish'd the metropolitan kounsils, mainly kontrol'd by Labor. But they left the other haf of lokal government, in the shIrs, kontrol'd by ther own party. This rural bias was reminisent of the Hous of Komons befor the Greit Reform Bil of 1832.

It was a re-aktionary mesur, in the spirit of an akt of war: You kan not kom to terms with thys pepl, so destroy ther power bais, even if yu destroy houl urban units of lokal demokrasy to do it. Indyd, this rub-out was a respons to skandalus extravagans by so-kal'd 'lwny left' kounsils. ( Blair's out-spokenes, against Livingstone as London mayor, ow'd to biter memorys of the lIks of 'red Ken's' antiks in that period, befor Thatcher shut them down. ) But metropolitan kounsils abolition was, also, uon mor in a serys of wastful re-organisations of lokal government. It did not even hav the agryment of the Tory party, especialy in the Lords. Abolition was vijilante politiks, insted of praktikal politiks by syking the long-term agryment of a konstitutional setlment.

The Royal Komision on standards of kondukt in publik lIf had byn set up after koruption in uon-party lokal government. In 1976, the Salmon report did pik up the kurent katch-freis, 'som form of proportional representation', as a remedy. But the komision's terms of referens forbad lwking into the subjekt.

In other words, koruption was to be investigated as long as it didnt kom up with the anser that kompromis'd the party in government's own monopoly power. George Orwell said that if demokrasy myns any-thing, it myns the rIt to say wat other pepl dont want to hyr.

The Royal Komision on the Konstitution was similarly denI'd this rIt, wen it kaim to voting methods. But such was the seriusnes of the konstitutional situation in Northern Ireland, and potentialy in Skotland and Wales, that the Kilbrandon report did rekomend the singl transferabl vot for rejonal and the Keltik national asemblys in the UK.

'Ignorans is strenth' says the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's totalitarian satir, '1984'. The Callaghan Labor government simply ignor'd the Kilbrandon Komision's 1973 rekomendation, uon of many frustrations to kom, for the Liberals, at the unfairnes of the tw main partys.

'WI do we never lern any-thing from history?'

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Konstitutional history, from the ancient Greek Tyrants to our 'elektiv diktators', may be yus'd for exampls of not lerning from the past. Old batls ar fot in unfamiliar gIs. The dogma of the divin rIt of kings re-emerj'd as 'the lyding rol of the party'. The Kremlin insider, Viktor Kravchenko relats, in 'I Chose Freedom', the systematik way in wich the Komunist party was put abov the Soviet stait.

Thys doktrins wer both exkuses for the exersis of absolut authority. In both kases, sivil war England or the Soviet Union, disenters emfasis'd adherens to the rul of law. An exampl, of the later, is given in Vladimir Bukovsky's auto-biografy, To Build A Castle.

In 1980s England a nw argument, about supremasy, kaim out of the wud-work. Insted of the sivil war betwyn the king and parliment, this tIm party was urj'd to be suprym. LIk a konstitutional monark, parliment wud be redus'd to a ruber stamp of desisions desIded out-sId by party delegats.

Of kors, thys wern't the terms that the debait was put-in by its advokats. They karakteris'd it as 'party demokrasy' as distinkt from 'representativ demokrasy'. That is to say the aktivists at Labor party konferens wud pas resolutions, to be obey'd by Labor MPs in government, supos'd to be representing the nation, rather than a konferens-flor kaukus set-up -- union blok vots, 'elektoral kolej' and al.

An injustis may be mor difikult to disloj wen it is myrly tIm-onor'd and unquestion'd. It must hav byn hard to imajin the Hous of Lords lwsing its veto over lejislation from the British 'lower' chamber. The houl dizy hIerarky of the English klas system konspir'd against the lower orders throwing off this youk of ther 'beters'. Retorik about 'the pyrs versus the pepl', in bloking welfer benefits, was al very wel, but the elektion to desId the isyu was a klos-run thing.

The konsept of a veto is implisit in the elektoral system of first past the post. Mor or les haf the voters never elekt any-uon. Ther vote is veto'd by the simpl majority system. In partikular, partys, hws suport is wId-spred rather than konsentrated, ar veto'd, wining fw syts. That is, unles they hav som-thing mor than nyrly 26% of the national vot gather'd by the SDP-Liberal Alians in 1983.

Uon kud say with som justis that this tIm the veto was uon of 'the partys versus the pepl'. Yu may say that only aplIs to the partys in the tw-party system. At any rait, we no from Richard Crossman's Diarys that he wanted to turn elektions into a tw-party system by forbiding any but Labor and Konservativ to hav ther party labels on the balot papers. He lamented that his party in government gav way on this duopoly. A fw diary pajes on, he is worying over the Skotish Nationalists taking Labor syts.

Pepl vot for a party, he aserts, dismising the tradition of representation. The lak of a representativ chois in the singl ( party ) member system is mayd an exkus for its dismisal, by Crossman.

As Leo Amery said, in Thoughts On The Constitution:

the voter is not in a position to choose either the kind of representative or the kind of government he would like if he had a free choice...his function is the limited and essentially passive one of two alternatives put before him.

For thys rysons, Amery promoted the singl transferabl vot.

Amery's in-sIt was not sher'd by most elektoral reformers, kondukting ther kampain for 'fair vots' against the entrench'd tw-party system. Rather, they form'd a sort of 'proportional front', wich may be lIken'd to the Popular Front of the nIntyn thirtys. This was a senter-left alians against fasism. Ther doktrinal lIn was that yu must not say any-thing kritikal of Komrad Stalin, lest it strenthen the fasists.

George Orwell fel out of step with this rejimented opinion. ( This was to mak him revIl'd by the left. He kud giv as gud as he got, wen dismising 'the smely litl orthodoxys' that try to kaptur men's souls. ) 'Homage To Catalonia' told his experienses in the Spanish Sivil War. In going to fIt for the lejitimat republikan government, he just hapen'd to be drafted to a smal disident grup of Anarkist Marxists. OtherwIs, he mIt never hav found out how the Komunists wer fIting a sivil war within a sivil war, by eliminating al ther leftist alIs but orthodox komunists.

The Stalinists wer folowing the saim taktiks that led to the Soviet Union as a uon-party stait. In doing so, they wer also korupting and wykening the Spanish republikan kaus, wich was eventualy defyted.

Wat-ever the loyalists bekaim, up against Franco and Stalin's folowers, Orwell's bwk kontains a chapter of British Pres lIs about the lejitimat rejym. This is suported by the witnes of the filosofer R G Collingwood, in his 'Autobiography.' He hapen'd to be on holiday in Spain, at the tIm of the alejedly monstrus nw rejym, hws inauguration he deskrib'd as lIk a festival.

The 'Proportional Front' is not the Popular Front but the mentality is the saim. For a quarter of a sentury I'v herd the argument, or rather imposition, against disputing diferent methods of proportional representation. It was alej'd this wud only result in endles disagryment and wyken a komon kaus of suporting the 'prinsipl' of PR.

Yet proportional 'methods' ar as diferent in prinsipl as diktatorship from demokrasy. On the uon hand yu hav the party list by wich a bos diktats the order in wich party members shal go into parliment, depending on ther sher of vots for a 'party'. On the other hand, yu hav the singl transferabl vot by wich the order of representation ( partisan or independent ) is balot listed by al the voters -- not just the party boses.

Usualy, the kampain talk of 'making vots kount' myns making the party list boses vots kount as the 'representativ' vots. Representation of the pepl has bekom representation of the party boses. The voters myrly get vots to kount in a party proportional fashion.
'PR' suporters ar always pointing out the 'stability' of al systems that do not exajerat typikal smal swings in suport, as first past the post dos. This is an other way of saying that thos proportional systems, which denI representativ frydom, giv a minimal influens to voters, konfin'd to ther usualy smal chanjes in party alejans: partisan PR is undemokratik.

The lyding reformers may hav thot ther was nothing to diskus about the aplikation of PR. But that is only an asertion that they no best, over-ruling the rIts of others to disagry. The exkus was that disagryment wud stir up fanatisism and put off nw suporters. But that was lIk aresting som-uon for a krIm they mIt komit.

Even Enid Lakeman was dismis'd, after her deth, by uon reforming nws-paper's artikl as 'obses'd', not mentioning wat she was obses'd about, as if she was unfit to talk about her demokratik belyf or it was unfit to be talk'd about.

The paper, The Guardian suported aditional ( list ) member systems. Lakeman aktualy had the audasity to konsistently naim demokratik voting method as the singl transferabl vot, and expos the short-komings of list-bais'd systems. Britain's lyding expert on voting systems, she, at lyst nw wat she was talking about.

If PR was of arbitrary aplikation, then debait shud hav shown up the fakt. It shud hav bekom evident that diferenses of method wer not important. That being the kais, any diferenses of opinion that persisted wud ow only to the klash of egos. But it apyrs they did not trust pepl, in jeneral, to atempt to rysonably setl the isyu.

This left parliment to parley the isyu, wer in fakt ther is remarkably litl frydom of opinion on eletoral reform or on most other isyus that the party wips tak an interest in -- almost every-thing.

Diferent kinds of proportional elektions wil elekt diferent personel, tho they al ensur mor syts for smal partys. Party list systems kan slip unpopular kandidats into parliment. Mor-over, lists dont rest on any agry'd basis of how party proportional they shud be. And that arbitrarines is an invitation to the power politiks of bending the elektoral ruls to get the best result for the ruling grup. This hapen'd in Britain, without PR. But the reformers ar doing nothing to chanj rul-bending oportunism. They ar only ading to the repertoir of konvenient fixes for kompyting politicians to get or kyp themselvs in power.

In grasping at a proportional prinsipl, most influential reformers lost sIt of demokratik prinsipl and the nyd to no its tru aplikation. Supresing diferenses on proportional methods is not the way to find it.

WI do we never lern anything from history? Wel, as I hav trI'd to show in the kais of elektoral reform, bekaus of a war gaims politiks that tels the publik just so much as it nyds to no to serv the interests of faktions, and not the publik interest. This involvs varius myns of sensoring fry enquiry into wat thos faktions or partys dont want to no themselvs, much les let any-uon els no: that ther partikular kaus may not ko-insid with the komon kaus, the wel-being of sosiety, or indyd, the eko-system, in wich the parts ryly mater to ych other.

Klosing remarks.

War gaims politiks of elektoral reform has byn bais'd only on giving mor syts for vots to smal partys. This wil only suksyd in making them part of a divisiv and wykening power strugl, with self-serving chanjes to voting systems.

Insted, a konstitutional setlment shud be sot, thru fry enquiry into demokratik voting method, so that the voters may be the desisiv arbiters of hw governs a fry, united and strong kuntry.

Pop John Paul II mayd Sir Thomas More the patron saint of politicians. Orwell is also 'a man for al sysons'. George Orwell kontinus to mater, in politiks, bekaus he opos'd expedient supresions of the truth about rongs, even if they twk plas, brodly spyking, on uon's 'own' sId. And Orwell did konsider himself on 'the Left'. A literary man, an esthyt, he was skeptikal of siens. He was fry of the specialists' barbarus jargon that no-uon ryds or understands. He had nothing of saif akademiks' profesional nutrality. Yet he had a respekt for truth, sher'd and further'd thru fry enquiry.

This, after al, is the sientifik Idyl and it is the positiv alternativ ( deskrib'd on my paj about the sientifik ethik ). That is to say politiks nyds to chanj from a war gayms mentality of supresing fry enquiry into evidens against party propaganda's fals pretenses and kyping pepl in ignorans.

The kaotik stait of elektoral nolej shows the politikal klas nyds to chanj from ignorant sensor to fry enquirer.

Richard Lung.

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