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Cheers - AE

Saturday, 8 May 2010

PR is not the answer.

First Past The Post is looking increasingly obsolete so naturally thoughts are turning to the Liberal Democrats' personal wet dream, Proportional Representation. It's going to be talked about quite a lot because in Britain, thanks to the LibDems, it's the only other one that a lot of people have heard of. And to give PR its due it is a fundamentally more fair system than the current one that has allowed government after government after government to be formed by parties claiming a mandate despite nobody actually winning the popular vote. I've talked at some length about electoral reform (here, here and here if you've got a while) and gone into the pros and cons of PR, so in the interests of not repeating myself to much and keeping it quick I'm just going to repost a comment I left on Old Holborn.
As someone who lives with it let me explain what PR will give you.

Yes, it will give seats to the BNP, Commies, Greens etc, and on that I agree with Old Holborn. So what if it does? It'll also give seats to UKIP, probably a few independents and maybe nascent parties like LPUK. Goose and gander stuff, not a problem. The problem, or at least the first one, is that it will do precisely fuck all about the cronyism of the main parties and the unaccountability of their MPs.

Let me introduce Senator Stephen Conroy, a tool of the worst ordure, whose policy baby is government filtering of the internet to the entire fucking country. How do we get rid of the authoritarian prick? Answer: we can't because PR makes him at least as safe - probably more so - as any British MP in a reliably safe seat for their party. For a start he's a Victorian Senator so most of the country get no say anyway, but it's PR that keeps us here in Victoria from getting rid of the bastard. PR means party lists, and as long as Conroy is in the good books of the Australian Labor Party (please send spare vowels to Canberra) he'll be at or near the top of their list and absolutely guaranteed his Senate seat even if the ALP lose the popular vote in the Senate election here. The guy is literally fireproof since only the ALP has the power to fire him. We voters certainly don't.

Do you want that for the House of Commons? Do you want to give the Labial Conservocrats even more power to impose a collection of yes men, lobby fodder, fuckwits, spivs, tools and chancers on the electorate? If so then PR is just what you want. If not then look for something else.

The second problem is representation. Who is my Senator? Is it Conroy? Or is it one of the other five ALP Senators? Or one of the half dozen Liberals? Or the microparty madman from Family First? Because there are no constituencies the answer is none and all of them. Even if you consider the state of Victoria as a large multi-member constituency PR has weakens the link between representatives and constituents, particularly since nearly all serve at the pleasure of their parties rather than Victorian voters. That's not a huge problem here because we have constituency MPs in the House of Representatives for that - the Senators are there to represent the states and the role of the Senate is more or less what the House of Lords is for. For that PR is just fine, though party lists preventing easy dismissal of crap Senators is still a problem.

If you want to get rid of the Lords and have an elected chamber PR is a fantastic idea. But as a replacement for FPTP? If it happens I think many will soon be bitterly disappointed that the chance to replace the busted FPTP system with something that works was instead squandered on PR. You'll get your minor parties in but in the main parties, the ones that will actually form governments, you'll get even less accountability than you have now. FPTP has certainly got to go but don't jump from the frying pan to the fire.
So don't get all starry eyed and in love with the idea of PR. Supporting a new electoral system simply because it's less bad than the one you have is a bit like voting for a candidate who is less awful than the incumbent.
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