Sunday, 25 April 2010

Weighted members 2

Weighted members: further remarks

 

Electoral Reform Society

6 Chancel St.

LONDON, SE1 0UU

25 April 2010

 

Dear Sir,

Proportional Representation by Weighted Members

In a letter to The Times on 7th April I outlined what I called "Proportional Representation by Weighted Members". (See below). The idea is so simple that it has probably occurred to many people, but it is not currently being discussed and I therefore think it would be worthwhile for you to examine the suggestion. It has some merits and in some respects a superiority over all currently canvassed schemes for the reform of parliament.

Essence

In essence the suggestion is that current constituencies are not changed and nor is the voting system at general elections. However, subsequently, at each division of the House of Commons the inequalities in representation are repaired by weighting the members according to the total votes cast for their party at the election by which they were elected to parliament. Thus, at the 2005 general election, each Labour member represented 26,860 votes, each Conservative member 44,306 votes, each Lib Dem member 96,482, etc.. Each Lib Dem member at the Ayes lobby counts for 96,482 votes, each Labour member for 26,860 votes. (See Table below)

Features

Parties that won no seats in a general election would have no influence on the decisions of the House. However, provided that at least one member were elected to parliament, and voted on a particular issue, their voting strength would exactly represent the opinion in the country (in so far as a political party has a definite policy on, or a predictable attitude to, the issue in question.

The geographical relationship between a member and a constituency would remain. However, a member with a party affiliation would additionally represent voters in other constituencies who support his party but who failed to elect their representative and whose votes would therefore be wasted in the current system.

The personal qualities of an individual candidate would remain vital in getting him elected to the House (as is not the case with party list systems).

The most powerful single party would presumably be asked to form a government, which might not be the party with the greatest number of seats. Its cabinet would presumably bring forward policies to the House, where they might get blocked by a coalition of minor parties (in the likely event that no one party had greater than 50% of the total votes cast at the general election; viz  in the event of a 'hung parliament'). However, it is not the case that such blockage would be inevitable with a hung parliament as it is absurd to suppose that responsible members would vote repeatedly for chaos. Party whips and members thinking for themselves would have to assess each measure on its merits; which seems no bad thing.

Unique advantages

[1]  The system of PR by weighted member is extremely easy to institute. It requires no change to constituencies of the conduct of elections. It requires only that the party affiliations (if any) of members of parliament be known officially, and their names taken at each division of the House of Commons.

[2]  The system can even be instituted without the consent of the two major parties, who traditionally (and understandably though cynically) resist any reform that would weaken their political dominance.

[3]  It allows the examination of the effects of a proportional parliament without the fearsome step of dismantling the present system.

[4]  It might therefore be considered as a way of  pressing the case for reform of the House.

 

I would appreciate your considered views.

Yours sincerely,  Ian West

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Table of weightings for the 2005 parliament

 

2005 General Election

 

Votes per
seat

Party

Seats

% Seats

% Votes

Total vote

Labour

356

55.2

35.3

9,562,122

26860

Conservative

198

30.7

32.3

8,772,598

44306

Liberal Democrat

62

9.6

22.1

5,981,874

96482

UKIP

0

0

2.2

603,298

 

SNP

6

0.9

1.5

412,267

68711

Green

0

0

1

257,758

 

Demo. Unionist

9

1.4

0.9

241,856

26873

BNP

0

0

0.7

192,746

 

Plaid Cymru

3

0.5

0.6

174,838

58279

Sinn F司n

5

0.8

0.6

174,530

34906

Ulster Unionist

1

0.2

0.5

127,414

127414

SDLP

3

0.5

0.5

125,626

41875

Independent

1

0.2

0.5

122,000

122000

Respect

1

0.2

0.3

68,094

68094

 

 

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Tipping

Tipping and the Law

I am glad that the question of tipping has come up for clarification, but I am not confident that the right choice has been made. I find tipping divisive, ill-directed, and productive of the worst kind of obsequiousness. I understood it was illegal in New Zealand in the fifties and believe it should be elsewhere. It is most important to avoid confusing 'gratitude' and 'salary'. And to avoid the bizarre position they have reached in the USA, where a waiter has to pay tax on the mere assumption that he is getting tips! Good food is as important as good service and we certainly do not need the discretionary aspect of tipping to reward either; we simply stay away from bad restaurants and patronise good ones. 

 

Of course tips should not be counted as part of the waiter's wage. But I do not see why a Service Charge could not be levied by the restaurant and used to pay staff wages; all staff; including cooks and scullery staff, and not just the smarmy waiter who crouches by your table and tells you that he is called Jason and will be attending to your needs this evening. Customers should be asked NOT to leave money on the table.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Weighted Members

Weighted members

 

Dear Sir,

There are strong arguments for some form of proportional representation in the house of commons, and some arguments against. If the house more nearly represented the country there would be more consensus behind acts of parliament, votes would count and democratic participation would (probably) increase. On the other hand, the greater stability would make it harder to change our institutions dramatically and whimsically, and this would doubtless appear as a disadvantage to some. (The complaint that centre parties would constantly be "in power" is utter nonsense and I shall not discuss it.)

 

However, there are a number of different systems by which a more proportional house could be achieved, and each of these inevitably involves changes of some sort, changes which will appear to some people to outweigh the advantages; larger constituencies, coalition governments, complicated ballot papers, etc.

 

My suggestion of "weighted members" is very simple and requires no change in the constituencies, nor voting arrangements in the country. (Indeed, it is dangerously simple because it does not even need the agreement of the two major parties which has hitherto blocked all attempts to introduce proportional representation.  A single maverick, acting alone could inaugurate a transparent and almost totally representative parliament.) It can easily be observed that, after the 2005 general election, each Labour member represented 26,860 votes, each Conservative member 44,306 votes, and each Lib Dem member 96, 482 votes, etc. Labour, as the party with the greatest number of total votes, would still have been asked to form the government. Each member would still have represented the same constituency that voted them in. But at each division of the House their voting weight would be augmented by the votes of those citizens who are dis-enfranchised by the present system.  Each Labour member passing into the 'Ayes' lobby would carry 26,860 votes, each Tory 44,306, etc.

 

(This simple system can even be applied retrospectively, and we can examine whether or not the Thatcher government had a mandate for the privatisation of our utilities and transport networks.)   

Yours sincerely,

 

7 April 2010

 

Ian West

12 Longhirst Village

MORPETH, NE61 3LT

(tel: 01670 791880; e-mail: ianwest001@tiscali.co.uk)

2005 General Election

 

 

 

 

 

Seats

% of

% of

Total vote

Votes per

 

 

Seats

Votes

seat

Labour

356

55.2

35.3

9,562,122

26,860

Conservative

198

30.7

32.3

8,772,598

44,306

Liberal Democrat

62

9.6

22.1

5,981,874

96,482

UKIP

0

0

2.2

603,298

 

SNP

6

0.9

1.5

412,267

68,711

Green

0

0

1

257,758

 

Democratic Unionist

9

1.4

0.9

241,856

26,873

BNP

0

0

0.7

192,746

 

Plaid Cymru

3

0.5

0.6

174,838

58,279

Sinn Féin

5

0.8

0.6

174,530

34,906

Ulster Unionist

1

0.2

0.5

127,414

127,414

SDLP

3

0.5

0.5

125,626

41,875

Independent

1

0.2

0.5

122,000

122,000

Respect

1

0.2

0.3

68,094

68,094