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Conservatives and electoral reform

About the author
Janice Small is the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Batley & Spen.

Janice Small of Conservative Action for Electoral Reform on the Conservative debate about the electoral system:

We have just seen the election of the BNP under a PR system. But let’s be clear – it wasn’t the system – the BNP gained their council seats under FPTP, the electorate was having the equivalent of a peasants’ revolt against all politicians.

As Labour contemplates PR – not all PR – just AV+ you understand, to save their skins, divert attention from MPs’ expenses, Labour in meltdown, etc, while Alan Johnson as a leadership candidate tries to be different in pitching PR to us in his CV.

We Tories have nothing to fear from electoral reform – don’t call it PR (proportional representation) as that is red rag to a bull. But from across the party the debate is being had on electoral reform, with Messrs Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell promoting multi-member constituencies for more accountability, representation and an end to ‘safe’ seats. They also admire the STV system in Ireland which makes the TDs campaign very hard for their votes. We have the MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, a democracy expert, setting out how to reform the closed list PR system currently in operation in the EU. The debate is being had. We should not be bounced into hasty reaction just because Labour might be having a leadership crisis.

The voting system has held back Conservative progress outside rural England. This stands in stark contrast to the inroads made in devolved legislatures elected under the Additional Member System, and in Scottish local government elected under the Single Transferable Vote:

National Elections

At the last general election the Conservative Party polled 65,704 more votes than Labour in England, but ended up 92 seats behind. In Wales the Conservatives received more than a fifth of the votes (297,830 or 21.4%) in the 2005 General Election, and won just 3 seats. In Scotland we received 369,388 votes (15.8%) and a single seat See The Conservatives and the electoral system, (ERS 2005)

Devolved Elections

Without the proportional element from the Scottish Parliament vote Conservatives would have 4 rather than 17 MSPs (based on 2007 election). By the same principle we would have 5 rather than 8 AMs in the Welsh Assembly (2007 Election)

Local government in Scotland

The advent of PR in Scotland prompted Conservatives to put up nearly a full slate of candidates in the mainland, including candidates in many areas where they had never previously contested elections. The Conservatives were the party that saw the biggest expansion in its reach in 2007. For more see Local Authority Elections in Scotland 2007 (ERS, 2008)

The only reason that Labour is now proposing AV+ is because they see electoral advantage in it. Let us have a proper debate on the different systems before putting it to the electorate otherwise it will just be seen as gerrymandering.

One thing the public will not sanction is more of their money being spent on bigger government. Under AV+, depending on the top up thresholds, we could see an extra 150 MPs in Parliament. Do Labour really believe this is palatable at a time of deep recession and deeper resentment of MPs?

It is not our democracy that is broken, our constitution could do with tweaking – a Bill of Rights as proposed by David Cameron would be welcome – nor is it Parliament that is broken, it is a few lost souls who believed that the taxpayer owed them a higher living than they were getting. They were found out, the system proved inadequate and no one had the political strength to get to grips with it.

Let’s have a proper debate about the PR system, rather one being bounced upon us to divert attention away from the expenses debacle.


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