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Voting Reform – the Constituency Link

January 10, 2016

27 December 2015

Dear Mr Corbyn

Voting Reform – the Constituency Link

I write as a Green Party member who nevertheless hopes you can unite the Labour Party and cope with the right wing media. I am glad that you are thinking about voting reform. The Tories must be beaten in 2020 and this may involve an anti Tory alliance which undertakes to introduce a more proportional system and then call a further election. Of course there is the question of choosing which system. Is there time to leave this to a Constitutional Convention?

I understand you would insist on retaining the constituency link, but would ask you to reflect on what that means, and why it is important. Is it valued more by MPs or by their constituents, and which is more important? When they are elected, many MPs go on about how they aim to represent all their constituents, not just those who voted for them. All too often the reality is very different; the MP has no interest in engaging with a constituent who dares to challenge his or her party’s policies, and does not have the social skills to deal with more personal matters. The MP for South Dorset, in which constituency I live, is perhaps an extreme example. Experience has taught me that it is not worth trying to communicate with him. He is not my MP. I will not bore you with the story of when a group of us had the temerity to lobby him on the Health and Social Care Bill. If he could, he would have had us peasants transported to the colonies for daring to challenge him.

I suggest that most voters would far prefer a choice of three or four MPs in the hope that one of them would be someone they could relate to.

In terms of systems, the choice is basically between Single Transferable Vote (STV) and a mixed system in which some MPs are elected into single member constituencies and others are appointed from a regional party list. Under STV constituencies would return typically four members, but this could vary to suit natural communities. In North London you could have a three member constituency covering the London Borough of Barnet or a six member constituency covering Enfield as well. In remote areas you might have a single member constituency. All the MPs would have been elected on the same basis. Voters would be able to take into account the personal qualities of the candidate, not just his or her party.

With mixed systems, German experience suggests you need as many list MPs as constituency MPs to achieve proportionality. This means doubling the size of constituencies and electing half the members to represent a whole region. Which system best preserves the principle of the constituency link? I suggest it is STV.

I will be at Tolpuddle in July representing ‘Make Votes Matter’.

yours sincerely

David Smith

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