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Voting Reform – Why MMP/AMS Won’t Do

November 29, 2017

As I understand it official Make Votes Matter policy is still to support the principle of proportional representation while declining to come down in favour of one system. The majority of opinion on the facebook page seems to be to favour STV over a mixed system, but leading members of the organising team appear to favour AMS as the more achievable system. Somewhere down the line we are going to have to choose, at least unless we get two referenda as in New Zealand.

Those in favour of AMS appear to have neglected several key issues:

  • Britons (and parties) are very divided on attitudes to Europe. This is likely to remain an issue long after Brexit is achieved or abandoned. Voters ought be able to express their opinions at the ballot box.
  • Climate change is an existential threat; I have to accept that it is highly unlikely, the way things are going, that my grandaughter will survive to pensionable age. People ought to be facing up to the implications and to be able to express their opinions at the ballot box. Party positions do not adequately reflect the differing positions.
  • Germany’s MMP system has let it down. Because it is essentially party based, (even constituency members are likely to be voted for on the basis of party – as with FPTP), Merkel has been able to dominate politics. She has been able to get away with a politically dangerous (though morally laudable) policy on immigrants, and she has steamrollered her coalition partners. As a result we have the rise of the AfD and the SPD having lost support will not participate in a new coalition. Under STV I do not think this could happen. With transferable voting MPs will be less subservient to the party and care more about their constituents’ views. They will be more prepared to challenge the government when they think it is getting things wrong.

The one virtue of MMP is a good degree of proportionality in party terms; but it otherwise combines all the faults of FPTP and party-list systems.

I personally am very loath to support a system I believe is inferior at least without having a proper structure and informed debate which cannot be managed on social media. The ideal would be a citizens’ assembly like those held in British Columbia and Ontario some years ago. It would be good if the Constitution Unit at UCL could organise one as they have over the sort of Brexit we should have. Unfortunately this would be so unpopular with the government that the unit’s core funding could be threatened. We may need to do it ourselves using crowd funding.

One argument against STV could be that we cannot have proper democracy because voters cannot be trusted because they are so badly informed by the mainstream media including the BBC. The answer surely is public demonstrations against the media which would be reported on social media, RT and Al Jazeera. don’t think we will settle anything using facebook groups, facebook pages, or twitter. Moderators can censor bad behaviour but cannot be expected to ensure people listen to each other properly. Face to face debate is essential. We need to insist on a citizens’ assembly as in BC and Ontario.

 

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