Make Votes Count

Electoral Reform in the UK

Democracy isn't Deskbound Make Votes Count has re-branded their campaign, and produced an action plan, which I reproduce below:

Continue on to the MVC WebsiteView the Campaign Launch Photos

6 Things you can do
1. Petition the Prime Minister. Sign our petition to Gordon Brown

2. Pledge to a Consultation. Sign the pledge and show people's willingness to be consulted

3. Write to your MP. Ask them to forward your comments to the Minister

4. Contact your nearest PR Politican. Enlist the support of your MEPs/AMs/MSPs

5. Have your say: Governance of Britain. Tell the Ministry of Justice that voting systems matter

6. Donate to the Campaign. Help us maximise what we can achieve

If you would like to post this to your website, see the previous post for the code.

Make Votes Count Code

Democracy isn’t Deskbound If you want to make this post to your own site, just grab this code....

<a href="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/"><img src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/logo.jpg" alt="Democracy isn't Deskbound" width="580" height="150" /></a> <a href="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/">Make Votes Count</a> has re-branded their campaign, and produced an action plan, which I reproduce below: <a href="http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/news.html"><img class="five" name="continue" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/buttons/continue-swap.png" alt="Continue on to the MVC Website" /></a><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/makevotescount/"><img class="five" name="view" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/buttons/view-swap.png" alt="View the Campaign Launch Photos" /></a> <img class="title" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/6-things.gif" alt="6 Things you can do" title="6 Things you can do" /><br/><a href="http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/deskbound/"><img class="thing" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/thing-1.png" alt="1. Petition the Prime Minister. Sign our petition to Gordon Brown" title="1. Petition the Prime Minister. Sign our petition to Gordon Brown" /></a>

<a href="http://www.pledgebank.com/votingmatters"><img class="thing" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/thing-2.png" alt="2. Pledge to a Consultation. Sign the pledge and show people's willingness to be consulted" title="2. Pledge to a Consultation. Sign the pledge and show people's willingness to be consulted" /></a>

<a href="http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/opus26009.html"><img class="thing" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/thing-3.png" alt="3. Write to your MP. Ask them to forward your comments to the Minister" title="3. Write to your MP. Ask them to forward your comments to the Minister" /></a> <a href="http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/opus26011.html"><img class="thing" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/thing-4.png" alt="4. Contact your nearest PR Politican. Enlist the support of your MEPs/AMs/MSPs" title="4. Thank your nearest PR Politican. Enlist the support of your MEPs/AMs/MSPs" /></a> <a href="http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/opus25967.html"><img class="thing" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/thing-5.png" alt="5. Have your say: Governance of Britain. Tell the Ministry of Justice that voting systems matter" title="5. Have your say: Governance of Britain. Tell the Ministry of Justice that voting systems matter" /></a> <a href="http://www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/donate.html"><img class="thing-last" src="http://www.makevotescount.org.uk/i/thing-6.png" alt="6. Donate to the Campaign. Help us maximise what we can achieve" title="6. Donate to the Campaign. Help us maximise what we can achieve" /></a> If you would like to post this to your website, see <a href="http://www.murky.org/make-votes-count-code/">murky.org</a> for the code.

Democracy isn’t Deskbound

Electoral Reform - a reply from my MP

I wrote to Michael Gove MP on the issue of electoral reform, and this is what he had to say in response.

Thank you very much for writing.

I would like to think that I am open minded about all proposals to make our electoral system work better. But I have to say that the direct accountability of our current system seems to me to have many advantages. Even though he is not, of course, a Conservative the arguments made by Jack Straw the Foreign Secretary in The Guardian recently seem to me to make a persuasive case for the maintenance of the current system.

Yours sincerely

Michael Gove MP

This is my response:

Dear Mr. Gove,

Thank you for your reply to my letter of the 6th May.

I am pleased to hear that you're open minded about proposals to make the electoral system better, and am glad that you are supportive of a system which allows direct accountability.

May I venture to suggest that the current system actually inhibits accountability at a national level given that a voter in a marginal seat has much more power than a voter who lives in a safe seat?

If you are referring to Jack Straw's article of the 12th May (available on the Guardian website), it seems that Jack Straw was writing against the use of list-based PR at Westminster. Quite right too, as it would be biased against independents.

As I mentioned in my original letter, AV+ (as proposed by Lord Jenkins) maintains a constituency link, and hence maintains accountability.

Still better than AV+ is the Single Transferable Vote which has no "list based" element at all. This would allow voters to say "I'd prefer A, wouldn't mind B, but would prefer them both to C". This preference is at the level of individuals and not parties. In a stroke this eliminates the need for tactical voting, as people can express their true preference without a need to worry about "splitting the opposition vote". Under a current system it would be possible for an MP who has the support of only 30% of the population to have three "protest" candidates gain 70% between then and still be elected. Under STV, the voters would be able to express preferences between the "protest" candidates without harming the chances of their protest being unheard.

STV would not provide "proportionality" in terms of first choice, but it would give a government which most people can feel engaged with – it would provide a much "better fit" than the existing system. STV is used for the Australian Senate, the Republic of Ireland, and several other governments.

In short, STV is a system which keeps local accountability, can still provide strong government (it is not "proportional") and it allows voters to express preferences between candidates. It is also easy to understand for the voter; they just rank the candidates 1, 2, 3, 4 etc…

This is electoral reform where strong governments can be formed and where those governments do represent the true preferences of the people.

I would be interested to learn your views on STV, and hope that you will give the issue of electoral reform further consideration – list based PR is not the only alternative to first past the post.

I still await your views upon the second question I raised in my original letter.

Yours Sincerely,

The government has formed a sub-committee to look at these issues. The list of names does little to inspire confidence in this humble voter. I hope I'm wrong in my scepticism.

Edit: Above letter modified slightly.

Reply from Downing Street

Downing Street have responded to my letter about electoral reform.

Number 10 Letter Head

The Prime Minister has asked me to thank you for your recent letter.

Mr Blair would like to reply personally, but as you will appreciate he receives many thousands of letters each week and this is not possible.

The matter you raise is the responsibility of the Department for Constitutional Affairs, therefore he has asked that your letter be forwarded to that Department so that they are also aware of your views.

Yours sincerely

KIMBERLEY WELLS

Or in other words: 'The prime minister hasn't seen your letter, when we say he asked that it be forwarded we didn't mean your letter precisely, but rather that he left an instruction not to bother him with these things. In this way he can have the honestly held belief that people aren't concerned with this issue'.

Or is that overly cynical?

Still listening, Tony?

P.S. I'm not naïve enough to assume that he would reply personally, but I do resent the implication that the PM has read the letter without actually saying he has explicitly. If he has read a letter include 'The Prime Minister read your letter and asked me....', if not, use the above form to give that impression without saying so..