Scouring the BBC website just now I happened across their article on the debate currently raging over whether the country should have a referendum on changes to the electoral system. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.
One. The main problems that nay-sayers seem to have with it (at least which I can see from the article) are rather selfish (at a party level that is) at best. A Conservative MP apparently expressed fears that an ‘outright Conservative government’ would never be in power again; Labour has brought to the table the idea that rejigging the constituency boundaries might ‘disproportionately’ hurt their figures in Commons. No specific Liberal Democrat comments appear to have been recorded, though I suspect that if they had as much of a vested interest in keeping the system exactly the way it is as the Tories and Labour do, they probably wouldn’t sound much different. The idea that a change to the electoral system might allow the British electorate to be more accurately represented within the body that governs it seems to have escaped them, possibly swallowed up in a tide of self-interest.
Two. Ever since the general election there has been more clamouring for change in the electoral system than I, personally, have ever heard. That the numbers of seats in the House of Commons that each party ended up with is so incongruous with the number of votes they received is absurd. Electoral change has already been talked down from real proportional representation to the alternative vote system, and at this point many MPs are still trying to quash the idea altogether. This is an issue that needs to be decided by the people whose electoral relevance it deals with, not those who have such vested interests in keeping themselves in power.
Three. The idea that MPs should decide the method by which they remain in the House of Commons is utterly illogical. It’s like letting students decide their own exam grades. I know we have a parliament to decide on matters of state, but this strikes me as an issue that, if decided by any means other than the will of the people (which is to say, a referendum), could be seen as dangerously illegitimate.
As far as I can see, politicians are, by nature, going to be wary of anything that looks to pull the rug out from under their feet. Any sort of change in the electoral system looks like it could do just that. Change like that could be beneficial, or it could be dangerous. But it would be fair.
This has been: My Two Cents.