There are significant problems with first past the post, one being because it means that so many votes are ‘wasted’. This mocks Democracy, particularly if you live in a safe seat. It’s also sickening to have to hold your nose and vote tactically. However, the more I watch the world around me – our natural polarisation; small, single-issue parties which are great locally and vital as national agenda setters and re- setters but not actually viable or suitable for national governance, for instance – the more I wonder if proportional representation is any better. Political thought and choice, it would seem, is invariably reduced to an either/or, regardless of the system, so maybe first past the post has an inevitability. PR sounds all grown up but really it amounts to a lot of settling and time-wasting squabbling. It seems like a system destined to serve no one properly and everyone vaguely. Just look at the two-party coalition fiasco we’re suffering now. If you were a Tory then the chances are you feel let down by the dilution of compromise. If you voted Lib Dem, thinking you would get left-leaning wisdom and some integrity then the chances are, you feel as utterly betrayed as those who voted for Labour.
Now, I’m no expert, obviously! – but I am a voter and I reckon there are other mechanisms we could invent if we just used our imagination. I don’t know if it’s naive or sensible but here is one – in the very rough:
I’d like to have two votes in a General Election: one, for the person (US stylee) or the party (Europe stylish) upon whom I would wish to bestow the authority to form and lead a government; and a second, for my local parliamentary representative, as is traditional, to vote on my behalf (let’s assume integrity). This local MP would join the collective HoC pool from which the elected leader would probably construct most of his or her team – though not necessarily: this is ‘rough’, remember – It’s up to us.
This would also potentially sufficiently loosen the loyalty leash of the Party Whip so that a local MP might actually be freer to put his/her constituents’ interests above those of his/her party’s, on those occasions where the government created is still all, or mostly, from the same party.
Obviously, the local vote would be bound by constituent demarcation. However, the first vote – the primary reason for my suggestion – the first vote, the one for the Prime Minister, I would make a popular national vote. (Who knows: perhaps party-independent individuals might also be inclined to come forward..) No constituencies; no geographical boundaries for this vote. One nation, to re-coin a re-coined phrase. Every single vote designed to count. An authentic FPTP result. Maybe, just maybe, more people would show up to mark their cross.
I know this does not necessarily guarantee any of the myriad improvements we urgently need in our political climate nor the integrity of our politicians, nor the quality of their content and substance. But it might guarantee that when we vote, we feel our voice is more accurately reflected. (I actually think it would have a greater impact but my layman’s head thinks to play it down a bit, lest my suggestion turns out to be not just naive but impossibly stupid. Is it a stupid idea?)
Anyway, Progress comes most often by increments. Democracy is a messy business and in constant need of improvement. I say that a lot, I know, but it’s true, nonetheless. Sometimes the smallest, simplest steps make the most difference.
[Actually I may have said it better elsewhere: ‘Making Democracy Work’ https://julijuxtaposed.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/making-democracy-work/%5D