Although I’ve thought about it for a long time, I find myself increasingly unsure about electoral reform, and questioning much of what is being said after Thursday’s election. I’m certainly no fan of the current system, with its awkward patchwork of safe seats and local tactical battles; and I’m distinctly unhappy to see the Tories handed the power to implement some really damaging policies; but I’m not sure the two things are really connected, or what a better system would actually look like.
This week, the first campaign leaflets started coming through for the Borough Council Elections, and, more interestingly, the voting system referendum. One of the Conservative “newsletters” featured this eye-catching cartoon, headlined “A.V. = A Permanent Cleggocracy”. I was immediately sceptical, but the more I looked at it, the more I realised how utterly wrong this cartoon is.
Much has been made of the fact that Gordon Brown was never elected; but the fact is, under our current system, no Prime Minister is elected. In fact, our system makes no explicit provisions for individual voters wishing to express their preference of government, only an indirect message via their collective selections for parliament. Discussions of electoral reform tend to either ignore this dichotomy, or suggest messy compromises that no-one really supports, rather than confronting it head on and coming up with a truly creative solution.