I’ve been writing an essay on possible electoral reform in the UK, but it’s turning into a mini-book. So I’m just going to post up the very short summary of my main conclusions and proposals.
My proposal for how to reform the House of Commons:
- Decrease the number of constituencies from 650 to 600.
- Ensure all constituencies are almost identical in size so as to make all votes roughly equal (currently, the smallest has 21,769 electors and the largest 110,697).
- Following the Jenkins Commission’s Report 1998 (JCR 1998), introduce two kinds of MP; those chosen from single member parliamentary constituencies (like now), and those chosen proportionally from multi-member regional constituencies. This is what happens currently for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the London Assembly.
- Following the JCR 1998, only 15-20% of MPs to be multimember; so, 480:120 or 500:100, single member constituency MPs to multimember constituency MPs. This is as opposed to the devolved legislatures which have around 40-45% of members drawn from the multimember regional constituencies.
- Very approximately, the country should be divided into around a dozen multimember regional constituencies; this ensures a high level of proportionately, but not so much that politics becomes destabilised.
- This could be on similar lines to how Members for the European Parliament are currently elected from the UK so that the constituencies do not all have an equal number of MPs. The benefit is that natural geographic or cultural regions can be treated as constituencies regardless of size, e.g., Northern Ireland.
- Alternatively, this could be done as in Wales and Scotland where the regions all elect the same number of members. The disadvantage of this is that either traditional boundaries would have to be disregarded, or some constituencies would have more MPs than their populations would proportionately require.
- In the single member constituencies, MPs to be elected on the same basis as the London mayor, on the Supplementary Vote system; voters pick a first and second choice, if no candidate receive more than 50% of first choice votes, then all but the leading two candidates are eliminated and all second choice votes are redistributed to determine the winner.
This series of proposals taken together introduces some proportionality, but not to the point that it destabilises politics (that is, permanent coalitions and collapsing governments). It encourages people to vote for who they really want, as they know their vote really counts in the multimember regional constituencies, and that they can vote for who they want in the single member constituencies without wholly ruining it for the second favourite candidate. Currently, people will often vote Labour to keep out the Tory, or vice versa, when they really want to vote Green (for example). Under this proposed system, they could confidently vote Green in the multimember regional constituency, and then either Labour in the single member constituency or Green first choice and Labour second choice. It also makes it more likely that the MP in the single member constituency will command 50% or more of the electorate.
The only possible downside is that it introduces two kinds of MP. But I say we already have two kinds of MP: we have those in the Government who are thus in the Executive branch of Government, and back benchers who are not in the Government and are thus not part of the Executive. In other words, the MPs who run the country + look after their constituents, and MPs who only look after their constituents. Indeed, the Speaker of the House could himself be considered an altogether different, third type of MP in the current set up.
I hope to publish a more detailed analysis and investigation into reform of the House of Commons soon.
© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry
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