Receiving a few emails at present asking me to support proportional representation. On balance, I don’t agree with this - for House of Commons elections anyway. But since I was elected as a member of the National Assembly for 8 yrs via an ‘Additional Member’ system of proportional representation, you’ll not be surprised that I’m not a ‘frothing at the mouth’ opponent. It’s just that I’m reluctant to make changes to our constitution Without an overwhelming reason.
I think the main reason to oppose Proportional representation (in my opinion) is that the elected government will never have to stand by the manifesto it was elected on. Rather than strengthen democracy, it may well weaken it. In a UK Parliamentary election, no political parties secure 50% of the vote. The largest party (though not always) would have to come to an agreement with another political party (or parties) to agree a ‘programme for government’. The alternative is another election. This disconnection, (inherent in inter-party dealings) between what a government promises and what a government does would happen after every general election. Political parties would feel able put forward manifesto commitments they could not deliver on.
Of course our current ‘first past the post’ system of government sometimes delivers the same situation. It did so in 2010, when the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat’s agreed a programme which differed from manifestos. The example most quoted (thoug( there were others) was the Lib Dem’s decision to support a significant increase in tuition fees, after promising to scrap them during the election campaign.
And it’s not unusual to see an impasse lasting a very long time after an election in a pr system, as we are currently witnessing in Germany. Mostly, the ‘first past the post’ system of election delivers a government with a manifesto to which it can be held to account. It’s the greatest strength of our system. There are also issues around the status of individual candidates. In our current system of election to the House of Commons, citizens vote for individuals, not parties. Though of course the party label is hugely important. I am an MP because the people of Montgomeryshire voted for me. I was an AM, because the people of Mid and West Wales voted Welsh Conservative.
Maybe the next step on the road to proportional representation should be in local government, (though I should add that I dont favour it).