PR is already a success here

Thursday, 16th June

Make Votes Matter

‘PR operating well in the UK for a while. We just need to bring it to Westminster with equally felicitous results’

• MARTIN Plaut (Proportional representation systems are problematic, June 2) seems to fear a litany of calamities should the UK adopt PR, proportional representation.

But PR has been operating in the UK quite successfully since the 1970s. He may not be aware of this simply because it has been just quietly getting on with the excellent job that it does; in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the London Assembly.

If something had been so wrong it would surely have been apparent by now? Where it does operate it seems to garner increasing cross-party support.

Conservative Assembly members recently supported a motion against the Conservative government bringing back first-past-the-post, FPTP, for London mayoral elections.

A woman Conservative AM spoke at the Make Votes Matter rally in Hyde Park last Saturday commemorating the Suffragists’ 1913 Great Pilgrimage marches from across the land to Hyde Park.

Countries with PR do seem to have more women represented in their parliaments and governments. Excellent examples are New Zealand, Finland and Sweden.

Yes some PR systems are better than others and Make Votes Matter, the campaign vehicle for PR, doesn’t support all of them. MVM has created the good systems agreement.

This sets some 10 benchmarks for what a good electoral system should measure up to. It’s something of a historic document as no one else seems to have tried to do this, including proponents of FPTP.

Sometimes Mr Plaut seems to conflate particular issues a country has with having a PR system. Belgium’s political problems accrue from the ongoing conflict between Walloons and Flemings, not because they have PR.

Both sides would no doubt agree that FPTP would likely exacerbate the situation being a system that eliminates and excludes rather than includes. PR was chosen for the Northern Ireland Assembly rather than FPTP because again there are conflicting communities.

Also PR tends to contain extremism whereas FPTP can give it full force. Why else did Britain insist Germany use PR after the World War II, which has served it so well since?

And why does South Africa use PR? One refers, of course, to the 1948 South African election debacle under FPTP where the anti-apartheid United party won almost half the votes (49.18 per cent) and got 65 seats, while the Nationalist apartheid party had just 37 per cent of votes but got 70 seats. Thus South Africa endured apartheid for 45 years.

So there we have it. PR operating well in the UK for a while. We just need to bring it to Westminster with equally felicitous results.

Chair, Make Votes Matter
North London

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