10 May, 2005: It's not the winning or losing that counts; the important thing is to criticise the game

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Robin Grant of perfect.co.uk draws everyone's attention to a meeting on Wednesday on electoral reform at the House of Commons attended by the great and the good (and, perhaps the less great and the merely adequate, though I won't try to tell you which is which):

Speakers will include Chris (Lord) Rennard (Lib Dem Campaign-Manager-guru-chap), Polly Toynbee (Guardian Columnist), Billy Bragg (singer/songrwriter and political activist) and Martin Linton MP (Chair of Make Votes Count's Labour Wing)

(I doubt I'll go but if people want to encourage me to come and heckle -- by means of bribes of alcoholic beverages, or otherwise -- you know where to ask....)

On the same subject, I should also draw your attention to this piece by John Quiggin on `Crooked Timber', which picks up on a related topic I've mentioned before.

And to hang a fragment of content on this otherwise fairly blatant plug, here's how the late General Election would have come out under PFPTP:

Party Number of MPs Fraction of vote (%) MP voting weight
Labour 356 35.2 0.638
Conservative 197 32.3 1.05
Liberal Democrat 62 22.0 2.29
SNP 6 1.5 1.61
DUP 9 0.89 0.638
Plaid Cymru 3 0.64 1.38
Sinn Fein 5 0.64 0.826
UUP 1 0.47 3.03
SDLP 3 0.46 0.995
Respect 1 0.25 1.61
Peter Law
(Independent Labour)
1 0.076 0.490
Richard Taylor
(Kidderminster Hospital)
1 0.069 0.445

(For those who are just joining us and can't be arsed to read my previous post on this, PFTP, ``proportional first-past-the-post'' is a modification to Britain's current electoral system which achieves proportionality not by modifying the electoral system but by modifying the procedure of divisions in the House of Commons. Instead of getting one vote each, each MP gets a vote proportional to their party's support in the country, divided by the number of MPs in that party. Each constituent gets exactly one MP and each MP exactly one constituency, but power in the Commons is proportional to the parties' support in the country as a whole. Pedants will note that I've computed the above table on the basis of the 645 seats which have declared. In Staffordshire South the Lib Dem candidate died during the campaign; the result will be determined by a byelection later. This, if you are [un]lucky may provoke a post on how byelections should work under PFPTP, since there are several plausible answers.)

Note that despite various bizarre features of this election, none of the parties' voting weights are too out-of-whack. Lady Sylvia Hermon, the remains of the Parliamentary UUP, would get just over three votes, against a bit under six for their nemesis, the DUP. George Galloway picks up a little extra influence from a closely-fought campaign in Bethnal Green and Bow, and support elsewhere (he won about 16,000 votes, while the party as a whole got just over 68,000). Richard Taylor, as befitting a single-issue candidate in one constituency, commands rather little influence: about half a vote, less even than that of a Labour MP.

As expected, this result would mean that, united, any two of the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems can between them command a majority in the Commons; no other combination of parties can. Of course, once MPs start rebelling (the rotters!) anything could happen -- but what's new?

That concludes today's test of the Bonkers Electoral Reform Broadcasting System. I'll try to write about something interesting -- or, failing that, bloody ID cards again -- in the near future.

Update: Simon Keal (see comment, below) corrected me on the name of the Kidderminster Hospitals MP -- I had incorrectly called him Richard Thomas. Oops. He also drew my attention to the inexplicable absence of an updated plot of Anne Campbell's Parliamentary Majority. Now, arguably, as an ex-MP Anne is not a public figure and so such taking the piss is out of order, but (a) I've never been one to turn down a cheap laugh, and (b) she did vote for ID cards and the abolition of habeas corpus, so sod that:

Anne Campbell's minority

Copyright (c) 2005 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.