Proportional Representation . . .

Proportional Representation – as in elections – seems to be slowly creeping up the ladder. I have even seen Conservative MPs advocating it. A N Wilson says somewhere in his book “The Victorians” that a Government (or indeed Parliament) will never concede electoral reform unless and until they can see how it can be managed (or mismanaged ?) to their advantage, so I am inherently suspicious of remarks from Westminster. But the knowledge that First Past the Post does not represent the peoples’ vote is not new – and what follows is a cut and paste job from the Electoral Reform Society’s web site . . .

“In January 1884, a diverse group of academics, parliamentarians and members of the legal profession gathered at 7 Clarges Street, Westminster. Brought together by the naturalist, archaeologist and polymath Sir John Lubbock, along with Henry Fawcett (husband of Millicent Fawcett), Leonard Courtney and Albert Grey, it was clear to them that our political system was failing to overcome the challenges presented by the approaching twentieth century.

With 180 MPs in their ranks with equal numbers from the Liberal and Conservative parties, they decided to overcome their differences and found a society dedicated to creating a parliament that could truly represent the nation.

I trust that Great Britain, the mother of Parliaments, may once more take the lead among the great nations of the world by securing for herself a House of Commons which shall really represent the nation.”     (Quote by Sir John Lubbock).

First known as the Proportional Representation Society, this group quickly attracted leading luminaries of the Victorian age, including C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian), the Rev. Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll), and Thomas Hare (the inventor of the Single Transferable Vote).

There were early successes in Australia, Malta and Ireland. But political parties were envious of the power that Westminster’s traditional system gave them.

The Irish government in 1958 and 1968 tried to abolish the use of the Single Transferable Vote and to revert to Westminster’s voting system. On both occasions, future director Enid Lakeman led our successful campaign to protect democracy in Ireland.

With a new base at 6 Chancel Street and renamed the Electoral Reform Society, the society helped ensure that the new Northern Ireland Assembly used the Single Transferable Vote when it was first convened in 1973.

In the late 70s, the Society founded a small-scale ballot services division, led by Major Frank Britton. This eventually became the separate Electoral Reform Services Limited (ERSL), the UK’s market-leading provider of software and services for election management, membership engagement, democracy and governance systems. The Electoral Reform Society’s shareholding in ERSL provided a major source of income to the Society.

As the twentieth century came to an end and the Jenkins Commission proved to be a false dawn, the ultimate goal of bringing fair results to Westminster elections was still just out of reach. But new avenues for reform were opening.

Across the UK, devolution was taking hold and each new assembly was to be elected using proportional systems.

At the start of the 21st century, First Past the Post was on the retreat again. After a vigorous campaign, voters in Scotland had their voice properly heard in 2007 as the Single Transferable Vote was used in local elections for the first time.”

After 135 years perhaps something is beginning to sink it ?

About The Author

Born 9 December 1933. Former Royal Air Force person. Retired Church of England Clergyman. Father. Grandfather, and now, Great Grandfather. Citizen of "Nowhere" acccording to my ex-Prime Minister. Citizen of Europe according to me. Fervent Remainer. Thinks that Members of Parliament and especially Ministers of the Crown, who lie to Parliament should be barred from any sort of public office until a public recantation - three shots, then out for life.
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