What would STV do to our democracy?

Thursday, 7th July


‘We would be buying a pig in a poke unless we knew what we were likely to get by changing our electoral system’

• I AM pleased to see that the debate about PR, proportional representation, is moving from generalities to specifics.

I very much agree with Professor Bruce Lloyd (The ‘real debate’ must consider STV, June 30) that “the secret to having a ‘real debate’ is to deal with the specific points raised by those who disagree with your position…”

Both the professor and Robert Pellegrinetti (The answer is STV in multi-member constituencies, June 30) back an STV, single transferrable vote.

It is a system which has a number of advantages although – as the professor points out – it is not a perfect answer.

But I cannot support Mr Pellegrinetti’s suggestion that we should have multi-member constituencies.

The great strength of the current system is that it is absolutely clear who to call to account in any constituency.

If a hospital is failing, or a bridge collapses, then you can go to your local Member of Parliament and ask what he or she is doing about it.

There can be no passing the buck. If we had multiple-member constituencies then this link would be lost.

Inevitably the MPs from the various parties would be able to blame each other for failing to take up the issue. It would also inevitably mean that constitu­encies would have to be much larger.

Currently each MP represents about 70,000 people. That is more than enough. Imagine if you had five MPs representing 350,000 people between them. The local link and local responsibility would be ruptured and the sense of accountability would be lost.

But even if we agreed on a system of STV, we would need to know what this would do to our democracy. Can Professor Lloyd or Mr Pellegrinetti show us what the composition of parliament would look like if the 2019 election was held on the basis of STV, with single-member constituencies?

Unless we can see what we are likely to get by changing our electoral system we would surely be buying a “pig in a poke”.


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