Tuesday, 1 October 2019

FPTP doesn't do what its supporters claim

One of the most common arguments against proportional representation is that it potentially allows extremist groups or parties to gain a foothold in elected bodies.  That is undeniably true; to the extent to which an extremist party enjoys public support, it will gain representation in a fair voting system.  But designing an electoral system around the need to exclude certain viewpoints from winning seats doesn’t strike me as being either a legitimate design criterion or the best way of countering extremism.  It is the ideas which need to be confronted and dealt with, not the electoral expression of those ideas.
Current political circumstances also cast considerable doubt about whether it’s only a proportional system which allows a platform to extreme groups.  What the Brexiteers have shown is that if a small faction manages to seize control of an existing political party, they can impose their will on the majority by gaining only around 30-35% of the vote.  Even better (from their point of view), using such an approach means that they are likely to ‘inherit’ a fair proportion of the existing vote for that party as a result of electoral inertia, so they don’t even need to win the argument for their viewpoint.
What the Brexiteers in the Tory Party have shown us is that we need to change the system which gives total power on the basis of a minority of the votes, as can all too easily happen with first-past-the-post; gerrymandering the system itself to exclude extremists doesn’t always work.

1 comment:

Cibwr said...

Mrs Thatcher built huge majorities on a minority of the vote, she realised early on that you don't need a majority of votes, just the largest minority. With the opposition divided its easy to secure a 100 majority in the commons on as little as 32% of the vote. Boris divide and rule while claiming to unite and heal is a well trod path.