3 June 2011

Lords reform: The voting system question: An Open Letter to Nick Clegg

By Rupert Read

To the Rt. Hon Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister:

I am delighted to see that you are proceeding with Lords reform. We Britons have been awaiting this for over a century. It is vital to our being (to our becoming) a democratic country. It is a nonsense to have a patronage-based upper house, in a modern democracy.

But: Lords reform might be severely hampered if it is perceived to be bringing in a variation of the very system that the British electorate has just voted down, in the AV referendum. This makes ‘AV-Plus’ or ‘STV’ (the ‘Single-Transferable-Vote, which is simply AV in multi-member constituencies) extremely undesirable as potential methods for use in elections to the upper house. See my recent piece here explaining this.

So I was dismayed to see that you are contemplating...STV as your preferred method. This is inviting contempt from the media, the public, and from the Lords themselves!

This is not just a techy or dweeby point. Picking the wrong voting system for Lords reform could kill it. All the opponents of reform are looking for is an excuse. Don't offer them one! If you pick STV as the preferred method of election to the upper house, then the right-wing media will have a field day, saying that you are trying to re-run the AV referendum…

As I argue in my piece on LibDemVoice, surely instead we have to look either to AMS (the ‘Additional Member System’), e.g. in the version of it that is used in the Scottish Parliament, or better still in the classic '1 vote' version that is Green Party policy: where you simply have a large-enough top-up to ensure proportionality) or to a fully list-based PR-system. The worry that the latter would lead to Party-domination of the Lords can be countered by having ‘open lists’ - see wikipedia entry on Additional Member System). (And anyway, one could retain the ‘cross-benchers’ in the Lords as ex officio members).

If you agree with this, I hope you may act swiftly on it. I don't want us all to have to wait another 100 years to reform the upper house, just because of a poor choice of voting system for electing it with... If the White Paper goes forward with STV as its preferred choice, it will not be long before opponents of Lords reform cotton on and denounce the bill as simply a deceptive retread of the referendum.

I hope that you will seriously consider this point. And while you are at it, check out my idea for a radical addition to your plan of democratising the Lords, here: a new proposal for a green future.

Best wishes for success in this hugely-important project,

Rupert Read.

1 comment:

  1. STV is not "simply AV in multi-member constituencies". STV is a voting system that delivers PR, unlike AV. It would perhaps be better described as "STV-PR".

    Your suggestion of using the Additional Member System (AMS, also known as MMP) is almost unbelievable. That would ensure the revised House of Lords was the creature of the political parties. And your suggestion of using a "one vote" version of AMS shows you have no idea how AMS really works. When AMS was introduced in part of Federal Germany in 1946, it was a "one vote" system, but it was soon changed to a "two vote" system to overcome the "one vote" defects.

    For more on AMS and STV-PR I suggest you read these submission to Commissions that considered the voting system for the Scottish Parliament:



    James Gilmour