“Electionsrule the political process but not the government’s policy; they do not rulethemselves” – Ian Gilmour, 1971: 136 The House of Commons originates in the 13thcentury. It plays a powerful role in the affairs of the nation, despite it’power being limited by Royal Patronage.
Despite this, it provides constraint onthe actions of the government and represents the people, as it has to give itsassent to measures of public policy. The issue of methods of formation of TheHouse of Commons is essential. With the power to impose taxes, to vote moneyto, or to withhold it from, a just and efficient group of people should havepower, as well as them having access to public departments and services, decisionsfor formation are essential in order to produce the most efficient group. Thecentral representative function of the House of Commons is to represent thepolitical parties who have been elected by voters, and so determine thepolitical complexion. Additional considerations include members of parliamentbeing elected to represent the respected parties in their socialcharacteristics of the wider electorate. The UK has a rangeof Proportional Representation electoral systems across it. As seen in the 2014elections, the closed party list for elections in the European Parliament is oneof the most representive system, as opposed to the First Past the Post. Thiswill be discussed in more detail later, along with the positive outcomes.
Thisessay will therefore discuss the formation of the House of Commons throughmethods such as proportional representation (Thus known as PR) and the prosperityof this method. A focus will be provided to which to analyse this concept andwhether this is the most successful way to elect, and whether this system issuperior in comparison to First Past the Post (FPTP). Resulting from in-depth research into theestablishment of the House of Commons, this essay explores the view thatproportional representation electoral system (PR) among other systems may bebeneficial to the house of commons. Despitethis, the essay will argue opposing views in order to come to a conclusion asto what system works most efficiently. A system of PR is one in which theproportion of allocated seats is directly proportional to the number of voteswon by a party. Currently, First Past the Post is used, a “winner take all”style approach. Criticisms of this include a failure of true representation ofminority groups, as well as reducing the influence of smaller parties, thusensuring the continuity of the two- party system. There are benefits to allmethods of election for the House of Commons, however some are objectively moreeffective than others.
The effective legislative authority holds power, such asto impose taxes and has only” infrequently held up major legislation”(Britannica, 2017) 1.Bills may be rejected or accepted, as seen in the case where the last bill wasrejected by a monarch; the Scottish Militia Bill of 1707. Apart from passinglegislation, other important business held is the question period. During thisperiod, opposition is provided with an opportunity to question governmentpolicy whilst raising negligent issues. PR aims to create a body that isrepresentational, reflecting the distribution of public support for politicalparties. Systems of PR are used globally in areas such as Denmark, Finland,Greece and Russia.
There are many methods to using PR, such as singletransferable vote, party list system and additional member system which will bediscussed. The single transferable vote (STV) is not aswidely adopted as other systems, as it has been used in Ireland, as well as Europeanelections. Using this, voters rank candidates on a ballot in order of theirpersonal preference. Henry Richmond Droop developed a quota in the 1860s, amethod that aims to determine the number of votes needed for a candidate to winan election. “This was calculated by dividing the total number of candidatevotes by the number of seats needed to be filled, additional with a one, andanother one being added to the quotient” (Britannica, 2017) 2.Votes received by the candidate in excess are transferred to other candidates, accordingto the voters second preference. In the case there are seats vacant, thiscontinues till all are filled.
Due to this, results may fairly reflect thepreferences of the voters. The system provides representation for minor partiesand outcomes have shown “minor centrist parties benefit” and others such asminor radical parties are penalised. This was seen when the Democratic left, DaonlathasClé, the political wing of the Irish republican army received similar shares inthe national vote in the general election of 1997, the more centrist DemocraticLeft won four seats to their one. Often, results lead to a result moreproportional, with percentage of cotes for the party being equal to the seatsgained.
This was seen in the case of the 2012 Scottish Local election, the SNPgained 32% of the first-choice votes and were awarded 35% of councillors acrossScotland. For the house of commons to be elected through this, results mayinclude a more varied group of MPs, based on the votes of the Constituency’s. Itis believed by some that smaller parties “rarely win at local levels, wherecosts are not prohibitive” (Richie and Hill, 1996) 3.
Thus, the representation of this geographical zone may increase, as opposed tohyper-representation, a possible outcome of the House tending to become moremiddle class with more male members as it has since 1945. Law making and questioningthe decisions of the Government is an important role, and to prioritize andlook after the needs of the people and the constituencies in order to createand question public laws that can meander the future, the community should beone that represents all. Through the STV, society may vote for the member thatthey best believe can provide for their needs. A varied and representativegroup can be created, as opposed to a pre-existing one that consists of whitemiddle class men. With the future of constituencies in hand, a community thatunderstands the needs is essential, created by using this method of PR as powerremains in the people. As mentioned previously in theintroduction, A range of PR is currently in system across the UK. In 2014, UKIP won 26.
6% with 24 seats, thefirst time any other party other than Labour or conservative had one since1996. Thus, in large constituencies with more than one party, smaller partiessuch as Lib Dem can be represented to win a proportional number of seats. Arising concern with PR is that extremist parties may gain power and de-stablethe political structure in the UK. However as seen in the case mentionedpreviously, there were 20 parties such as the Green party that received voteswithout seats, such as Britain First. One argument against PR is that somevoters may not have their view represented in seats, however in this case witha minority group, tyranny may be prevented. Despite this argument, it can besaid that STV has led to a lack of cooperation at a local authority level,making it more difficult for councils to agree on policies. This can be seen ascurrently there are a number of Labour conservative coalitions.
In thesecircumstances, two political enemies have joined to keep the Scottish NationalParty out. Coalitions are not voted for by people, with the formation of thesemore likely under TSV. However, in retort to this, STV results in a situationwhere it is harder for one party to dominate a local authority, it will become likelythat two parties will have to work co-operatively, such as the LabourConservative, encouraging the interlinking and transcendence of boundaries inorder to create a better environment locally.
With an election through thismethod, people may be better represented with two parties coming to compromisesin order to decide on what is most effective for people, prioritising the needsof the many not the few. As mentioned previously, the STV isa successful method of PR, as seen in the case of Westminster, where electionsused First Past the Post (FPTP), where votes are wasted as a party needs amajority to win a seat. Thus, resulting in less point in voting for smallerparties e.g. Liberal Democrats. STV ensures a fair distribution of seats,ensuring the votes of the many count.
Another system in PR is the party-listsystem. Through this, the elector votes are not for a single candidate but alist. Each list is submitted by a different party however, an individual mayput forward his own. This system is used in Chile, where district magnitude mayvary.
Chile elects its members by using two seats constituencies. The overall proportiondepends on the district magnitude; the higher the proportion the higher themagnitude. Two principles are involvedin this, the largest remainder and the higher average rule.
Under the highestaverage rule, seats are assigned one at a time to the party with the highesttotal. After the assignment of each seat, the party that wins is adjusted. Theoriginal vote is divided by the number of seats won, and adding one. Anothermethod is the additional-member system, one that combines proportionality witha geographic link with a citizen and a member of the legislature characteristicof the constituency. This was adopted by many areas after the fall of communismin the east of Europe, such as Germany after WWII. Half of the legislature is elected throughconstituencies and the other half through PR. Two votes are casted by eachperson, for a party and a person.
The party vote is usually the basis fordetermining the composition of the legislature. As a system, FPTP has its benefits.In the UK, devolved elections have had lower turnouts despite using PR, as seenin the case of the 2014 European elections, where the turnout was 36.
5%, worsethan the turnout of Europe (42.6%). Some believe the result of a PR electoralsystem would form a coalition government. These are time consuming and createstime where there is no parliament, and therefore no representation. This typeof government may also cause conflict in policy making, if there aredisagreements, reducing effectiveness and compromising the representativenessof the people due to these conflicts, as seen in the example of the abolition ofUniversity tuition fees, leading to future instability. PR can be seen asidealistic, as few systems are exactly proportional.
During the 1980-90s, movementspressed for a change in voting systems. PR in Britain was adopted to theEuropean Parliament as well as others such as local elections in Ireland andLondon. Other European countries such as Italy adopted a modified constituencybased system to reduce the number of political parties in the legislature tocreate cabinets more stable. The systems mentioned previously, the STV,additional member and party list are part of PR. This is used in order tocreate stable cabinet and has a multitude of benefits.
Firstly, every vote is counted. Notonly does this give power to the constituencies, but allows seats to beproduced in proportion to votes. Thus, the phenomenon of the wasted vote is ridof. This is also beneficial to third parties as fairness is ensured.
Some arguethat it becomes more difficult to ensure accountability to electors – if acoalition was to be formed. However, a coalition enjoying majority support canensure the continuity of a policy than changes in government under the existingfirst past the post system. These can prove to be stable and effective.
A mainargument towards PR is current dissatisfaction with FPTP. This system may result in safe seats, a consequenceof single party constituencies. This was estimated to be at 368 seats,according to the Electoral reform society. In a safe seat, any voters whoidentify with a party that did not win majority votes may feel there is nochance of their view being presented, and thus reduce voter turnout.
Despitearguments against PR that strengthen FPTP, PR coalitions resulting fromelections can prove stable, whilst ensuring moderate policies that look out forthe needs of all constituencies. A coalition enjoying majority support mayenjoy a greater legitimacy than a single party government elected by a minoritynumber of voters. PR provides a system that involves more than one method,allowing fuller representation and fairness to all parties, a party that trulyrepresents its constituencies in ways that are proportional with the seats andnumber of votes received.
Currently FPTP elects governmentswith majorities. In the case of the most recent election, 71 seats went toparties that were not Labour or Conservative, a large 11% of the HoC. Accordingto Doré, 20174, resultsin the votes of constituencies may have changed under a PR method. In the caseof Cambridge, which had a FPTP party of Labour, the PR would be labour, with51.9 vote share for FPTP; a 22.6 difference. Other areas such as Guildford wereConservative under FPTP, however Lib Dem under PR. FPTP had a 54.
6 vote share,with PR at 23.9, a difference of 30.7. Thus, the use of PR is one that trulymakes a difference. Having discussed both PR and FPTP,each system has had favourable instances with their elections. This can be seenin the case of 2014, where UKIPwon 26.6% with 24 seats, a first for any other party other than Labour or Conservativesince 1996. In large constituencies with more than one party, smaller partiessuch as Lib Dem can be represented to win a proportional number of seats.
Thereare advantages to both, such as a clear-cut choice being presented for voterswith FPTP as well as the advantage of greater representation. In the case of implementationin the UK for the HoC, I believe PR is successful as despite the fact that thereis a risk of a coalition government, something that may possibly createinstability, PR ensures a link between candidates and constituencies, ensuring accuraterepresentativeness and an association with votes and seats. 1 https://www.britannica.com/topic/House-of-Commons-British-government2 https://www.britannica.com/topic/proportional-representation3 http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Political/CaseForPropRep.html4 https://www.indy100.com/article/uk-election-map-proportional-representation-system-2017-conservative-labour-7784956