Our thinking about PR is wrong

Image thanks to Electoral Reform Society

I’ve written about the ails of our first past the post system many a time and explored the possibility of proportional representation as an alternative. I have even suggested my own ideas how PR may work in a way that gives the best of FPTP yet allows parliament to be more representative of the will of the electorate. 

We are repeatedly told that FPTP gives us strong and stable government. This statement was severely put to the test during the period after the referendum in 2016, with weak unstable coalition government. What is true though is that FPTP gives us government by the minority.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the way we think about alternatives, or PR, are wrong. The problem deos not lie with parliament but rather with government. Under FPTP you can end up with a parliament with many different parties represented but with a government made up of only one. Laws can be passed which are entirely at the whim of the party with the most seats (and therefore most MPs) without consideration of what the majority of the population voted for.

What we really need is a government that reflects the votes of the population, with minority parties represented on a proportional basis.

According to Wikipedia: As of 2019, there are around 120 government ministers supported by 560,000 civil servants and other staff working in the 25 ministerial departments and their executive agencies. There are also an additional 20 non-ministerial departments with a range of further responsibilities.

A significant number of these (15-20) are filled with unelected ministers.

If the government is to be representative of the ‘will of the people’ (and why should it not be?) then it should be made up of ministers of different persuasion. In 2019 the Conservative party garnered around 44% of the votes and so should have between 52 and 62 ministers, the rest should be apportioned according to how many seats other parties have.

Obviously this would be much more difficult to implement and would require a lot of cooperation and collaboration across MPs. The Prime Minister, whose role it will be to lead on the allocation process, will have a hard job on their hands.

Good! It will make for better and more representative laws.

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