Tom Harris on PR:
All sorts of claims are made by the supporters of proportional representation, along the lines of “it would push up voter turnout” and “it would increase representation among ethnic minorities”.
Not the experience of PR when it’s been tried in the UK already. Take the Scottish Parliament, elected on an “additional member” or “assisted places scheme” system. Turnout at both UK general elections held since devolution in 1999 have seen significantly higher turnours than those for the three Holyrood elections, with up to ten per cent higher voter participation in some constituencies. And in all three Holyrood elections, only one non-white candidate has ever been elected.
Similarly in elections to the European Parliament: turnout has been derisory. The more complicated you make it to vote, the fewer people will do so.
Complicated? For European Elections, you have to put an X in a box, just as you do for Westminster. What's complicated about that?
For Holyrood Elections, you have to put two X's in two boxes, one in each column (and before that, one on each paper). With the exception of the last election, where the goalposts were moved and the one-in-each-column aspect wasn't clearly spelt out on the day, how is that so complicated that it stops people heading to the polls? And even then, when voters had to deal with an unfamiliar ballot paper and two different voting systems, more people actually showed up in 2007 than 2003, when they merely had to contend with three sheets of paper, all of which they wrote an X on, just like they'd done in every election they'd ever voted in.
For Council Elections, you rank candidates in order of preference. Unless you dropped out of Primary School, what's hard about 1, 2, 3?
No. Voting isn't complicated. Voting is never complicated, and PR doesn't make the actual act of casting a vote complicated as it involves doing broadly the same things that you would do in a First Past the Post election. But since something different happens to the votes either while they're being counted or afterwards, Tom Harris has decided that you, the voter, must be too thick to understand it and so won't bother to vote. I'm sorry, Tom, there are lots of reasons for apathy but not being able to place an X in a box isn't one of them.
And if we want to talk about incomprehensible systems, how about we question the simplicity of a system where 36% of the vote translates into a Parliamentary majority?
25 May 2009
Tom Harris on PR: