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The "Henderson Method": go on, pull it apart...

Discussion in 'off topic' started by Mark EJ, May 8, 2015.

  1. Mark EJ

    Mark EJ Fails to comply

    I recieved this some time ago from someone with whom I was discusssing (ok, arguing with) about voting systems. Sometimes, clients let off steam about subjects more wide-ranging than goddam computers. I therefore submit this for consideration.


    There are two major problems with any form of PR:

    (1) The link between the parliamentary representatives and their constituencies is necessarily broken. There are mixed systems with some members elected for constituencies and some from a party list, but they are very messy and do not thoroughly address the main objection to FPTP -- namely, the failure to produce representatives in proportion to the votes cast nationally.

    (2) In other countries which use PR, the political classes almost invariably engage in what amounts to conspiracy between themselves against the electorate. This happens because majorities for one party are rare and where there is a situation of more or less permanent coalition, no party can stand on a meaningful manifesto because no government will deliver on any party’s manifesto (or come close to it) unless a coalition is made up of parties whose policies are close to identical.
    Result: politicians can rarely be held to account for failing to deliver.

    It is also true that many forms of PR are complex compared with FPTP and the types of PR which would be likely to be adopted are those which would have fair degree of complexity; eg: Single Transferrable Vote. This would confuse a significant part of the electorate – that AV fiasco is a lesson here – which could drive those people away from voting, and we don't need that. Nor is it clear that having first and second or even more preferences (per voter) invariably produces a more representative result. As above, it is rare for any two candidates, even those of the major parties, to represent policies which overall are similar enough to make the second choice a satisfying option.

    What would be better than PR?
    The Henderson method retains the first past the post system with MPs representing the people who elect them, but moves from single-member constituencies to double-member constituencies. This would remove much of the objection to FPTP as now and bring additional benefits.

    Each constituency would be roughly double the size of the present constituencies. A maximum of two candidates for each political party would be able to stand in each double constituency. This would allow a single party to get an overall majority.

    Electors would be able to vote for two candidates. The two candidates with the most votes in each constituency would be elected regardless of how far behind the leading candidate the second candidate came, and second or additional preferences would not exist. The beneficial effects of such a system would be:

    a) No more "safe seats". There would still be constituencies which returned one party over and over again, but the likelihood of both MPs in a constituency coming from the same party would be relatively small because of the much greater size of the double constituencies. In most cases this would mean a much more mixed electorate both socially and politically than in constituencies half the size, although it does mean that the onus would be on the Boundary Commission to do their job properly.

    b) The constituency connection between the voter and MP would be maintained.

    c) Electors would be able to vote for the candidate they favoured with a greater chance of getting them elected. If the voter favoured one of the two presently major parties there would be a very strong chance that at least one of their chosen candidates would be one of the two candidates sent to the Commons. But even electors who voted for the lesser parties would have some real expectation of success for their chosen candidate, because there are many constituencies where the second party in a constituency is not Conservative or Labour.

    In addition, the fact that those coming second in an election could be elected on a substantially smaller vote than those coming first would increase the likelihood of minor party candidates being elected. Moreover, once such a system was up and running and electors saw how it worked, the patterns of voting could and almost certainly would begin to change with more and more people being willing to risk voting for what are now smaller parties.

    d) Such constituencies would allow for MPs of radically different views to represent the same set of voters. This would mean most voters would be able to have an MP to represent them whose party policies bore at least some resemblance to the policies they themselves favoured. Even if a voter was in a constituency which had two MPs of the same party, they would still have a choice of two MPs to go to for help and advice.

    e) Because two MPs from different parties would be elected in each constituency and there is greater opportunity for minor party MPs or even independent MPs being elected, the relationship between votes cast and MPs elected for each of the parties would be much closer than it is under the FPTP system we currently use.

    However, unlike PR, the double-member constituency would only mitigate rather than remove entirely the disproportion between votes cast and seats obtained under single-member constituencies. This is worth tolerating because it would avoid the undesirable state of permanent coalition. In terms of party representation and electoral support it would be a 'halfway-house' between what we have now and the conspiracy of permanent coalition which is virtually guaranteed by any form of PR.

    Other changes to improve the balance of power:

    • Institute a power for electors' recall of MPs through a referendum conducted in their constituency.

    • Citizen initiated referenda on the Swiss model, with tight legal underpinning to ensure that politicians abide by the result of a referendum and take the necessary practical steps to ensure that the will of the electors is realised.

    Taken overall, this would not entirely remove the anomalies and unfairness found in our present FPTP system, but it would remove most of the poison in the system by giving smaller parties much greater opportunity to gain Commons seats, whilst retaining the good things such as constituency representation and overall simplicity.

    It is worth adding that a significant part of Britain’s present electoral deficiencies stem substantially from the UK's membership of the EU (which increasingly constrains what her major political parties can offer by way of policy) and the imbalance of the present devolution settlement which leaves England out in the cold. Of course, if Britain left the EU and switched to a truly federal system which would include an English Parliament, that in itself would make the present British system function more democratically and would enhance the benefits of the above. However, the costs of that additional layer could be substantial if not implemented in a common-sense manner.
  2. matthewr

    matthewr spɹɐʍʞɔɐq spɹoɔǝɹ ɹnoʎ sʎɐld

    Yes any system that requires 500 words just to say what it is is obviously going to work really well and be a breeze to get through a referendum.

    Also you missed out the bit where the Aussies are 4 down and on the rack only for a rain just after lunch to leave them only needing 30 runs from 9 overs.
  3. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Interesting, I've not heard of that one before, but wouldn't it just end up with a Labour and Conservative representative in each seat? The attraction for me of PR is, if implemented correctly, it allows minority voices to be heard, e.g. everything from communist through to fascist in a representative spectrum, thus a true consensus politics centering around the middle ground but with no one drowned out and without representation. Implementing such a fair system is obviously somewhat more complex, but that should be the target.
  4. Mark EJ

    Mark EJ Fails to comply

    My mistake. I'd always credited you with an attention span.
  5. Mark EJ

    Mark EJ Fails to comply

    Historically, yes. But now? With the current set of results, you'd end up with a few more LDs, a few more UKIPs, a few less Conservatives. In Scotland, there would even be some Labour MPs, and if that's not representing minorities, I don't know what is.

    But it doesn't. The minority voices make enough minority speeches on their respective minority manifesti to get some votes, and then trade in the bloody lot for a minor role on someone else's committee, toeing the agreed line according to whatever dubious coalition agreement has been arrived at behind the scenes and without reference to the electors.

    And since there's no constituency to which they are accountable, they can't be hauled up on anything except by party machinery -- their link with their voters is severed at that point. A license to make abusive expenses claims. See also: Italy.

    "Do you want to join the gang? If so, do this". Everyone drowned out, except for dominant gang members. Lots of voters saying "That's not what I voted for". Hardly good representation.

    Absolutely -- I agree with your aims and the guiding principle. It seemed to me though that Henderson was not perfectly fair, but appreciably more fair than FPTP, while retaining constituency links and accountability, which is incredibly important.

    You have to bear in mind that many of today's MPs have no idea about this. That spawn of Satan Kevin Barron (Lab., Rother Valley) is on record saying "We are Westminster's representatives in our constituencies", and ideally should have been recalled instantly the day he said it.

    With attitudes like that commonplace in our 'entitled' political class, the last thing we should give them is more opportunity for unaccountable horse-trading.
  6. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I do agree regarding the local representative factor in FPTP which can be absent in PR - this time I voted very much for the person, not the party, and that's a perspective I've not given much thought to previously.
  7. matthewr

    matthewr spɹɐʍʞɔɐq spɹoɔǝɹ ɹnoʎ sʎɐld

    Not me, the 60 million who are going to vote using it. If, as you note, some PR type systems are too complex then I am not sure how having an even more complex system is much of a step forward.
  8. Whaleblue

    Whaleblue Southbound

    I imagine most folk would cast both votes to the same party, so effectively not a lot would change.
  9. Mark EJ

    Mark EJ Fails to comply

    Yes -- that's exactly what I thought too -- and they would.

    But the eventually elected MPs would be the one with the most votes, plus the one who came second -- no matter how large or small the gap. That means increased representation, and no safe seats. Better.
  10. 73Chaz

    73Chaz pfm Member

    I don't see how this means no safe seats. The results in my local constituency were 28,000 votes for the winning candidate and the next candidate received just 5,000. How many of those 28,000 would be likely to chose a 2nd candidate from a different party, given the choice?

    If parties were only allowed to stand one candidate, and voters had a first and second preference, and these were counted up and 2 candidates elected, that would produce quite different outcomes.
  11. MikeMA

    MikeMA pfm Member

    You should have used some graphs!
  12. Mullardman

    Mullardman Moderately extreme...

    The best way I can think of to improve democracy in this country is to ban all political comment in the press. Better still, ban the bloody press. A few very wealthy people have a massively disproportionate influence on opinion.

  13. Martin D

    Martin D Libertarian Division

  14. Joe

    Joe pfm Member

    I have long thought that the only way that democracy can stand a chance of representing the majority 'local' (i.e. constituency) view is to ban membership of any party. All candidates standing for election must be independent. Then,when they get to Parliament ,they vote only according to their consciences ameliorated by their constituents views; there being no Party line to toe.

    Almost like a Quaker meeting,they would only speak upon a subject when moved to do so.
  15. wacko

    wacko pfm Member

    Did you forget about bribery and corruption ?
  16. demotivated

    demotivated pfm Member

    I suggest we divide the country into Cantons, no larger than a days return horseride [40 miles diameter?]. We use penknives for civil defence, institute land reform, turf out the Normans/SaxeCoburgs/Rothschilds/lawyers/bankers etc.

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