Every Vote Should Count Fully and Fairly
Scotland Introduces Proportional Representation -- So Should England and Wales (and the United States)
In a democracy, every vote should be counted, and the results should reflect the composite will of the people. But several so-called democracies still cling to an embarrassing, outdated system of voting and elections that serves only to discourage participation and preserve the corrupt status quo.
Now, around the world, better systems of voting are being brought in to replace the decaying failures of the past.
Scotland is to introduce a proportional system for the local council elections starting in 2007.
The Green Party of England & Wales welcomed the news and called for the same modernization in England and Wales. Darren Johnson, the Leader of the Greens on the London Assembly and a local councillor in Lewisham, commented:
"In London the Greens are averaging 10% of the vote in local council elections, but we hold less than 1% of the seats. London Greens actually average a higher vote than the German Greens, but under the German PR system they hold a realistic proportion of council seats and they're in coalition government with several ministers in place. It's time Britain caught up."
The pattern is similar elsewhere in England. Councillor Vanessa Hall, who was elected to Manchester city council last year, added: "In Manchester the Greens average 6% of the vote but have only 1% of the councillors. Why should the views of so many voters be ignored in the make-up of the council?"
The Greens say it's noteworthy that significant numbers of British Greens get elected to the European and Scottish Parliaments and the London Assembly -- all of which have PR (proportional representation) elections -- where the public's aggregate preferences are more closely met.
And they point out that the first-past-the-post system still used in local and Westminster elections encourages tactical voting -- meaning many voters don't really vote for what they want, but vote for example to keep the "bad guys" out.
Professor John Whitelegg, who last year captured what for 30 years had been a safe Labour seat on Lancaster city council, says first-past-the-post distorts the vote most especially in Westminster elections. In his constituency in 1999, in the proportional Euro-elections, the Greens polled about 20%. But then in the 2001 general election, under first-past-the-post, the Green vote in the same constituency was only 3%. Yet this is the constituency where the Greens have Britain's strongest local council group, returning seven councillors in 2003 with majorities as large as 60%.
Prof Whitelegg, who is tipped to become the first Green MEP for the North West in this year's elections -- having missed by 1.5% in 1999 -- commented:
"First-past-the-post is a scandalous anachronism. It can even end up giving all power to a party that had more votes against it than for it.
"It also entrenches the neoliberal status quo by squeezing out smaller parties -- which means it also weakens the impetus for the older parties to take on new ideas.
"This is why Britain's big parties are still resisting Green policies that are mainstream in Germany."
The Greens pointed to what they see as a prime example of the deleterious effects of the old first-past-the-post system. Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, elected for the Souh East under Britain's first PR elections in 1999, explains:
"Back in 1989 the UK Greens polled 15% of the vote in the Euro-elections. It was the highest Green vote in a national election anywhere in the world, ever. We got 2.2 million votes, but we got no MEPs. If Britain had had the same PR system as Germany, we'd have had 12 MEPs."
"To do democratic justice to Britain, we need proportional elections at all levels."
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