Following the reforms of the nineteenth century, the British electoral system has, throughout living memory, been based overwhelmingly on single-member constituencies, and the consequent identification between each MP and his constituents is widely valued. It is also often argued that proportional representation must dilute or destroy this connexion. In the present note I describe a method of achieving proportional representation while leaving the relationship between electors and members of parliament virtually unchanged. It may be regarded as an adaptation of the "modified list method" described in paper KJ 12/4 of the Keith Joseph Papers. To flesh out the algorithm I describe the effect of applying it to the 2005 election results.
Description of the scheme
Notes Many obvious questions are left open by the outline above; I try to deal with some of them.
The 2001 and 2005 elections A feature of the scheme here is that it invites speculation on its detailed consequences of applied to past elections. While it is unlikely that either the parties or the voters would have behaved in quite the same way under a different system (for instance, there are no longer the same incentives for "tactical voting"), it is nevertheless possible to test a number of hypotheses against tolerably realistic data. I have therefore prepared an analysis of the results of applying this scheme to the 2001 and 2005 UK general election results.
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You can also see what would have happened in individual constituencies in 2005.
Satisfied voters One statistic which may be felt relevant concerns the number of "satisfied" voters, that is, voters who find themselves represented by someone they voted for. This number is necessarily largest if MPs are elected according to the present system. However the difference is not necessarily great. In the two elections examined here the percentages of satisfied voters were/would have been
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Independent candidates Many PR schemes make it impossible for truly independent candidates to be elected. Their apologists brush over this point with the observation that there has not been a significant number of independents elected to any modern British parliament. My own view is that the political value of independents is out of all proportion to their numbers, and I am glad to observe that in both the elections studied here the independents who were successful under the current rules would also have been successful under the scheme proposed.
Marginal constituencies It looks to me as though the new scheme would render more constituencies "marginal", in the local sense that a fairly small change in the local vote would change the MP in that particular constituency. In support of this I remark that of the 574 constituencies which had the same name in 2001 and 2005, 51 changed party under the current rules and 90 would have changed if both elections had taken place under the proposed scheme.
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24 May 2005