What do you think about electoral reform? What is the ideal system of expressing preferences, counting votes, and allocating them geographically or to particular human beings with varying degrees of mandate?
These are big questions. But they always seem to be dwarfed by the problem of change. Is it possible to change the voting system when the people who were elected using it have the casting vote? Surely they will always tend towards the status quo?
The current system is bloody awful. It puts the final decision – the verdict on who runs a highly centralised state – into the hands of a small number of voters in a narrow geographical area. Some would argue that the good thing about this system is that it gives all power to the most impulsive and undecided voters.
Some would argue this... but I wouldn’t.
The current government have had little problem in establishing different forms of voting for non-parliamentary (House of Commons, anyway) elections. Some of the regional assemblies have been fought on systems that are different from First Past The Post and haven’t attracted much criticism as far as I can see.
The European Elections are fought on the odious Party List system – one that appears to me to be an absolute travesty of everything that is good about elections – and one that shows just how far my own party are from grasping what is – for me – the most important thing about democracy. That it works best when legislation is the product of what Tony McWalter calls ‘distributed moral wisdom’.
On the inertia question, it seems to me that the waning primacy of the House of Commons both in terms of its inability to compete with the Core Executive (boo!) and the gathering forces of regional government (yay!) is one of the most interesting developments of the last decade. Perhaps an elected second chamber will park the question permanently?
A full list of UK voting systems can be seen here.