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I am writing this in early May 2015 and my owner is getting thoroughly fed up with the seemingly interminable election campaign. In this part of the world there are five different kinds of election in which he can vote and they have five different systems. He thinks this is plain daft. Here are his thoughts:
The first-past-the-post system with one-member constituencies used for these is so crude that many voters have no real say in the outcome. The party which forms a government, or heads a coalition, is determined by a relatively small number of "marginal constituencies". In this part of the world we have very little influence on the composition of the Commons. If you want a Tory Prime Minister, you vote Tory, but if you prefer the Labour Party, you would do better to vote Liberal Democrat, because that could help deny the seat to the Tories. Labour always comes a distant third.
I should prefer larger, multi-member constituencies and some form of proportional representation. Personally, I advocate the single-transferable-vote system, but the party-list system seems to be more commonly used elsewhere. With several MPs you are more likely to have one or more of your own political persuasion and minor parties like the Greens have more chance of getting a look in.
In this case we do have larger constituencies with several MEPs. The party-list system is used and this affects the way I vote. I prefer to vote for people, not parties, and so I do not vote for any of the bigger parties, which could win two or more seats. I look first at the individual candidates (effectively one-candidate lists). So far these have always been too screwy for me, so I have then looked at the minor parties with no chance of winning more than one seat. If the person at the top of such a list is acceptable to me, I happily vote for that party. The effect of this is that I have voted Green more than once and I now have a Green MEP.
If, however, the STV system were used, I could vote for candidates from several different parties.
London mayoral electionsEdit
Now this system is seriously flawed. It works in two stages, rather like the French presidential elections, but in France there is a two-week gap between the two stages, so that people can consider what they will do, given the candidates who are left. In our mayoral elections, you have to second-guess the outcome of the first stage, so as to avoid wasting your second-stage vote. So what I have done is vote for the candidate I really want in the first stage and then vote for one of the two candidates who are most likely to get through to the second stage. A simple way of putting it would be: "Vote with your heart in stage one and with your head in stage two." So far I have not wasted a vote, but it could happen in a future without the traditional two-party system.
In my view this voting system needs to be replaced and STV would fit the bill perfectly.
London Assembly electionsEdit
Now these are the elections with a really decent system, although I still prefer STV. There are single-member constituencies, but you also vote quite separately for a party or an independent candidate, so that additional-member seats can be awarded. Thus some degree of proportional representation is achieved.
These are the elections with the daftest system of all. We have three-member wards in this borough, but elections are conducted on the first-past-the-post principle. This means that in my ward we generally get three Lib. Dem. councillors, although last time we ended up with two Lib. Dems and a Tory. I suspect that the third Lib. Dem. fell behind the first Tory because he had a Moslem name, although he is a UK citizen (I believe British-born) and there has been no suggestion that he supports Islamist militancy. In the past there was a very popular Labour councillor who shared a ward with two Tories, but this was exceptional.
In my view, we should have larger wards with perhaps six or eight councillors and a decent system of proportional representation. Again I think STV would be best.