Multi Level Representation

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Multi-Level Representation and the United Kingdom

     The United Kingdom as an organisation has developed significantly over the last thirty years, in my opinion that development has unfortunately been mostly as a reaction to those who want to destroy it, rather than as a result of any plan or vision of an improved and modernised Union by the political leadership of it’s elected governments.

     Whatever new powers the Scottish Parliament is given the Scottish Nationalists will continue their damaging campaign to extract Scotland from the Union. This after all is their raison d’etre and at present I certainly expect there to be another referendum in my lifetime.

     Further powers to the Scottish Parliament will also lead to demands from the Welsh and Irish Assemblies for further powers. Many in England have also started to question why England does not have a parliament that represents English interests in the United Kingdom.

     Personally I already feel that the UK Parliament does not do enough to promote England’s interests within the UK to the detriment particularly of those areas outside London and that the proposals to simply block attendance by Scottish MPs in the House of Commons as a means of resolving the ‘West Lothian Question’ are insufficient.

     Existing Federal models will lead us eventually to English and Scottish parliaments and Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, with similar powers, with a UK Parliament responsible for international policies and those applicable to the entire UK such as defence. I see two major problems with this course of events.

     First the Scottish Nationalists could still play the Scottish Parliament off against the UK Parliament, making demands of the UK government that it cannot meet because it would mean granting Scotland de facto independence and then blaming their failings on the UK governments failure to meet their demands.

     Second using existing models it would mean more politicians and elections and what is already apparent is that the more elected representatives we have the less they individually represent. In England there are already local councillors, county councillors, mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners, MPs and MEPs and the English public have not shown a great deal of appetite for any more.

     I believe both these problems can be eased by what I call ‘Multi-Level Representation’. Where the same politicians sit in the UK parliament and their respective national parliaments or assemblies. This would remove the need for an extra tier of representatives and their associated elections, ensure responsibilities do not fall between two groups of representatives but are concentrated amongst a core group of elected representatives and none of which are left partially redundant.

     This could work for example with the parliaments, assemblies and MPs working on a four-week cycle where all the MPs sit for a week in the UK parliament, followed by a week in their respective constituencies, then a week in the MPs respective national assembly or parliament, followed by another week again working in their respective constituencies. In a year there could be eleven such cycles allowing eight weeks for breaks. Obviously Ministers at UK and national level would work outside the four-week cycle and there would be procedures for extraordinary situations.

     In order for ‘Multi-Level Representation’ to function effectively, issues relating to the number and size of the constituencies within each national parliament or assembly would have to be overcome because the number and size of the constituencies is integral to the ‘First Past The Post’ system we presently use for electing MPs to the UK Parliament.

     However using the Relay System, the issues associated with the number and size of the constituencies could be circumvented, allowing the smooth operation of Multi-Level Representation providing the opportunity for truly devolved governments, within a modern United Kingdom.

We need Electoral Reform

     We need electoral reform because governments increasingly need to make more difficult policy decisions concerning security, the environment and the future welfare of it's citizens than ever before. These policy decisions will affect us all and generations to follow and for these policies to be accepted, governments will need to be recognized as being fairly elected and representative. 

     We now have a Conservative government with just fewer than 37% of the aggregate vote that has a majority of 12 in the House of Commons and will probably govern until 2020.

     Not so long ago the Labour government elected to govern the United Kingdom in the 2005 general election had only 36% of the aggregate vote but had a majority of 66 in the House of Commons and governed until 2010, even though they barely had the votes of one in five of those eligible to vote in the UK. On average in 2005* 25,858 votes were required to elect a Labour MP and 44,241 for a Conservative MP whilst a Liberal Democrat MP required 98,484 votes!

     The above results are not unusual results with the First Past the Post System and they are not fair and representative government!

*Note the figures for the 2005 election were taken from the Times May 10th 2005.

And We Need to Make Votes Count

     According to an article from the 24th of February 2014 published on the BBC Website the 2015 General Election would be contested across 194 marginal seats, just under 30% of the total number of the 650 seats in the UK parliament.

     In each of these marginal seats a swing of 5% or less was predicted for the seat to change hands. Therefore on average less than 00.15% or 15 people in every 10,000 of those that vote would of been targeted by the main political parties during the run up to the election.

In comparison the other 99.85% plus of the electorate were probably not engaged at all by the main political parties, their votes taken for granted as individually unimportant.

     Sadly because such a small percentage of the population are key to political parties becoming the party of government, the platform on which our democracy sits is small and inherently unstable. Once in power the party of government is naturally loathe carrying out policies that might alienate this small percentage of the population and concentrates on short-term policies that appeal to them and come to fruition before the next general election, whilst the opposition parties endeavour to lure away these key voters.

     In contrast with the Relay System for a government to obtain a decision at divisions they will need the support of MPs representing at least 50% of the electorate’s votes. Governments will therefore need to be more representative and with potentially all the electorate’s votes contributing to the decision process within parliament the main political parties will have to engage more of the electorate as a whole. This will broaden the platform on which our democracy sits and over a series of elections will produce governments that neither swing wildly to the left or to the right but should be capable of going forward maintaining a core of more long-term policies to benefit us all.

And the Relay System Because

Confused by Proportional Representation, STV and AV?

You are not alone!

     The First Past the Post system actually has a number of strengths; the simplicity of the voting procedure, the way each MP is selected by the constituents from the rest of the candidates to be MP of that constituency, the ease with which the results for each constituency can be verified but most of all the clear link between the representative and those they represent, the ‘Constituency Link’. All the above strengths hold true for the Relay System.

     The importance of the ‘Constituency Link’ should not be underestimated because bound up within it, is the constituent's power to vote so a particular candidate does not represent them, which is more difficult with other systems and denied completely by some.

     Using the Relay System you would vote no differently than you do presently, electing your MP, for your constituency. This cannot be said for Proportional Representation or the Single Transferrable Vote (STV).    In addition the Relay System is more representative than Proportional Representation, STV or Alternative Voting (AV).

     Using the Relay System independent candidates would find it no more difficult to be elected than under the existing system, preventing Parliament effectively becoming a ‘closed shop’ to those outside the established political parties, as it could with other systems.

     The Relay System treats all the electorate's votes equally regardless of their location, the size of their constituency and the demographics of their party's supporters. So virtually all the electorate's votes would count rather than just be counted!

A Major Step Forward

     With the Relay System a party would have to have over 50% of the votes to have a majority in the House of Commons. So there is no guarantee of a decisive result in favour of one party or another at a General Election. The present system does not guarantee this either however a coalition is more likely with the Relay System.

     However it is worth remembering that coalition governments were formed for both the World Wars when party differences had to be subordinated for the greater good of the country so there are obviously some advantages to coalitions.

     The Relay System alone will not magically fix all the problems in British Politics; the Electoral System used is only one factor. In the least degree the Relay System will be a marginal gain but potentially it is catalyst for change and could be a major step forward.

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