Electoral Systems

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 2:30 pm, 28th October 2008

And neither is John Bercow, and neither are most of my hon. Friends— [ Laughter. ] And just so that we are clear, some say that I am not, either.

I understand the sedulous attractions of proportional representation, although I profoundly disagree with them. The point that those who support PR have never been able to explain is that there can be no proportional transfer of votes into power. A criticism made of first past the post is that it often gives power to a minority, but it usually gives power to the largest minority, whereas the overwhelming difficulty with proportional representation is that it gives power to the smallest minority.

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Andy Johnson
Posted on 30 Oct 2008 4:40 pm (Report this annotation)

Jack Straw blames on PR something which is inevitable in majority rule. If in a group of 5 people 2 think one way and 2 think the opposite, then the 5th person must decide the issue. This person only appears to have the power because the other 4 have already made up their minds. In reality the majority, 3 out of 5, rules. Unlike in the Commons, where Straw's 35% rule.

Joe Patterson
Posted on 31 Oct 2008 10:43 am (Report this annotation)

In the nature of things there is no such thing as a perfect electoral system but there cannot be any doubt that first-past-the-post is the worst of the lot. I recall that Jack Straw said that in 2005 NEW Labour won "fair and square" even though they had a mere 35% of the vote and the support of only 21% of the total electorate yet had a phoney overall majority of 65 seats giving them in effect a minority elective dictatorship.

Does he call this democracy? And was he happy when Thatcher in 1983 was empowered by an overall majority of 144 seats to implement her doctrinaire policies solely because the LibSDP had a mere 23 seats even though they had more than quarter of all votes cast which would under any rational system have entitled them to around 160 seats? Finally does Jack Straw recall that in the 1997 manifesto there was an unequivocal commitment to put to the electorate, where it properly belongs, the question of PR? How does he justify the reneging on this commitment?