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The Case for retaining FPTP Some general points. The Advantages of FPTP.

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Presentation on theme: "The Case for retaining FPTP Some general points. The Advantages of FPTP."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Case for retaining FPTP Some general points

2 The Advantages of FPTP

3 Introduction  The case for FPTP can be divided into two major sections: the advantages of FPTP and the disadvantages in principle of any PR system together with the practical difficulties involved in introducing specific systems of PR.  The positive defence of the current system is based upon the inter-relation of several features of the electoral and political system.

4 1. Single-party majorities  FPTP magnifies the winning party’s victory when popular votes are translated into seats in the Commons. So it encourages supports and reinforces the concept of a general election as an electoral choice between two alternative teams of political leaders, Single party government produces.

5 Rebuttal. What do we mean by winner? Labour lost in Conservatives lost in 1974.

6 2. Effective government based on principle  The ability to transfer proposals into legislation or other practical action despite the checks of the opposition.  Decisions are taken within a more-or-less cohesive framework of principle and priorities because of the ideological nature of the political parties.

7 Rebuttal

8 3. Accountable government  It can be clearly seen who is responsible for government decisions, and the Cabinet can be held accountable through parliamentary procedures and, ultimately, at the next General Election.  There is normally a clear connection between general elections and government formation in the sense that there is no post election bargaining between parties for office.

9 Rebuttal

10 4. A simple transfer of power  Even when the popular vote there are only rarely constitutional problems in forming governments.

11 5. Mandates for government policies  A mandate is a grant of authority from the electorate and because they publish their projected policies (manifestos) in extensive detail elections can be seen as contests between policies not just personnel. The winning party claims popular consent for its programme. The twin doctrines of manifesto and mandate are central to the quality of British government.

12 6. Responsive to movements in public opinion  In order to win an election parties must appeal to all sections of the community.  Rebuttal? What does the electoral map of UK 2010 show?

13 7. Local Representation  Defenders of FPTP stress the strength of the link between an MP and his or her constituency.  MPs are a channel through which ordinary people can protect their interests and many MPs make a career of being a good constituency MP  Rebuttal – In 2010 David Mundell won with 33% of the vote.

14 8. Some say FPTP discourages small parties  Do we want to encourage people like the Monster Raving Loony Party?  The Labour Party was a new party in In 1924 Labour formed the Government.

15 The public likes FPTP  In a UK wide referendum in May 2011 the British public voted to keep FPTP as the voting system.  68% voted to keep it.  The turnout was 41%

16 The Disadvantages of PR

17 The public dislikes PR  In a referendum the British public voted to reject PR.  Only 32% wanted to change to the Alternative Vote system.

18 Rebuttal  Alternative Vote is not proportional.  Supporters of PR did not want this to be offered as the alternative to FPTP.  The rejection of AV may amount to a rejection of the Liberal Democrats as in the local elections in England (carried out at the same time), the Lib-Dems were routed.

19 PR inevitably means coalition government and coalition government means weak government.  Robert Blackburn quotes Lord Tebbit, ‘Just ask yourselves, would a government without a majority [of seats in the Commons] have been able to take the decisions needed to have thrown the army of the fascist Argentinean dictator out of the Falklands?  more democratic than PR systems and, because it produces single party governments it encourages effective and stable government.

20 Rebuttal  Tony Blair took Britain to war in Iraq – illegally?

21 ‘horsetrading’ between parties after elections.  Former Prime Minister John Major “proportional representation would 'drain authority from the Westminster Parliament' and lead to minority governments formed by 'backstage deals' in 'smoke- filled rooms'.”  Parties bargain over which policies coalitions will pursue after the election so the opportunity the electorate have to endorse or reject specific policies is lost and the connection between the peoples’ votes and government policies is greatly weakened.  Defenders of FPTP therefore argue that it is truly undemocratic.

22 Coalitions are essentially unstable  According to a Conservative Political Centre pamphlet in 1982, 'Why Electoral Change: The Case for PR Examined' by Sir Angus Maude and John Szemerey, ‘Minority government and coalitions are conducive to unstable and weak government. There is often a long period after elections without a government, as the parties haggle over policies before arrangements between the potential partners are finalised. Experience from countries which have coalitions suggests that coalition partners, particularly minority parties, frequently withdraw backing from governments faced by a downturn in the economy or the need to take unpopular measures’. (quoted by Blackburn).

23  Daily Telegraph, ‘A vote for proportional representation... is not a vote for fairness, but for injustice; not a vote for stability, but for political chaos. Take the example of Belgium, where... proportional representation has created a political culture of backstairs deals and perpetual campaigning. Take the example of Italy, where proportional representation has created permanent instability, with a series of coalition governments that have had to depend on several minor parties whose influence has been out of all proportion to their success in the polls’.

24 PR inevitably gives disproportionate power to minority parties  Under PR it is extremely difficult for any one party to gain an overall majority of seats, so small parties commonly hold the balance - like the Free Democrats in Germany who rarely gain more than 10% of the vote but who are always part of the governing coalition.

25 PR can lead to extremism  Adolf Hitler was elected under a proportional party list system.  John Major – former Prime Minister - said 'Some sorts of proportional representation would let in very tiny minorities with extremely unrepre­sentative views’ e.g. the BNP.  (The BNP in 2011 have two MEP’s elected under the party list system). One of these is their leader Nick Griffin (left)

26 With PR the process of offering the electorate the chance to reject or endorse specific policies is rendered impossible.  The twin doctrines of the manifesto and the mandate are very important in democracies.  In hung parliaments, the people vote first and the manifesto on which the government will work is decided afterwards. None of the election promises can be sacrosanct. Each one may have to be sacrificed in order to attract the support of a minority party whose votes are necessary for a Commons coalition.

27 The Liberal Democrats are criticised by defenders of FPTP for blatant self- interest.  Liberal Democrat arguments in support of reform are in reality a less-than-honest attempt to gain more parliamentary seats for themselves.  The Conservative, Graham Riddick, suggested during House of Commons' debate that, ‘The truth is that [the Liberal Democrats and SDP] advocate proportional representation because [they] believe it to be the surest way to get a taste of power’.

28 Critics point to the complexity of some PR systems.  E.g. STV. Whereas Liberal Democrats maintain that it is sufficient for the returning officer to understand the mathematical calculations of how votes are translated into seats the recent Plant Report for the Labour Party said that if a system is so complex that an ordinary voter cannot explain the mechanism at work between his or her casting a vote and the eventual result, democracy is not well served.

29 Critics also point to a number of practical difficulties with, and objections to, specific systems of PR.  For example, AMS has features which make it unacceptable in Britain, most importantly the creation of two classes of MPs - half of the MPs do not represent any body in particular and even prominent MPs may never actually face the electorate directly as long as they have high party standing.

30 Summary : In Defence of FPTP  Defence of the electoral system is bound up with defence of the party system and general centralised and ‘strong’ nature of British government. The major parties are mass parties, fighting each constituency each having definite policies and a recognised leadership who must face the electorate at least every five years. Thus the parties not only allow the electorate to be the final arbiter on who holds power but they give a detailed idea of what policies the power holders will pursue.  Since the electoral system encourages voters to exercise their vote on a national basis and to view the contest as one between alternative governments, the electorate, according to A.H. Birch is given a crucial role, ‘The possession of the right to vote transforms the great mass of citizens from being a captive audience of the political drama to being occasional participants themselves. Audience

31 Rebuttal

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