Against Proportional Representation
How can you be against proportional representation! Doesn't PR mean
that the left has a way way better chance of getting elected ? doesn't
PR mean that everyone has a much better chance of being represented by
someone that shares their views?
Well I am against it. And I'll tell you why.
Firstly elections should not just be about
getting someone elected.
Whilst the left may have a better chance of getting someone elected
under this method than others (and that's not strictly speaking true if
you look at the election results for June 10th) elections have more of a
function than simply getting a couple of left wingers elected.
When we stand in elections we hope to help build the movement, build
rank and file and grassroots campaigns. We hope to have an argument with
people about the widest political topics and speed bumps on their roads.
PR elections, which involve a number of people being elected for a
wider area than first past the post take us one step further away from
the issues on the estate or the local area. In the regions for the Euro
elections for instance we are literally talking about areas covering
millions of people.
Not once for the Euro campaigns was it possible to highlight the
threats to local day services or problems in your area. It can't be
done. Yet these are important issues that must not be ignored.
If elections were only about getting elected then the left should not
worry - but we have a more principled political agenda that is deeply
rooted in the movements that gave birth to the left in the first place.
It's our duty to strengthen that movement where we stand - PR is a
blunter tool for this.
Secondly elected representatives should be
accountable to the electorate.
In terms of how democratically accountable the elected
representatives are PR is far far weaker than first past the post.
If your local MP makes outrageous comments or votes in a way you find
repugnant you can write to them, protest to them and they have to take
some notice or potentially suffer the consequences.
If your 'local' MEP does the same first of all you are unlikely to
know about it, and secondly what are you to do? The party they represent
may have them high on the list and the only way you can not vote for
them is by not voting for the party you may have total loyalty to.
In fact it is the those who control the order of the list that have
more control than the electorate itself. This means that on
controversial votes the central party has more control over how that
person votes than the electorate. that cannot be good for democracy or
healthy politics - but it is good for cronyism and corruption.
Thirdly know one knows who their MEPs are, but
most people know who their MPs are.
Name them. Name your MEPs, I bet you can't. Name your MP. See? This
isn't coincidence, it's because the first past the post system puts the
elected representative closer to you than PR does. The closer the
elected person is to the electorate the more content democracy has.
Fourthly it leads us to think there are easy
answers - when we should be doing deep work.
Big electoral areas lead us into trying to cover everywhere in a
shallow way, when we should be trying to get to people where they are,
to see politics as relevant to them. you can get more people out
campaigning for a local election than you can for a Euro election in any
one ward simply because they feel the local election effects them more.
The number of activists you can get out (even if this is the only
thing they'll do all year) is extremely important to the life blood of
any political current - and because the left is ideologically committed
to the millions this goes double for us.
Fifthly it means fascists getting elected too.
How many BNP MPs is too many? What cost are we willing to pay in
order to further our sectional interest? I'd rather no fascists at all,
even if the price is no left wingers elected - we don't need to have a
toe in the door of the state apparatus - they do.
PR makes it easier for the far right to win some seats - that's too
high a price - and if the left think isn't then they need to question
their own motivations for standing in elections in the first place.
Whether you believe that socialism can come through Parliament or
not socialists are democrats and we should press for the most democratic
system available to us. Proportional representation may look more
democratic and seem in our interests but the content of the that
democracy is weaker - and it is on that principled basis that socialists
should oppose its introduction.
We use it of course where it exists - just as we use all elections
available to us in our unions, in parliament or local councils and in
our political organisation - but that does not mean that we think any of
these institutions are the most, or least, democratic system available.
In these days when the left has begun to see PR as the quick fix to
getting one or two people elected, it's important to remember there are
democratic principles involved here too.
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