Balanced Parliaments are good

According to Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail (which is not usually a friend of electoral reform) on 1 May 2014, Sir Robert Rogers, Clerk of the Commons, wrote a letter to the Speaker announcing his departure. “The letter spoke of how Parliament is today better at scrutinising the Executive than it used to be. Indeed it is. That is partly because it is a hung [i.e. balanced] Parliament.......”

One of the objections often voiced against STV and other proportional voting systems is that they encourage so-called hung parliaments, which are portrayed as bad and undesirable.

In fact, balanced parliaments, as we prefer to call them, can occur with any voting system (except the North Korean and similar!) and the UK has one now with First Past The Post. However, with a proportional system and especially with STV, Parliament is representative of voters so there is a balanced parliament when voters are balanced.

Far from being bad and undesirable, balanced parliaments are good and desirable because, as Sir Robert has remarked, they enhance Parliament’s ability to scrutinize the Executive, which is meant to be one of its key functions.
So, far from being an argument against STV, the possibility of a balanced parliament is an argument for STV; it makes governments more accountable.

Joan Davies 9.1.1930 – 25.3.2014

We very much regret to announce the death of Joan Davies on 25 March 2014. She was a stalwart champion of STV, had been a member of the ERS Council and was at one time its Chair. She had also been Chair of DAGGER (Democrats Action Group for Gaining Electoral Reform). She is a great loss to the electoral reform movement.

She was a very keen supporter of women’s rights and had represented a leading NGO on human rights at UN and other international conferences. She had also been a magistrate.

We extend our sincere sympathies to her family.

The funeral will be at St Michael’s Church in Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire at 2pm on Monday 7 April.

Donations may be made to the Desert Flower Foundation –, which was a cause dear to her.

The Miller’s Tale

Should Maria Miller resign as an MP or be deselected following the Parliamentary Commissioner’s ruling that she should repay £45,000 expenses, the subsequent decision of the House of Commons Committee on Standards that she need repay only £5,800 and then her apology, which her critics have said was inadequate?

That is not for STV Action to decide and we also do not think that her party or the Courts should decide. We believe that the voters in her constituency of Basingstoke should take the decision but, with First Past The Post (Winner takes all) voting, they will not have real power to decide.

Basingstoke is a very safe seat for the Conservative Party. At the last general election in 2010, Maria Miller was one of only about 30% of MPs who received votes from more than 50% of the voters. 50.52% of Basingstoke voters supported her and she had more than twice the number of votes received by her nearest rival, the Liberal Democrat candidate; if her party nominates her again, she will almost certainly win again even if the majority of Basingstoke voters no longer want her.

For example, if her vote goes down to 34% and the Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates each receive 33% of the votes, she will be re-elected even though twice as many will have voted against her as voted for her.

Preferential voting (“ranked choice voting” in the USA) by STV or AV would solve that. The seat would not be as safe as it is with First Past The Post (Winner takes all) voting and the voters could decide.

Also, some Conservative supporters may want to vote against Maria Miller without voting against their party, but they cannot do that with First Past The Post (Winner takes all) voting. They could do so with preferential voting by STV or AV.

On the other hand, Basingstoke voters may feel that criticism of Maria Miller is unjustified or that, despite it, she is such a good constituency MP that she should be re-elected. They should have the opportunity to re-elect her. De-selection would deny them that opportunity.

Preferential voting by STV or AV would also solve that. Maria Miller could be one of two or more Conservative candidates and voters could chose between her and the others without splitting the party vote. Alternatively, if the party did not nominate her, she could stand as an Independent without splitting the Conservative-minded vote.

Why don't more people vote?

The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee has invited evidence on why so many people do not vote; i.e. why voter turnout is so low in most modern elections in the UK.

If you would like to give evidence to the Committee, please visit for more details but note that the deadline is 1 May.

Make them WANT to vote before making it easier

The Guardian – - has reported that the Electoral Commission recommends the UK to consider allowing internet voting to increase voting turnout especially among younger electors.

As STV Action’s only object is to promote the Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting system, we are neutral on whether internet voting should be introduced, but we have two important reservations.

One is that no new method of voting should be introduced without vigorous safeguards against inaccurate results, whether by accident or deliberate manipulation. Votes must be counted accurately and must be seen to be counted accurately; the public must have confidence in the method. We must feel sure that an accidental software or programming fault or deliberate tampering has not distorted the election result. In view of abuse of postal voting in recent years, it would also be essential to ensure that no-one could vote instead of someone else or vote in multiple fictitious names.

The other is that making it easier to vote would not necessarily make more people want to vote. An important reason for not voting is the very justified perception that voting makes no difference. In about 70% of constituencies (the safe ones), the result is a foregone conclusion so people feel that there is no point in voting and who can blame them?

Changing the voting system from First Past The Post to STV would do more than anything else to make the vast majority of votes effective and give electors a reason to vote. That is more important and more urgent than introducing internet voting or other ways to make it easier to vote.

North Korea 100 – United Kingdom 70

North Korea’s recent general election passed with little comment in the UK, probably because the result was a foregone conclusion.

There was only one candidate in each constituency and the only options were “Yes” and “No”. Consequently, it was no great surprise not only that the ruling Communist Party was re-elected but also that every MP is likely to be loyal to the leadership.

How different we like to think our elections in the UK – and similar First Past The Post elections in the USA, Canada and India for example – are. After all, we have a choice of candidates and parties.

In practice, most UK constituencies – about 70% of them – are safe. In a safe constituency, the winning party is usually known years before the election takes place. If you doubt that, will you put money on any party other than the Conservatives winning Chichester in 2015? Also, in a safe constituency, the individual winner is known as soon as the holding party makes its nomination.

So there is little difference in kind between North Korean elections and UK elections. The difference is in degree.

Of course there are many other fundamental differences between the political systems of the two countries especially on freedom of expression and control can change hands in the UK but not in North Korea. However, the difference in constituency voting is only in degree.

Election results in North Korea are a foregone conclusion in 100% of the constituencies. Election results in the U K are a foregone conclusion in about 70% of the constituencies. The difference is in degree, not in kind.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) would transform UK elections. No seat would be a foregone conclusion for any candidate.

STV for building societies

There is a very interesting posting on It is about electing building society directors but the most relevant part for STV supporters is an explanation of how block X voting works.

Block X voting is used to elect many building society boards, local authorities, pension trustee boards and club committees. Several vacancies are filled together and each voter is allowed as many votes as there are vacancies.

The problem is that, if there are, say, four vacancies, a voter who uses all four votes casts one of them for his favourite candidate and the other three against her.

The best short-term solution for the individual voter is to use only one of the votes. The best long-term solution for voters generally would be to change the voting system to the Single Transferable Vote (STV).


We very much regret to announce the deaths of Bernard Black and Simon Gazeley on 17 December 2013 and 1 January 2014 respectively. They were both stalwart champions of STV and had been members of the ERS Council. Bernard had also been a Vice-President of the ERS. They are a great loss to the electoral reform movement.

We extend our sincere sympathies to their families.

We intend to post more detailed obituaries of them. Readers who would like to contribute memories or tributes are invited to send them to editor[at]

Broadly-based movement

There seems to be a spat between Godfrey Bloom MEP and Katie Ghose (Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society) - - about whether activists of very different political views should co-operate with each other when they agree on electoral reform.

STV Action’s view is that they should.

All STV Action asks of its supporters is that they support the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Supporters are free to hold their own individual views on all other issues and we do not wish to divide them from each other or us so we do not ask them to support or oppose any other political campaigns, and STV Action itself does not campaign on any of them. For example, we do not mind if some of our supporters want to reduce the minimum voting age and others don’t or if some want to leave the EU and others don’t.

The electoral reform campaign must be a broadly-based movement.

What are elections for?

Contributed by Peter Morley:

There have been several reports following Paxman’s interview with Brand, and now Clegg has added his accusation that as Paxman earns his living from politics he shouldn’t sneer at it.

Clegg says correctly that politics is about the way we decide how we pay taxes, support our hospitals and schools, whether to go to war and how to deal with climate change. That is surely too important for Brand and Paxman to discourage people from voting.
But Brand and Paxman do not seem to understand how British elections work.

We do NOT elect our Prime Minister or our Head of State, the Queen. We do not even elect which party forms the Government. We elect individuals to represent our constituencies in the House of Commons. But our voting system puts the country in the hands of the 40 or so “marginals” where the MPs elected by of a very small minority – the “swing” voters – decide which party forms the Government and thereby who becomes Prime Minister.
That is not the effect of representative democracy. It is the effect of first past the post – an out date and pernicious voting system.

Instead of abstaining and regarding elections as immaterial, Brand and Paxman would do well to learn more about the benefits of STV and then campaign for it openly on their respective programmes. Now that really WOULD switch the public on to vote.

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