French philosopher Rousseau’s asked how "To find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone and remain as free as before" The citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including those which are passed in spite of his opposition, and even those which punish him when he dares to break any of them. Each man, in giving his vote, states his opinion and the general will is found by counting votes. When the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. If my particular opinion had carried the day I should have achieved the opposite of what was my will; and it is in that case that I should not have been free.”

First passed the post, has been described as “ An irrational practice where voters are unenlightened and more desirable the more enlightened they are.”

That description can also be levelled at PR.

In Britain the May 2010 election first past the post gave an indecisive result:

                                    Votes cast           % of votes              seats 

Conservative party               10.7 M                    36.0                306    

Labour party                       8.6 M                    29.0                258

LiberalDemocrats                   6.8 M                   23.0                  57

UK IP                                0.9 M                    3.1                   0

BNP                                   0.5M                     1.9                   0

Green Party                          0.3M                     1.0                   1

It can be seen that conservatives took a majority of seats in Parliament, 47%, with only 36% of the vote. The largest two parties took 87% of seats with 65% of votes. The Liberal Democrat party received 9% of the seats but polled 23% of the vote. 3 minority parties gained 1 seat from 6% of the total vote. I point out here that 16 Million people, for whatever the reason , did not vote. More than the total of our 2nd and 3rd largest Parties !!

If we take a proportion % of votes cast to seat entitlement we find:


Conservative party        10.7 M               36.0%             234                

Labour party                8.6 M               29.0%             189                 

LiberalDemocrats            6.8 M               23.0%             150                 

UK IP                         0.9 M                3.1%                20                 

BNP                           0.5M                 1.9%               13                   

Green Party                  0.3M                 1.0%                7         


Proportional Representation

PR is a relative novelty in British politics, although it has long been used in Europe and went through a spell of popularity in some circles in the late 19th century. There were several attempts to introduce PR voting for the UK parliament during the early 1900s and there were several more reviews of the topic. Is the principle behind a innumerable list of electoral systems, all of which attempt to ensure that the outcome of the election reflects the proportion of support gained by each competing group.

 Arguments cited in favour of a change from First Past the Post to PR include:

The fairer treatment of minority parties and independent candidates.  Fewer votes are ‘wasted’, as more people’s preferences are taken into account.  Greater effective choice for voters. By reducing the dominance of the large parties, PR may encourage increase turn-out and reduce apathy.  

 Arguments cited against PR include:

PR produces ‘weak’ coalition governments rather than ‘strong’ majority governments, which can lead to indecision, compromise and even legislative paralysis. It can also reduce accountability to voters, as an ousted party of government can reinstall itself by finding new coalition partners after an election.  Refer to recent Belgium election.  The greater complexity and choice that PR allows can put voters off voting, by requiring them to have a greater knowledge of individual and party positions. 36% find FPTP difficult to comprehend. Finallly it provides a route for extremists into the political mainstream, who are otherwise  excluded by the structure of FPTP. [ See table.] 

 A paradox built into the British political system, works against the adoption of P R. Any party that comes to power under FPTP is likely to appreciate the advantages that it gives to the government: a strong mandate, (usually) a lack of coalition partners, and considerable freedom of action. This paradox is found in all ‘democratic’ societies! Therefore, arrival in government under FPTP is likely to dampen any party’s enthusiasm for PR  although the reverse in 2010 is more than apparent !

As Edmund Burke  said, "What is it we all seek for in an election? To answer its real purposes, you must first possess the means of knowing the fitness of your man; and then you must retain some hold upon him by personal obligation or dependence” That said I am greatful I have a vote, many world citizens do not. I am greatful I have a a choice of both a candidate and of political dogma.Many world citizens have no such choice. Which is why I fail to understand those who choose to ignore the right.Do they think voting is not about ‘fairness’ or ‘democracy’ for the ‘electorate’ and that it is about maintaining power for the elite ruling class whichever country they inhabit?

 Ignore your rights . . .maybe they will just go away.





  1. With respect – how many of those 16 million might have been prevented from reaching the polling station by circumstances beyond their control?Residents with a car park adjoining our street woke on Thursday to find a road gang digging up the access road. The majority of our neighbours are either elderly or infirm and depend on their cars or invalid trikes to get out. When challenged about the fact disabled access had been blocked without warning it transpired that one street adjoining the car park had had a mailshot but the majority of these were able bodied and none of them use this car park on a regular basis.Likewise my cousin missed out as, although she had wanted to vote she went into labour on wednesday evening over a week early and was somewhat preoccupied for the duration.

  2. Not many of the 16 Million were unable to vote – postal voting is designed for the incapacitated; polling stations are within walking distance of the intended electorate; the people who stood for hours in queues and then were denied the right to vote becauswe of the poorly organised local government officials are the ones I feel concern for. Not even Gordon Brown can be blamed for nature taking its course as in the case of your cousin – or can he ?

  3. Could\’ve been the shock I suppose :D,whilst those unable to walk so far should perhaps have applied for a postal vote a lot of older folk still have their pride, it is also, as in the case of Commander and myself who included a jaunt to the local for lunch in the excursion, a good excuse to get out. I know too that some people were concerned about the talk of fraud involving postal votes and wanted to be sure they made their vote count

  4. I cancelled by postal vote application after the last election for that reason. However PR will become a bigger fraud if the politicians are allowed to manipulate the way our votes are recorded.

  5. I don\’t know – if it\’s to change it must be changed arbitrarily.I think it is important that people feel their vote counts and with the current system it doesn\’t always appear that in terms of numbers voting V number of seats.Also I am very surprised by the Dumfries Galloway et al result. I worked on the polling stations in that area for many years and find it very hard to credit (run google earth over that area at some point).At the end of the day politics is a dirty game – and it always has been.

  6. The way to avoid a paralyzed legislature is a tip you can take from us. Our Vice-President (currently Joe Biden) also serves as The President of the Senate. In this capacity he only casts a vote on any legislation when there is a "tie vote". His vote thus breaks the tie one way or the other. This has happened 242 times (at last count) in the history of the United States.

  7. I am talking about the 5 year national elections.the senate president is the equivalent to our speaker in our lower assembley – which is where that idea came from 😉

  8. I turn on the TV. I get politics, I turn on the radio, I get politics. I open a newspaper I get politics. I talk to my neighbour I get politics. I answer the door, I get politics. Now this !!! It is worse than the overwhelming onslaught of the x/mas silly season.B.T.W. I have just discovered from your Nic\’s piece about Castles etc. That York has two Castles. It made interesting reading I thought. Commiserations re footy.

  9. Well, you have a House of Commons and a House of Lords—we have a House of Representatives and a Senate (together they are the Congress of the United States although only members of the House of Representatives are properly referred to as "Congressmen". The Senate is often called the "Upper House" and the House of Representatives the "Lower House." United States Senators are elected for six years and "Congressmen" (House of Representatives) are elected for two year terms. Then each STATE has a State Legislation with "State Senators" (not to be confused with UNITED STATES SENATORS) and a STATE House of Represntatives—again, not to be confused with the Federal one. When I was referring to the powers of the Vice-President as "President of the Senate" I was, of course, referring to the Federal or National body of that name. But then, our elections for those offices happen just any old time, really. Although the Vice-President (aka President of the Senate) is, obviosly the only one that will ALWAYS be the winner of the NATIONAL election since he (or she) is elected when the President of the United States is elected. Every four years, in other words. (The job will be up for grabs in 2012).

  10. LOL Sorry Kenny, what was a comment on our general election and the pros and cons of Proportional Representation against First Past The Post systems, seems to have turned into a lesson on american civics! Most of which is buried in my mind from when English schoolchildren were taught the social and economic history of the world – not the hairshirt version prevalent today !We were a good second and despite blind linemen and cheating scousers but any team with only 1 CF and OG your second highest tally speaks more for the teams tenacity and lack of competition from the other \’top 6\’ clubs !! I hope the pigeon eggs are under control and wish you a good week .

  11. There\’s a subject for you your Lairdship – 2012! Clearly gonna be a busy year (unless of course the Mayans are right)

  12. sorry to wax so verbose…merely suggesting, really, that "proportional representation" works if you have ONE person, elected during the National Elections who votes only when there is danger of a stakemate, As we do. AS an example of how it might be made to work, d\’you see. But, hey, was not commenting on the merits of the system as it applied to your great nation otherwise.

  13. Well at least you get a choice with Referendum, in NI. we had no choice in the matter, You have to use P R in localelections. For Westminster here, it is still Majority Vote. A case of N.I being 2nd class citizens as usual

  14. Can\’t say I\’m a particularly political animal but I do have my say when I can – I feel you should. So I went for the postal vote option this time as I\’ve missed a couple of elections due to not being there. Coincidentally my vote went to one of the people who didn\’t get into Dumfries and Galloway et al, and, in a way, I therefore have no say in the result for the country as a whole where as with PR I\’d have a say in who got the top job even if my bloke/blokette lost back home. Yep, I\’ll go for PR.

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