Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Why Don't Tories Support PR?

It's a little odd that more Tories don't support voting reform, given that the present system discriminates so harshly against them. My Tory friends seem to have a mental block about it: it's so much a knee-jerk Tory position to oppose such 'liberal rubbish', that they seem to overlook the arguments which should persuade them otherwise. In his well argued recent piece, Geoffrey Wheatcroft ascribes the bias to the Boundary Commission proceedings in the mid 1990s. Wheatcroft says of Labour's representations to this body:

Suffice it to say that Labour made such representations to much greater effect than the others. Not to put too fine a point on it, much of England is now gerrymandered in Labour's favour.

This is a bit of an oversimplication in that Labour's ability to win seats on small turnouts in inner cities, also explains some of the disproportionate relationships between votes cast and seats won: Labour needs fewer votes to win seats than the Tories. But he is right that Labour pulled off an opportunistic coup with its skilled lobbying ihn the nineties and right also that the results in 2005 were indeed anomalous.

Labour won 286 out of 529 English seats on 35.5% of the vote while Conservatives won 194 on 35.7% and Lib Dems 47 on 22.9%. In Scotland the situation was worse: they won 40 out of 59-that's 68%- on only 39% of the vote. Overall Labour won 54% of the seats on 35% of the votes. If proportional to votes cast, seats in 2005 should have gone 189 Tory, 187 Labour and 121 Lib Dem. That would have enabled them to lead at the very least, a mionority government as Alex Salmond has successfully done in Scotland over the past year.

As Wheatcroft concludes on this topic:

If the Tories had their wits about them, they would now be demanding not necessarily pure PR, but at least a new reform bill.

I just wonder why they have always shied away from such a course.

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