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Legitimacy
Balgove
tobyaw
There are fifty nine Westminster seats contested in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats hold eleven seats with 18.9% of the vote; the Conservatives hold a single seat with 16.7% of the vote. Together the coalition government gained 35.6% of the Scottish vote.

In 2005 Labour formed a government with 35.3% of the vote across the UK.

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I think this is an argument for reform of the voting system, isn't it?

I’m not sure. Certainly there is a problem with the mapping of votes to parliamentary seats. But it also makes clear that we are used to being ruled by a government elected by little more than a third of the electorate. I just thought it was particularly interesting considering the questions about how a Conservative government can have any legitimacy in Scotland when they only have a single MP here.

It is worth noting that the new coalition government gained 59.1% of the UK vote. When was the last time that a government in the UK had more than 50% of the vote?

Edited at 2010-05-12 09:31 pm (UTC)

But it's also notable that a great fuss was made about the possibility of a 'Coalition of the Defeated'- a rainbow alliance, if you would, to keep the Tories out. But that alliance would have had at least 54.3% of the vote (Labour+Liberals+SNP+PC). I think realistically, any coalition Government will have over 50% of the vote. As they would need to, if electoral reform went forward far enough. I don't wish to be ruled on the whims of a minority!

Of course, I'm also in favour of making voting compulsary (in the Australian fashion) with a fine for failure to exercise it (even if it comes in as a 'none of the above').

I've thought for some time that voting should be compulsory - although in all fairness I'd definitely want the 'none of the above' option in that case.

If this is the start of sensible coalition politics then I welcome it. I just hope it lasts.

The democrat in me thinks that everybody should vote. The libertarian in me thinks that nobody should be forced to vote.

Maybe adding benefits for voters would be a good compromise? Perhaps government and council services should only be available to those who bother to turn out at elections. If you want to use a job centre, swimming pool, or library, make sure you turn out to vote! (Actually that might appeal to immigrant-obsessed Labour voters and Daily Mail readers!)

You'll be suggesting a loyalty card next...

I think a compulsary vote is fine. You don't have to cast your vote FOR anyone, afterall, either by voting for 'None of the Above', or by spoiling your vote.

Voting is a duty- it's part of the price we pay for the benefits of representation. Hence why I voted in a constituency where really my vote is entirely irrelevant!

Compulsory votes in the general election? In the European elections? In the Scottish government election? In local council elections? In community council elections? In NHS Health Board elections?

People could get pretty bored of having to vote in elections in which they have no interest.

I meant in General Ekections, but actually, I'd throw Devolved and European in with those. Course, as much as possible those should be amalgamated onto the same polling day

The rainbow coalition was doomed to fail; there is a strong dislike of electoral reform among Labour MPs (particularly in Scotland), so Labour could never have delivered the change that Brown offered to the Liberals, and Scottish Labour MPs refused to work in a government with the SNP.

I think there would also have been a wider, more divisive issue: with the SNP and Plaid Cymru in a coalition, with the stated aim of preserving funding for Scotland and Wales, the special deals involved ('pork barrel politics') would have fostered resentment in England, and perhaps done major damage to English voters' readiness to accept coalition government.

I agree that I think that the alleged 'Rainbow' Alliance would have been doomed to failure, simply because that sort of multi party coalitions are fundamentally unstable. I don't entirely agree, however, that the SNP and PC would have actually held out for preserved funding for Scotland and Wales- at least on this occasion. I suspect that the bribe for them would have been precisely the same as the bribe to the Lib Dems- voting reform. That would (if Alex Salmond was sensible, which I agree is open to debate) have been majorly to their advantages in future elections- it's ludicrous that the SNP can be the largest party at Holyrood but only have 6 MPs.

Now, the Scots Labour MPs may well have objected (I'd have been surprised if they hadn't), but a well run Whips department can usually keep that sort of thing under control, with a mixture of threats and bribes!

I saw someone propose an interesting, but almost certainly politically unacceptable solution to the constituency MP/proportionality problem.

We elect all our MPs on first past the post, then the value of their vote in Parliament is assigned proportionally by party; so the vote of an individual MP would be a real number rather than an integer.

Never gonna happen, but an interesting idea.

Yup, certainly interesting. Would make counting votes rather hard though - and would make some MPs more important than others in voting terms.

It seems inevitable that the coming years will be filled with arguments over voting reform.

The vote counting could easily be dealt with by an electronic voting system a la Holyrood. I'm sure if people are thirled to walking through the lobbies it could be triggered by some sort of proximity sensor.

The point about some MPs being more important than others is a more difficult one to answer, and might be where this method would fall over - besides the difficulty of explaining it to people.

There is also an issue in that MPs votes mean different things at different times.

For whipped votes, they are party votes and there could be an argument about aligning them better along party-vote-share lines.

But for unwhipped votes, or where an MP rebels against their party, they are potentially representing all of their constituents, regardless of party affiliation. As all constituencies should be a similar size (and may be, after the forthcoming political reforms), each MP's vote should have the same value.

Good point.

Slightly worried about the equal size constituency thing; while I agree with it in principal and for almost all seats, I do think there's a case for some exceptions, such as Na h-Eileanan an Iar. Its geographical character is so distinct even from its closest neighbours that it does require sympathetic representation.

I suspect the boundary commission will be sympathetic to special cases. The Isle of Wight is another one where geography defines the constituency. The real importance is in evening out the majority of urban and country constituencies, so that Labour no longer has its in-built advantage at the expense of all the other parties.

Oh, and the Tories wanted to reduce the number of MPs (to about 550 I think). I couldn't see anything about that in the coalition document, so I suppose it is still an aim, although with Nick Clegg in charge of political reform, I don't know where that fits into his priorities.

You could go for constituency MPs (and level up the population size of the constituencies to a more even value), with a regionally based 'top up' list of MPs who deputise for the constituency members (thus keeping their geographical link, albeit less strictly defined), whilst also levelling up the representation in the House to something more closely resembling the votes cast for each Party.

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