Consequences of electoral systems

I suggest this short piece referenced by Owen Jones is worth a watch – even when – or perhaps especially when, it comes from Fox News

America, with it’s disastrous electoral college is in a similar situation to the UK – the voting system is unfit for purpose – allowing the winner to take all.

But people still vote for what is a version of a plague on all your houses. Of course people have now, in all senses got their wish.

This to me, is a failure of politics – I wrote to my MP (without success) to try to persuade him that if the speaker does not call out government lies then that leads to a failure of the political process – and it seems Johnson can lie to his heart’s content without ever being called to account. This is not how democratic states are meant to be run. It is in Johnson’s own phrase, a ‘failure of statecraft’.

Without the electoral college in the US or the ‘First Past the Post’ system in the UK neither Trump nor Johnson would have been elected. Politics would actually have been more responsive to the views of the public.

In the US because, I would like to think at least, that elected Presidents would be aware of the ‘competition’ and the implications, and in the UK because a proportional representation system would much more clearly reflect voter’s desires and preferences.

Indeed I rather like this ‘Don’t let us end up like America’ petition, even though the ‘mother nation’ was arguably at least in part the reason for the way America ended up as it has…

But the voting system is vital and without a properly responsive one politics will fail for voters and be generally disregarded.

The great consequential danger is that the desired changes may be pursued by other means.


  1. Gerry Toner -

    Mr Jones for all his fellow feeling and claims to democracy, ignores Westminster has never been about democracy. The US system focused on electing a lunatic as the ‘leader of the free world’ is a preposterous game show. If we are to address systems of election only as systems issues we have already lost our way. Westminster needs a reboot and that must reposition that entity as an actor within a more holistic and community based democracy. Power over peoples lives should reside near the people affected not in a ‘privileged lazy spiv-boys club’. If a central entity is to be it should be the product of community decisions and not the output of credulous fools in salons.

    1. Peter May -

      Agree. Decisions should be as local as possible – but of course when government fails properly to fund local authorities, it fails at the same time, to fund local democracy .

      1. Gerry Toner -

        Is this not the point Peter, the ‘centre’ [monolith] is deciding funding for both. The ‘centre should be granted both the permission and funds to act; it should never be deciding its own role or resources. This also require each of us to take more interest, it would not work as the current ‘lazy’ consumerist system does. We have ourselves to blame for not getting what we want.

  2. Jeremy GH -

    I struggle to understand the relationship between the Fox clip – on Butler, Pa, and why Trump has a lot of support there (which reminds me of the (no longer) Red Wall) – and the discussion over electoral systems. Both are issues – equally important – but they are seperate, and should be treated seperately.

    And in the end there is perhaps the ultimate question for any democratic system: if a majority (say 90%) are for one party, and a minority (the other 10%) another, how should it proceed, and what attention should be paid to the 10%?

    1. Jeremy GH -

      As a follow up point, the question for whoever becomes president (or prime minister) is ‘the majority didn’t vote for you [either didn’t vote, or for someone else] – how much does that bother you? what are you going to do for them? why should they vote for you (your party) next time? do you even care?’

      1. Peter May -

        The link was that first past the post electoral systems are very bad at representing their electorate’s interests. Hence politics decays and is not participated in – until someone like Trump wakes people up with sloganised, simplistic solutions. If the electoral system better responded to the voter, politics is less likely to be the remote fractious system it has become.

  3. Graham -

    Re Jeremy’s point about %ages for one party or another. PR is meant to produce a parliament representative of the voting intentions of the electorate rather than the undemocratic fiasco we have with FPTP where a few percentage points can be enough to give and overwhelming majority.

    But that still leaves the question of how the government is made up in a PR system, which often produces coalitions. Perhaps it too should be proportional.

    I would like to see an end to Parties, SPADS, Lobbyists, political donations and a move towards citizens’ assemblies chosen at random.

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