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Sunday, August 29, 2004
Q&A Weekend 2 - Answers

Q. How do you feel about electoral reform?

A. I think the voting system we have now has served Britain very well, delivering decisive change when people clearly wanted it, most obviously in 1945, 1979 and 1997. Advocates of PR always talk about how representative their favourite system is as if that is the only issue that matters. But all voting systems are a trade-off between representation and democracy. Those systems which produce a representation that corresponds only vaguely to the votes put the power to decide who governs them firmly in the voters' hands. Systems that produce a perfect statistical representation of the voters' choices are largely democracy-free, putting that choice in the hands of the politicians most willing to trade off their promises and principles in coalition deals. I think democracy matters more than representation.

There are a multitude of other problems with PR - the way it breaks the one-to-one link between voter and politician, the way very few people understand what their votes mean, the way some systems work invariably to produce everyone's second choice, not the first choice of the greatest number, the way those same systems force the calculating voter to vote for your third choice of candidate in the hope that he rather than your second choice goes on to the next round to face your first choice who'll then have an easier competitor(!) ... but even without them, I would favour the more democratic system that we now have over the more representative systems common in many parts of Europe.

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