Just not perhaps in the way he wanted.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has told the BBC it would be "potty" for Labour to keep the keys to No 10 if it secured only the third best vote share at the election.
Speaking of the possibility that Labour could trail in terms of popular support and yet still win the most seats, Clegg told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "It is just preposterous, the idea that if a party comes third in the number of votes, it still has somehow the right to carry on squatting in No 10.
He is of course quite right. A system can hardly claim to be representative when a party securing a third of the votes does not take a third of the seats. The Noble Lord Tebbit touched upon this in his blog yesterday, but I’m afraid to decry PR as something ‘like that which brought Hitler to power in the 1930s’ is like considering taking the ferry to Calais for the day and then abandoning the idea because the boat is similar to the Titanic.
Understandably Clegg is right behind PR, he has the most to gain. Cameron has made it quite clear that he’s not interested, as he has the most to lose. Brown will hitch his wagon to anything which gives him an advantage before dropping it when it isn’t quite so helpful, so Labour interest in PR currently will be around zero.
Make no bones about it, if we were having this election under a PR system then there would be many, many more Lib Dem MPs and a few BNP, UKIP and Green ones as well. Just as the election of two BNP MEP’s to the European ‘Parliament’ did not herald the despatch of Einsatzgruppen to Lancashire, a handful or fewer of BNP MPs would not make any real difference, beyond making it easier for these people to get seats.
It’s an often used argument against PR that the BNP would get seats, well here’s a newsflash, they may under the first past the post system as well. BNP MPs would not be a symptom of the failure of the electoral system, nor of the failure of the electorate to vote in the ‘right way’. It is a failure of the established parties to do the job in a satisfactory manner. It is clear that the current system does not properly represent the views of the electorate, nor does it make the MPs particularly happy, as evidenced by Cameron’s repeated browbeating of the public as the spectre of a hung parliament becomes ever more corporeal. Sorry Dave, threatening us with the nasty man or trying to bully us into voting for you to shoehorn our wishes into this inflexible and unrepresentative system ain’t going to work.
Things have to change. One commentator on the radio this morning expressed the opinion that this particular genie is almost certain to escape the bottle in the next fortnight and once it is out, it will not go back in.
Having waffled away about that, you’d expect me to be all in favour of PR. I’m not. I certainly believe that it is a better system than the one we have at present, but I think there is a better system, one that is more realistic and one that is more in tune with the political climate of the day.
Firstly, I think the big thing in favour of the current system is that on polling day, you and I will go out and will vote for our own MP, or at least the person we want to be our MP the most. Having a named individual from the get go, with no ifs, buts or maybes is a good thing. We know that whoever polls the most votes in Felching-in-the-Woods will go on to be the representative for that constituency. A named individual you can petition, protest against and go to for help. That connection between the MP and the constituency, assuming the MP is a good constituency MP is very important.
It all falls apart when people talk about voting for Brown, Cameron or Clegg. You’re not voting for them unless you happen to be living in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Witney or Sheffield Hallam, and even then, you’re still voting for your constituency MP, not the Prime Minister.
So when Cameron bangs on about ‘It means putting the people in charge, I believe you should be in Number 10 because people have voted for you’ he’s talking a load of old arsegravy. We have no choice in the Prime Minister at all, and that would not change under PR. It would merely mean the membership of whichever party happened to finish top of the tree would be able to put the person they most want into Number 10. Our wishes count for very little.
The advent of the televised debates makes it perfectly clear that we have been drawn inexorably to the age of presidential style elections here in the UK, so let’s take that ball and run with it, shall we?
I propose a directly elected team of a Prime Minister, Chancellor, Home Sec, Justice Sec and Foreign Sec, all on the same ticket with the PM choosing his deputy PM from the other four, to be elected on a fixed term of four years or until two thirds of the House decide that that is quite enough, thank-you. None of these team of five would hold constituency seats and would be elected purely as the executive team. I’ve always thought it unfair that those living in a constituency with a back-bench MP have a good deal more access to their MP than someone who holds high office.
Neither is it fair that we have absolutely no say in the holders of the other big jobs. They make decisions, or at least implement policy, that have a real bearing on each of our lives and can be chopped and changed without our consent. That’s not good enough.
It would also be (slightly less) unfair that those teams who do not get elected will have no constituencies to go to. Well, tough.
This way we can keep the first past the post system as the number of seats held would not decide on who sat in Number 10, it would be a straight vote for the individual to represent your views in Parliament. I would suggest this also ran on a fixed four year term (allowing for resignations, recall from the constituency, death, etc.) running at a two year stagger from the executive team.
Under this model an unpopular executive would not have it all their own way if this mechanism is used by the electorate to give them a bloody nose. This could well be used as an argument against the model, especially as I’ve talked up the opportunity for the MPs to be closer to their constituents. I would say this; someone’s vote is theirs to do with as they please. You can’t start picking and choosing systems because of what you believe people should think their vote is for. That isn’t your decision to make.
Politicians would also complain that by using this model, the turnout for the constituency elections would go through the floor, it would turn the constituency MPs into an irrelevance. My response would be to point out that the style of government in the last 50 years or so has already done that, and it is your job to get people to the polling station, to motivate them, inspire them, to give them something to vote for. It could see a real change in the sort of person who decides to stand for office.