PR in Wales

PR in Wales

I wrote, nearly two years ago, welcoming the change on the composition and size of the Welsh Senedd, [or on Medium] and was pointed today at what they’ve become. While using the d’Hondt method  i.e. the generally preferred counting method for PR for the new and much larger constituencies, they propose that there are no top up members. The mathematical purpose of the top-up members is to ensure proportionality and the higher the proportion of top up members, the closer to proportionality one gets. It is usual for the top up members to be elected based on a party vote.

The Welsh system proposes to have 16 constituencies each electing six members of the Senedd, meaning a quota and thus a wasted vote of 14.29% and a requirement that the constituencies are of equal size.  I wonder what the impact of abolishing the top-up members will be. Perhaps I’ll build a model.  …

Arguments about PR in the UK.

Arguments about PR in the UK.

I got involved in a debate, sort of. Labour has decided that FPTP weakens trust in politics, but that fixing it is not a first term priority; many careerists in the Party oppose changing the voting system but the argument against PR that it enables the far right and claiming that PR’s supporters do so because of this is dishonest.

We should have PR because everyone’s vote is equal, Parties will then need to address all their voters, not just those that live in swing seats! Good PR systems do not require to be gamed to get the result a voter wants i.e. voters vote for whom they want and do not need to guess what others will do. Finally, government coalitions are negotiated after the election, in a Parliament, and with a mandate, not in secret, in Party offices.

In making this argument, I stated that Parliaments must make governments. Some may argue and more frequently apply this to Executive Mayors, that restricting government making (or mayor/council leader making) to several hundred MPs and Mayors/leaders to even fewer councillors is undemocratic. I don’t agree.

I think governments should be elected/appointed by Parliaments, and so reject the need to balance a vote for government with a vote for an MP. 

The German system makes each vote worth the same as others; although you might want to argue that their minimum threshold required for representation makes this untrue but I don’t. Any AMS system where the number of additional members equals or exceeds the geographic members and the size is relatively large meets the test of equality of votes and also minimises any ‘wasted’ votes.

I was asked to name an election where a far-right candidate won on 1st past the post and named Trump in 2020. I was criticised for calling Trump a fascist as it is generally accepted in the circles that I mix that fascism is a particularly vicious form of antidemocratic, anti-working class politics. I agree that Trump 2020 was not a fascist, it was my critics initial carelessness with the word that led me to reply in that way.

Ben-Ghiat in her book, “Strongmen” shows fascism is less of a threat than it once was, it’s been replaced by military dictators and latterly by vicious kleptocracies and is more often described as authoritarianism or totalitarianism. We also need to look at the work of Juan Linz on Presidencies and Parliaments, he favours the latter because they can compromise and effectively recall governments. Ben-Ghiat highlights seventeen dictators and authoritarians, eight of whom came to power through elections. Too many did so by winning nationwide presidential elections with or without transfers and what is common is that these elections create a large constituency (and in the USA & UK, majorities) who will not consent to their opponents having that power, even with legal checks and balances. Parliamentary systems elected with fair votes are a better means of expressing the solidarity needed to defeat these people. 

The problem is elections with only one winner!

Democracy is about more than voting, it requires rights, checks & balances, and recall. Directly elected governments, led by Mayors or Presidents have shown repeatedly that they are vulnerable to corruption and often decline into authoritarian rules. As said, Ben-Ghiat lists seventeen, eight of whom came to power through election.

You can’t build a good society, based on taking control of the state, one committee at a time, each with a one vote majority based on an electoral system where votes in the legislature are won on a simple plurality.

So, sure, I think that Parliaments electing/appointing/firing governments is democratic.

  1. My notes on Linz and his work,
  2. Strongmen: Mussolini to the present, Author: Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Pub date: 2020/11/10, Publisher: WW Norton & Company
  3. Image Credit: from unsplash by Mark Stucky

Subsidiarity, representation and human rights

Subsidiarity, representation and human rights

Despite the picture above, this is a short piece of comparative politics, comparing the US Constitution with that of the EU, taking in some lessons from the UK. I have just watched The Original Intent of the [US] Constitution by Prof. Mark Stoler. This taught me some things and this essay reviews these points and looks at lessons for the UK, the EU and the rest of the world.

I look at the “Separation of Powers” vs “Parliamentary Sovereignty”, note that checks and balances are designed to protect the [untitled] aristocracy against the mob, that without the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution may well not have been agreed. I note the desirability of a basic law, with the ability to amend, but not as flexibly as is the case in the UK. I look at constitutional inflexibility in the residual construction of the US Senate and the EU veto. I look at the need for federal taxation powers. I have concluded that parliaments need a freedom of action, and the freedom to negotiate between party programmes. The paradox is that they need to be constrained which is why we need human rights law.

The lecture to me reinforces the need for a subsidiarity guarantee within a constitution, including taxation powers, and a human rights guarantee, remembering that human right law is designed to protect you from the Government. Vetoes are a topic for another day, although much of the failings in the US Constitution can be placed at the door of single seat constituencies, including the Presidency, elected by simple plurality, or indirectly in the case of the Presidency. I say more overleaf ….

Fair Voting at GMB22

Fair Voting at GMB22

Our branch proposed a motion on PR & FPTP asking for a member's consultation and a position of abstention while that occurs. The GMB have a position of robustly supporting FPTP. ( I should find out how many members the GMB group of the PLP has.) The video clip includes a speech from the following motion where the delegate used the opportunity of moving a pious motion calling for a Labour Government to argue for FPTP. If the vote had been close, I'd have asked for a count but it wasn't. The GMB continues to support the careerism of its parliamentary allies. The video of the debate, my speech notess and the words of the motion are overleaf. ...

When 2nd best is actually best!

Another note on proportional representation. We elect MPs for two purposes, to represent us in Parliament and to choose a Prime Minister.

Sometimes the best and most supported answer is a compromise of 2nd bests which only a Parliament can deliver. i.e. the former role is more important.

Opponents of PR, within the LP, have a vision of a Labour Govt., exercising the powers of the elective dictatorship, (presumably without the corruption) ruling on the basis of a minority plurality. This always ends badly.

As other’s have said, the UK’s system i.e. FPTP is little used in democracies, and truth be told, not used in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales or London.

PR may or may not benefit Labour or the progressives in the UK, but the UK is a ‘flawed democracy’ and something must change to ensure this kakistocracy is never repeated. …

The Senedd, proportionality and size

The Senedd, proportionality and size

I have been thinking how many politicians is the right number and how to build proportional voting systems, these came together in a chat about the Senedd, so I thought I’d share.

The Welsh Parliament is elected in two classes, one class (40 seats) is elected in constituencies by first past the post, the remaining 20 are elected in five super constituencies of four members elected using a D’hondt count. The D’hondt count is done allocating the first places won in the count by a party to their constituency assembly members. This means that the results i.e. the number of assembly members/party are proportional within the super constituencies subject to rounding. This is as is done in London.

Acadmemia may suggest that assemblies that are too small become dominated by the executive, which in Wales is limited to 14, while those that are too large become prone to low quality legislation and corruption. It has been suggested that the optimum size of the Welsh assembly would be 147 based on a cube root rule. See also, “Wales needs 20 or 30 more Members of the Senedd, says committee” at Wales Online.  Other work suggests that we, in the UK have too few elected politicians because we have the House of Lords and too few councillors.

Proportionality depends upon the ratio of list AMs to constituency AMs. In Wales it’s ⅓, 43% in Scotland, 44% in London and 50% in Germany, who also have very finely calculated additional seats to eliminate rounding errors and any ‘crowding out’ effect.  i.e. the Bundestag is not of a fixed size, but as one reduces the size of the top-up class of seats, we reduce proportionality. …

Labour’s rules & PR Lists

As far as I know, we already have proportional voting systems in the UK, in Scotland & Wales for the their Assemblies, in London for the GLA and for the Members of the European Parliament. I have experience of standing for and/or selecting/triggering Labour candidates in the latter positions.

While much focus of late has been on selecting/re-selecting MPs in the House of Commons these positions represent a special case.

Labour’s re-selection processes for “list” based seats in local government in England, currently only the GLA, unless we remain in the EU requires that incumbents are confirmed or otherwise as candidates (via a trigger ballot), and that new candidates are found and approved by panel. All the candidates are then ordered by a member’s vote, with the incumbents guaranteed the highest places.

This protection i.e. the guarantee that incumbents must get the highest ranking places on the list should be removed; the member’s votes should determine the order that incumbents and challengers are placed on the list, subject to the gender quota rules. The members should be offered an additional two candidates, who then become available for call up in the case that any of the selected candidates are unable to run. …


I am considering some issues relating to the conduct of elections in the UK. In Lewisham Labour we are selecting a candidate for Mayor and the election will be conducted using a simple eliminating ballot, sometimes referred to as an Alternative Voting scheme. This, it can be argued is a special case of a more proportionate voting system; the special nature being that there is only one winner and thus the result is not so proportionate. The rest of this article is a technical description of an alternative vote election, a single transferable vote election and a closed list proportional representation election using the D’Hondt counting system. …

One Person, One Vote

Writing about the representation of the UK Parliament, reminded me of some work i did in 2014, when looking at the results of the last European Parliament elections. The chart below shows the number of people represented by an MEP by country, the Spanish are the least represented and the Luxembourgois the best, varying from 850,000 to 77,000; that’s eleven times better for Luxembourgois. It should be noted that the 77,000 population it takes to earn an MEP in Luxembourg is similar to the number that the Tories propose for British MPs, except the Tories are planning that MPs only represent electors, not the total population.


We can see that the system benefits the smaller nations, and that to be fair with the same rate of representation as the Luxembourgois there would need to be over 6,500 MEPs. It would be very difficult to run plenary sessions of such size as the amount of time available to talk would mean that many would have to remain silent. …