Make MPs accountable

Submitted by Matthew on 9 March, 2011 - 10:43

Paul Hampton (Solidarity 194) seems (it is not totally clear) to oppose any constituency link when electing MPs on the grounds that it produces a result that is not exactly proportional to the votes cast for each party nationally.

That is wrong. Abolition of constituencies would mean that MPs would just be chosen from national party lists, putting more power into the hands of central party bureaucracies (and we already have some idea of what that means in the Labour Party!). It also removes any accountability of MPs to their electorate or to local party members. Finally, it robs constituents of anyone who directly represents them in parliament and who can be put under pressure by campaigning.

In short, it is fundamentally undemocratic. There are ways to combine a generally proportional result with a constituency system as the recent elections in Ireland show. Larger multi-member constituencies is one; combining a party list with a constituency system is another. Democracy, not pure proportionality, should be our aim in any reform of the electoral system.


Submitted by PaulHampton on Fri, 11/03/2011 - 13:11

Bruce Robinson (Solidarity 196, 9 March 2011) can rest easy: I do not oppose the constituency link in the name of proportional representation (PR) or any other consistent democracy principle.

To clarify, I meant AV is not PR compared with the single transferable vote (STV) and it cannot be so because of the constituency link. Further, AV is not necessarily a more proportional system than first past the post, as the assessment of the 2005 election suggests.

On constituencies, I agree that these are vital for accountability in bourgeois democracy. Further, I think we are for more small constituencies, with recall and annual re-election, to expand the accountability of MPs. In a soviet-council system we would also be for constituencies, albeit with industrial/workplace/sectoral as well as community-based electorates.

We should discuss how these issues should be formulated for the current bourgeois-democratic system and for socialist democracy. However the purpose of my letter was to clarify our stance with respect to the actual alternatives in the referendum on 5 May. That after all is the immediate concrete question we face – and to repeat, we should advocate a “No” vote.

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