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Geography and the British electoral system

Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.

Matt Qvortrup

driven by cues from party leaders rather than based on enlightened decisions by the voters? And are referendums on electoral reform always unsuccessful? Needless to say, some of these questions cannot be determined with any degree of certainty especially as we still await comprehensive survey data. However, based on referendums in other countries on similar and related issues, as well as compared with previous referendums in the United Kingdom, we can put together coherent picture that enables us to rise above the apparently idiosyncratic and seemingly unique factors

in Direct democracy
Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie, and David Rossiter

incentives for tactical voting, for instance, are high in FPTP elections, but much lower under some other systems. However, we can learn from the experiences of voters in those parts of the UK where other electoral systems have already been put in place for other levels of government. And some studies have tried to replicate how Westminster contests might look under different rules. In this chapter, we look at the debate over electoral reform for Westminster elections. How has it evolved? What are some of the main alterative electoral systems on offer and how do they work

in Representative democracy?
Tudor Jones

examine the issue of electoral reform, including the possible introduction of proportional representation. In spite of these developments, Liberal Democrat criticisms of Labour government policy – particularly on civil libertarian, environmental, and public investment issues – were by this time steadily increasing. Furthermore, the Party’s spring conference in March 1998 at Southport approved a proposal, moved by Gordon Lishman, for a ‘triple lock’ on any further moves that might threaten the political independence of the Liberal Democrats. 7

in The uneven path of British Liberalism
Open Access (free)
Neil McNaughton

its almost complete control over parliament. Had the Human Rights Act been binding on parliamentary legislation it would have represented a major check on governmental power. But it stopped short of this. ELECTORAL REFORM Background Both the Labour and Liberal (now Liberal Democrat) parties have long since espoused the cause of electoral reform in the UK. The Liberal (Democrats) have been more consistent in their support and, by the 1960s, it was firmly at the centre of their political beliefs. The Labour party’s interest, on the other hand, has ebbed and flowed

in Understanding British and European political issues
Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie, and David Rossiter

3 Creating an electoral system: 1832–1918 The years after the French and American revolutions witnessed growing demands for electoral reform in what was soon to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The main demand was for the franchise to be widened from a very small proportion of the male population, almost all of them property owners; a working-­ class mass demonstration in Manchester demanding the right to vote resulted in the Peterloo ‘massacre’ of 1819, when a crowd of some 70,000 protesters was charged by cavalry, with several hundreds

in Representative democracy?
Abstract only
Ron Johnston, Charles Pattie, and David Rossiter

extensive electoral reform, to a system that delivers proportional representation, will remove the disproportionality and bias, and such systems very substantially downplay the organic criterion. Electoral reform has never attracted substantial support in the UK, among the political parties let alone the general population; there are protagonists within both the Labour and Conservative parties but they are few and when it has seemed that they might gain some influence­ – ­as before and just after the election of New Labour in 1997­– t­hat has soon been dissipated. The

in Representative democracy?
Tudor Jones

gaining a majority, will we achieve electoral reform, and break the Tory-Labour stranglehold, then equally we must be clear in our own minds that if the political conditions are right (which of course they were not in February 1974) and if our own values are retained, we shall probably have – at least temporarily – to share power with somebody else to bring about the changes we seek. 8 Steel continued by stating that he wanted the Liberal Party to be ‘the fulcrum and centre of the next election argument – not something peripheral to it’. If

in The uneven path of British Liberalism
J. A. Chandler

2 The impact of industrialisation The political crisis that led up to the 1832 Electoral Reform Act is seen as a near-bloodless revolution that levered the landed elites from power in favour of urban merchants and industrialists, and, in the context of local government, led to the 1834 Poor Law Reform and the 1835 Municipal Corporations Acts that began the modernisation of the system.1 While the 1832 crisis precipitated these major reforms, they were not a radical break with the past. Poor Law unions, improvement commissions and Peel’s ideas on police and

in Explaining local government
Abstract only
Matt Cole

supporters whose names were being put forward for Peerages.5 Some of Wainwright’s time was invested in organisations around but not part of the Liberal Democrats, including Charter 88, the Electoral Reform Society, the Wider Share Ownership Council, the Liberal Democrat History Group and the Centre for Reform (now Centre Forum), a think-tank which he funded generously.6 Wainwright remained involved in the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, and was made a Fellow of Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1988. He and Joyce travelled to Cyprus, Italy, France and Cornwall, and visited the

in Richard Wainwright, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats