Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformElectoral systems used in the UKMajoritarian• FPTP, SV and AV• ...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformElectoral systems used in the UKFive types of electoral systems...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Labour Party• PR been intro...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Tories• Always been against...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Lib Dems• Always been in fa...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Nationalist parties• Done v...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the smaller parties andindepend...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon UK politics (1)• Increased repr...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon UK politics (2)• Led to policy ...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformShould PR be used for elections to Westminster? Yes• PR is a fa...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformShould PR be used for elections to Westminster? No• Would proba...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformProspects for electoral reform• As with parliamentary and const...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformLords reform since 1997• 1997 – Labour government elected on a ...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformLords reform since 2003• 2003 – Commons voted on 7 options for ...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformThe House of Lords – four options for change• Abolish the Lords...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformArguments in favour of the abolition of the Lords• It is inhere...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformA part elected, part appointed, second chamber• “Best of both w...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformArguments for an elected 2nd chamber• Brings the UK up-to-date ...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformArguments for maintaining the status quo• The Lords does its jo...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformShould Britain adopt a codified constitution?NO• The present sy...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformConstitutional reform – where are we now?• After major changes ...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformSummary of constitutional reform• The UK Constitution has under...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of constitutional reform since 1997POSITIVES• Devolution...
Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of constitutional reform since 1997NEGATIVES• The Human ...
As constitutional, parliamentary and electoral reform
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As constitutional, parliamentary and electoral reform

  1. 1. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformElectoral systems used in the UKMajoritarian• FPTP, SV and AV• Single – member constituencies• Under FPTP, all a winningcandidate needs is just 1 morevote• Under AV and SV, a winningcandidate needs over 50% ofthe vote• Under AV and SV a personwould have 2 votes (1st and 2ndpreference). With FPTP, he/shewould have just 1 votePR• Party List (open and closed) andSTV• Multi-member constituenciesbased on a quota systemHybrid• AMS• Two votes (one under FPTP fora candidate, and one for a partyunder a party list system)
  2. 2. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformElectoral systems used in the UKFive types of electoral systems are used in the UK, more than any other democraticcountryWestminster FPTPLocal councils in England and Wales FPTPLocal councils in Scotland (after 2007) STVEuropean Parliament Party ListWelsh Assembly AMSScottish Parliament AMSGreater London Assembly AMSNorthern Ireland Assembly STVMayoral elections SV
  3. 3. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Labour Party• PR been introduced in several areas by the Labourgovernment since 1997• In the devolved assemblies Labour have shared power withthe Lib Dems in Scotland, and until recently, Wales• Blair is against any further electoral reform, partly becauseLabour have done so well out of FPTP since 1997. Brownis also thought to be sceptical about the merits of PR• Some Labour MPs support PR for Westminster, but themajority of Labour MPs are opposed to such a move
  4. 4. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Tories• Always been against PR• However, the party has gained more representation inScotland and Wales (under AMS) than it would have doneunder FPTP• Cameron is re-positioning the party towards the centre ofBritish politics by adopting a stance more favourabletowards minorities, speaking out in favour of a Bill ofRights, and supporting measures to protect theenvironment. He has also described himself as a “liberalconservative.” The possibility of a Tory – Lib Dem coalitionis, therefore, a realistic option in the foreseeable future
  5. 5. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Lib Dems• Always been in favour of electoral reform• Gained a share of power in Scotland and Wales sincedevolution• Likely to demand a pledge to reform the electoral systemfor Westminster if the next election results in a hungParliament (where no one party holds a clear majority)• Labour and the Lib Dems have moves further apart inrecent years due to the Government’s authoritarian stanceon the “war against terror”
  6. 6. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the Nationalist parties• Done very well out of PR• SNP and PC are the main opposition parties to Labour inthe devolved assemblies• Northern Ireland is a different case in point because thepolitical parties have found it very difficult to work with eachother. The Assembly in Northern Ireland has been closedsince 2002, although elections to the Assembly continue
  7. 7. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon the smaller parties andindependent candidates• Small parties are very much in favour of PR, and havedone very well out of electoral reform• In 1999, the Green party and the UKIP gained electoralrepresentation for the first time under the party list system• In the 2004 EP elections, the UKIP came third• Independents have also done well out of electoral reform(e.g. half of all mayors are independent of any politicalparty)
  8. 8. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon UK politics (1)• Increased representation for the smaller parties, andindependents. The Tories have also benefited from PR inthe Scottish Parliament• Has led to coalitions in the devolved assemblies• Initially strengthened ties between Labour and the LiberalDemocrats; which formed part of Blair’s strategy to makethis the “progressive’s century”• Has resulted in a ‘two-tier system’ of electedrepresentatives in Scotland and Wales (those electedunder FPTP, and those elected under the party list system)• Devolution has imposed a financial burden on the English,who subside each Scot by around £ 1, 000 a year based onthe Barnett formula
  9. 9. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of electoral reform upon UK politics (2)• Led to policy divergence over a number of issues (e.g.Higher Education, bus travel for pensioners and care forthe elderly is ‘free’ in Scotland)• Done little to resolve the problem of voter apathy• The cost of the Scottish Parliament went well over-budget• The representation of women has improved dramatically(40% of elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament,and 50% of the Welsh Assembly, are women)• Has raised the problematic West Lothian question, to whichno party has a satisfactory answer• Raised the possibility of electoral reform at Westminster(see next slide)
  10. 10. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformShould PR be used for elections to Westminster? Yes• PR is a fairer system than FPTP• More democratic, as representation would be based upon a moreequitable basis• Avoids discrimination against third parties• Would lead to a more consensual, rather than adversarial, style ofpolitics• A coalition would avoid the thorny issue raised by the 2005 GE, whenjust 1 in 5 of the electorate voted Labour• Avoids wasted votes• Would probably increase the representation of women and ethnicminorities• May encourage a higher level of voter turnout• PR and coalitions can work well, as in the case of the ScottishParliament
  11. 11. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformShould PR be used for elections to Westminster? No• Would probably result in weaker government• May result in unstable coalitions, as is the case in Italy• The link between an MP and his / her constituents might belost• Might result in a cross-party consensus that actuallyrestricts voter choice. This could increase support forextremist parties such as the BNP• Would give too much power to third parties, particularly theLiberal Democrats• Some types of PR, such as STV, are complex and mightstruggle to acquire popular support• There is no cross-party consensus over what system of PRto use. Each one has its flaws
  12. 12. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformProspects for electoral reform• As with parliamentary and constitutional reform, theGovernment has lost enthusiasm for further changes• John Prescott, a firm opponent of PR, was appointed headof a committee “considering electoral reform” in May 2005.This was a very clear indication that electoral reform wasoff the Government’s agenda• The Liberal Democrats are strongly in favour of reform,whilst the Conservatives are against further electoralreform. Labour is divided on this issue, but the leadership isin favour of retaining FPTP at Westminster• Further electoral reform is therefore unlikely in theforeseeable future. Indeed, it is one of the few areas ofideological difference between the political parties
  13. 13. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformLords reform since 1997• 1997 – Labour government elected on a mandate of radicalparliamentary reform• 1999 – The government abolished most hereditary peers,but 92 were retained• 1999 – Wakeham Commission recommended a 550member House, with 65 – 195 elected, and appointedmembers serving a period of 15 years• 2000 – People’s peers initiative launched• 2001 – Government pledged to make the Lords “morerepresentative and democratic”• 2001 – White paper recommended electing 20% of theLords (since been abandoned)
  14. 14. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformLords reform since 2003• 2003 – Commons voted on 7 options for reform, all ofwhich were rejected• 2003 – Queen’s speech promised to remove all hereditarypeers• 2004 – Government drops plans to abolish all hereditarypeers• 2005 – Labour’s manifesto pledged “a review of the Lords,to place limits of the time spent on deliberation, to removethe remaining hereditary peers, and to allow a free vote onthe future composition of the Lords (including areferendum)”• 2006 – The “loans for peerages” scandal gave furtherimpetus for reform of the upper chamber
  15. 15. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformThe House of Lords – four options for change• Abolish the Lords, and adopt a unicameral structure• Part elected, part appointed (Blair’s preferred option)• Elected Chamber (Gordon Brown’s preferred option)• Retain the status quo
  16. 16. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformArguments in favour of the abolition of the Lords• It is inherently undemocratic• Having two chambers delays the legislative process• The Lords powers are so weak that it would be better tostrengthen the role of MPs. This would result in moreeffective scrutiny of the executive• Initiatives taken since 1999 have exposed several problemswith the existence of an unelected second chamber (e.g.the people’s peers have been criticised by the Tories aslittle more than “Tony’s cronies”)
  17. 17. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformA part elected, part appointed, second chamber• “Best of both worlds.” Combines all the advantages of anelected chamber with the merits of an appointed chamber• The only problematic issue is what proportion of peersshould be elected / appointed. In 2003, the proposal for an80% elected / 20% appointed system almost gained theapproval of Parliament• An elected / appointed chamber is therefore likely to be thebasis for any further reform of the Lords• Plans are due to resurface in the winter of 2006
  18. 18. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformArguments for an elected 2nd chamber• Brings the UK up-to-date with the rest of the world• Representatives would be elected and thereforeaccountable - and hold legitimacy because they would havegained consent from the people• More democratic to have 2 elected chambers• Might result in greater levels of political participation,although the recent trend has been towards voter apathy• Elected representatives are more likely to remain ‘in touch’with society. This would therefore make the Lords morerelevant to modern Britain
  19. 19. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformArguments for maintaining the status quo• The Lords does its job effectively, with its defence of civil liberties andhighly-respected committee work• Anything that replaces it could be worse. For example, having anelected second chamber would duplicate the House of Commons; andcould therefore be seen as unnecessary. Elected peers would also beconstrained by the party whips• The expertise and ability of existing peers justifies their continuedexistence, as does the independence of the cross-benchers• Avoids the gridlock common in the United States• Part of our British heritage• The conservative with a small ‘c’ argument against any form of change(“If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”)
  20. 20. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformShould Britain adopt a codified constitution?NO• The present system is veryflexible• A written constitution isunnecessary, because oursystem is relatively democraticand widely accepted by themain political parties• A written constitution isundesirable, because it wouldgive judges too much power, asin the United States• A written constitution isunachievable, because there isno cross-party consensus at thepresent timeYES• Would limit the powers of the“elected dictatorship”• Would be more democratic, asis the case with the UnitedStates• A Constitutional court wouldhelp to clarify constitutionalmatters• Would provide Britain with amore open system ofgovernment
  21. 21. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformConstitutional reform – where are we now?• After major changes since 1997, the Government is unlikely to go anyfurther along the path of constitutional reform. Devolution to regionalassemblies in England is also off the Government’s agenda at thepresent time. However, it is rumoured that Gordon Brown (Blair’s likelysuccessor) is in favour of some elements of constitutional reform, suchas a codified constitution• The Liberal Democrats are strongly in favour of further reform,including a Bill of Rights. They believe the Government has “not gonefar enough”, as does the pressure group Charter 88.• The Conservatives wish to replace the Human Rights Act with a US-style Bill of Rights; but they have largely accepted the changes madeby Labour since 1997• Nationalist parties continue to campaign for independence, but theyhave little real influence
  22. 22. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformSummary of constitutional reform• The UK Constitution has undergone the most significantperiod of reform since the expansion of the franchise in the19th century. However, the Constitution remains uncodifiedand a product of the UK’s conservative with a small ‘c’political culture• The Government has clearly lost interest in reform sincethe 2001 General Election, although constitutional reformwill undoubtedly form part of Blair’s legacy. Changes madesince 1997 have also formed part of a post-Blairconsensus, in that the Tories have largely accepted thosereforms
  23. 23. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of constitutional reform since 1997POSITIVES• Devolution has facilitated a greater use of innovative ideas (e.g. thecongestion charge), helped to establish a fragile peace in NorthernIreland, and is a reflection of cultural and regional differences within theUK• Human rights have been strengthened• The FOIA has led to a more open form of Government• Established a more proportional reflection of voter’s wishes• Reform of the Lords has improved the effectiveness (andassertiveness) of the upper chamber• Changes made since 1997 have worked reasonably well, and gained adegree of cross-party support at Westminster• By reaching a compromise position between unionism andnationalism, devolution may have actually prevented the break-up ofthe UK
  24. 24. Politics – Constitutional, Parliamentary & Electoral ReformImpact of constitutional reform since 1997NEGATIVES• The Human Rights Act has been largely ineffective, and the Freedomof Information Act has been manipulated by the Government to scorepolitical points• Devolution has raised the problematic West Lothian question• Constitutional reform has done little to resolve the problem of voterapathy in the UK• Political power is still centralised in the hands of the executive• Constitution reform has not gone far enough, as Britain remains aunitary state with an uncodified constitution• From the opposite viewpoint, constitutional reform has gone too far andweakened the unity of the UK

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