Proportional Representation did what it always does. It allows extreme and unpopular parties to get people elected, and prevents the most popular party having a majority, giving more power to unelected officials as a result. The London Assembly elections shows this off to perfection. On a night when the Conservatives won a good majority on the Assembly on a first past the post basis, PR intervened to deprive them of a majority. It did so by giving a seat to the BNP through the so-called Top-up system. The idea will remain very popular with the Lib Dems, who clearly like giving extreme parties the oxygen of publicity and the opportunity of office, because it also allowed them to gain 3 seats when they were miles off winning a single seat by being more popular than the other candidates in any given place.
The PR system was probably also designed by Lib/Labs with a view to making it very difficult for there to be a Conservative Mayor. On this occasion the PR result failed to overturn Borisâ€™s clear victory on first preference votes, although the second preference system (I get to vote twice because I am a Lib Dem) did cut Boris’s majority. In their own terms PR failed the Lib/Labbers. Maybe they should think again about this wonky voting.
Did you notice that this new system of voting and deciding who has won was a) much dearer and b) slower than traditional first past the post? Goodness knows how much all that electronic technology cost. It was nice touch when we were told the count was delayed because the machines were overheating – they had not realised how many people would vote! We always used to get the results by about 3am the next morning with the old system. Now completing the task twenty hours or so later by midnight the day after the election is doing well. Apparently they assume very low turnout, and find their machines can’t cope at speed with too many people wanting to have a say! I suppose we should be grateful we don’t have to wait five weeks to know the winner.