Skip to content

PR systems have pernicious effects
Financial Times, April 23rd, 2010

Philip Stephens (‘Clegg snatches Cameron’s winning card’,yesterday) refers to the ‘bias of the first-past the-post electoral system’ and appears to be in favour of proportional representation, as a fairer system.

I strongly recommend that, instead of focusing on the abstract ideal of ‘representative fairness’ he takes a closer look at the actual operation and effects of PR systems in those countries which use it. He will find that, so far from guaranteeing the equitable representation of diverse electoral preferences,
adoption of the system leads rapidly to the subordination of electoral accountability to the crude pursuit of short-term political and personal advantage on the part of minority parties and their leaders as they seek to be the tail that wags the dog. The wider and serious result is that the process of government becomes severely distorted and less not more democratic as the essential dialogue between electors and elected which elections are supposed to deliver is abandoned.

Examples of this pernicious process are numerous; Israel, France and Italy are cases in point. It is regrettable that most academic comment on voting systems (Bogdanor, Dummett) focuses steadily on the abstractions and fails to address their consequences.

Giles Conway-Gordon