Alex Massie

A Better Electoral System?

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As I say, FPTP is a defensible system and so is STV and so is AV: each brings something useful and each has its drawbacks. But why limit ourselves to these options? From a voters' point of view I think there's something to be said for adapting the French system. It's a majoritarian system that would sit comfortably with British traditions but, importantly, it also allows voters to make a more informed choice.

It is also simple. If any candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in their constituency he or she is duly elected after the first round of voting. Something like half of all our constituencies fall into this category at present. However that might change if we adapted the French way of doing these things since everyone, regardless of party allegiance, would have an incentive to vote in any seat - if only to keep the winner below 50% of the vote. Equally, this permits all voters to vote their true feelings, rather than having to make tactical decisions.

If no candidate receives 50% of the vote, however, then the top two candidates proceed to a run-off election the following week. the advantage of organising elections in this fashion is that it gives voters more information than they would have if they were listing preferences in a single round of voting.

That is, in many seats voters would have a simple choice in the second round and be asked to choose the less unsatisfactory candidate.

Doubtless there are disadvantages to this system too and who knows, perhaps no party would be keen on it. Nevertheless, it seems to me that if we're talking about reform this is one way of changing matters that would allow voters to cast their ballots honestly and then, however reluctantly, endorse the least repellant candidate in any second round of voting. No system can deliver everything everyone wants; the virtue of this one is that it puts that idea, that truth, at the heart of the matter.

So, obviously, it won't happen...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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