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A letter to my Tory friends about PR



Letter from Francestown, February 1856
Originally uploaded by gbaku

Dear Tory friends,

you might not normally listen to what I’ve got to say, given that I’m a liberal and so on, but I have something to say to you about proportional representation.

You want to keep first-past-the-post, because you think it’s the best chance for you to form a government once in a while.

You might have heard about Blair’s idea that PR would lead to a “progressive century”. This is based on the idea that Labour and the LibDems normally get a majority of the votes together, so logically they should always get a majority together under PR.

It’s nonsense, though.

If that was the case, most European countries would have a permanent government, but that doesn’t happen anywhere. In all democratic countries, power sometimes changes hands.

Perhaps that will require another right-of-centre party to emerge that can attract voters from the left-of-centre parties. Perhaps the the left-of-centre government will just screw up so badly that a majority of the population will start supporting the Conservatives.

The main thing is that PR will not keep either side out of power permanently.

Of course the frequency of Tory governments might change, but which party is it that FPTP actually is favouring?

Labour.

At the moment, Labour can get a majority in parliament with about 30% of the votes, while the Tories need close to 40%.

As an aside, let me point out that most observers would say that sociologically Britain is not less conservative than Denmark, which had right-of-centre governments from 1982 to 1993, and again from 2001. Surely that’s better than what the Tories achieved here under FPTP?

Also, remember that there are different versions of PR. Some of them would favour Labour slightly, others the LibDems, and still others the Tories. You are in a strong position to choose which one.

I hope this will make you reconsider your opposition to PR.

All the best,

your friend

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