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DevisinganElectoral
Systemforthe21st
Century:
ThecaseforAMS
DrPhilMcCarvill

May2010
©ippr2010

InstituteforPublicPolicyResearch
Challengingideas– Changingpolicy
2 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

Aboutippr
TheInstituteforPublicPolicyResearch(ippr)istheUK’sleadingprogressivethinktank,
producingcutting-edgeresearchandinnovativepolicyideasforajust,democraticand
sustainableworld.
Since1988,wehavebeenattheforefrontofprogressivedebateandpolicymakinginthe
UK.Throughourindependentresearchandanalysiswedefinenewagendasforchangeand
providepracticalsolutionstochallengesacrossthefullrangeofpublicpolicyissues.
WithofficesinbothLondonandNewcastle,weensureouroutlookisasbroad-basedas
possible,whileourGlobalChangeprogrammeextendsourpartnershipsandinfluence
beyondtheUK,givingusatrulyworld-classreputationforhighqualityresearch.
ippr,30-32SouthamptonStreet,LondonWC2E7RA.Tel:+44(0)2074706100E:info@ippr.org
www.ippr.org.RegisteredCharityNo.800065

ThispaperwasfirstpublishedinMay2010.©ippr2010
3 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

Introduction
The2010generalelectionresulthasputelectoralreformcentrestageanddealtapotentially
terminalblowtotheFirstPastthePost(FPTP)system.Thisisnotsimplyduetoa
perpetuationofage-olddistortionswhichinvariablyrewardLabourandtheConservatives
andpenalisetheLiberalDemocrats:itisalsobecauseFPTPhasnotdeliveredadecisive
electionresult.TheFPTPhasultimatelybeenundonebyoneofitsownproudestboasts.A
hungparliamenthasforcedthethreemainpartiesintoprotractednegotiations–resultingin
aConservative/LiberalDemocratcoalitionandthepromiseofareferendumonthe
AlternativeVote(AV)system.
Generallyindiscussionsaboutchangestothevotingsystemithasbeenassumedthechoice
isbetweenthreeoptions:AV,AlternativeVotePlus(AV+)ortheSingleTransferableVote
(STV).However,thispaperarguesthatitistheAdditionalMemberSystem(AMS)whichis
mostsuitedtotheUKcontext.AMScombinesthebestelementsofthecurrentsystemwith
arightfulfocusonproportionality,representationandfairness.
AMSisalreadyusedtoelecttheScottishParliament,theWelshAssemblyandtheGreater
LondonAssemblyandhasbeenshowntoworkintheUKcontext.Internationally,in
countrieslikeGermanyandNewZealand,ithasdemonstratedthecapacitytodeliverboth
resultswhichreflecttheelectorate’svotingintentionandstablegovernance.
MostimportantlyintheUKcontext,AMSisaproportionalsystemwhichretainsthe
constituencylink–animportant,evencherished,partofourpoliticaltradition.AMS
thereforeensuresbothcontinuityandanopportunitytoembraceasystemwhichmore
closelyreflectstheregionalandnationalpatternsofelectoralsupport.
InarguingthecaseforAMSwetakeourleadfromanumberofdistinguishedacademicsand
experts,andinparticularfromLordAlexanderofWeedon,thesoledissentingvoiceonthe
JenkinsCommissionwhoarguedthatAMSrepresentedthemostappropriateelectoral
systemfortheUK(JenkinsCommission1998).

Structureofthepaper
ThepaperbeginswithanassessmentofthefailingsofthecurrentFPTPsystemandthecore
argumentsforgenuineelectoralreform.Itthenestablishesanumberofcriteriawhichany
newelectoralsystemmustsatisfy.Thereisthenananalysisofthevariousalternative
electoralsystems.HavingconcludedthatAMSrepresentsthemostappropriateelectoral
systemfortheUK,thereportexplainswhyanalysisofwhyAMSwouldbegoodforBritish
politicallifeinawidersense.
4 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

TheFirstPastthePostsystem
TheelectionresulthasdeliveredyetfurtherevidenceoftheinadequacyoftheFirstPastthe
Postsystem.AsTable1demonstrates,therecontinuetobehugedisparitiesbetweenthe
numberofvotespolledandtheproportionofparliamentaryseatssecured.

Table1:GeneralElection2010:voteshareandseatnumbers
Party Shareofvote Numberofseats
Conservative 36.1% 306
Labour 29% 258
LiberalDemocrat 23% 57
Other 11.9% 28
Source:BBCWebsite-http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/results/

PerhapsmosttellingforFPTP,theshareofthevoteforthetwomajorpartiescontinuesto
fall(DunleavyandMargetts2005).In2010,thecombinedConservativeandLabourvote
wasjust65.1percent,downfrom67.6percentin2005.Bycomparison,thecombined
shareofthevoteinthe1950GeneralElectionwas89.5percent(BBCwebsite,1997).Over
thelast60years,thedominanceofthetwomainpartieshaswanedsignificantly,butwestill
haveanelectoralsystemwhichreflectsabygoneera.
OneofthemaindistortingfeaturesofFPTPisthatitleadstoadisproportionatefocusona
smallanddecliningnumberofmarginalseats.Hugesumsofmoneyandresourcesare
pouredintothefewconstituenciesthatmaydictatethefinaloutcome.Earlycalculations
fromthiselectionsuggestthat89seatsweredecidedbylessthan5percentofthevoteand
40ofthosebylessthan1000votes.Theothersideofthisequationisthatthevotesof
millionsofpeoplearecastinconstituencieswherethereislittleornochanceofremoving
theincumbent,therebylockingalargepercentageoftheelectorateoutofanysensethat
theyhavethepowertochoosethenextgovernment.
Noneofthisisinanywayrevelatory;analystssuchasDunleavyandMargettshavelong
notedthattheUK’selectoralsystemhasbeencreakingforsometime.Byalmostany
measure,theUKhasbeenexperiencinganacutedemocraticdeficitforanumberofdecades.
In2005,theproportionofvoterswhoseintentionswereeffectivelyignoredbythevoting
systemstoodat31percentandtherewereregionsoftheUKinwhichmeasuresof
deviationfromproportionalityreached86percent(DunleavyandMargetts2005).Dunleavy
andMargettshavecalculatedthatin2005,41percentofMPshadnorighttoholdtheir
seatsonthebasisoftheirparty’sshareofthevote(ibid).
DuringtimesinwhichFPTPregularlydelivereddecisivemajoritygovernment,itwasperhaps
forgivabletooverlooktheinherentinequalitiesofthatsystem.Nowtherecanbenosuch
justification.FPTPhasdeliveredahungparliamentthathasledtoprotractednegotiationsto
formapowersharinggovernmentwithelectoralreformcentraltothosenegotiations.The
issuecannotbeshelvedagain,evenifthenewgovernmentprovestobeastableone.So
whatformofvotingsystemisbestforBritain?
5 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

Electoralreform–theessentialcriteria
Inordertoensurethatweemergewithelectoralreformthatdeliversanequitable,
representativeandproportionalsystemthatproducesstablegovernments,wesuggestthat
reformmustsatisfyanumberofclearcriteria.
Firstly,itmustmaintaintheconstituencylink viawhichMembersofParliamenthavean
attachmenttoalocalityandareperceivedtorepresentandservetheinterestsoftheir
constituents.TheconstituencylinksitsattheheartofrepresentativedemocracyintheUK:it
ensuresadirectlineofaccountabilitybetweenvotersandtheirMP,andgroundsMPsina
geographicalrealityoutsidetheWestminsterbubble.ThisisnottosuggestthatallMPsmust
betiedtoconstituenciesorthatthecurrentnumberofconstituenciesmustremainfixed.
Thesewillbemattersfordiscussion.
ThereisaproudtraditionofconstituencyMPsrepresentingallconstituentsandnotsimply
thosewhovotedforthem,aprincipleworthpreserving.Earlyanalysisofconstituencyresults
fromthe2010generalelectionhasrevealedanumberofexamplesofsittingMPsdefying
strongnationalandregionalswings,oftenwithincreasedmajorities.Inanumberof
instancesthemostobviousexplanationisthepresenceofapopularsittingMPwhohas
workedhardtobuildsupportlocally.
Secondly,thesystemmustestablishaclearerrelationshipbetweenthenumberof
votescastforaparticularpartyandthenumberofseatsitsecures.Thiswillhelp
ensurethatprinciplesofrepresentationandproportionareembeddedinareformedelectoral
system.
Areformedsystemmustavoidreplicatingorreinforcingthedistortionofthecurrentsystem
orsimplyfavouringthelargestparties.
Thirdly,weneedasystemwhichensuresthatallvoteshaveavalue andthatthereal
electoralbattleisnotconfinedtoasmallnumberofmarginalconstituencies.
Finally,theelectoralsystemmustbesufficientlysophisticatedtoprovidefor stablebutnot
glacialgovernment.Althoughanyproportionalsystemislikelytoproducecoalition
government,itmustallowvoterstobringaboutperiodicshiftsinpowerwhicharedecisive
andreflectthechangingnationalmood.

Thechoice
Afteryearsinthedoldrums,electoralreformemergedasarealisticprospectintheaftermath
oftheexpensesscandalin2009.Suchwasthescaleofthepoliticalcrisisthatallareasof
reformwerebeingseriouslydiscussed.Then,justpriortotheelectioncampaign,Gordon
BrownannouncedinaspeechtoipprthatifLabourwasre-electeditwouldholda
referendumontheAlternativeVote(Brown2010).Whilecondemnedinsomequartersasa
‘deathbedconversion’whichwasonlymadetowooLiberalDemocratsupporterstothe
flaggingLabourcause,itwasamajorchangeinLabourpolicy.Theprospectofelectoral
reformthenhadanotherboostwhenNickClegg’sstrongshowingsintheearlyTVdebates
ledtoasurgeinLiberalDemocratpollratings.Thoseratingswerenottranslatedintohard
votesattheballotbox,buttheactualresultmeanttheLiberalDemocratswerecentralto
post-electionnegotiations.
Wehaveofcoursebeenherebefore,mostrecentlyin1997,whenthefirstBlairgovernment
establishedtheJenkinsCommissiontoexaminetheoptionsforelectoralreform.Reportinga
yearlater,theCommission’sauthoritativereportclearlystatedthecaseforelectoralreform
andrecommendedAlternativeVotePlus(AV+)asitspreferredvotingsystem.AV+combines
thealternativevotesystemfortheelectionofconstituencymembersandatop-upof
6 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

additionalseats,allocatedtopartiesaccordingtotheirshareofthevote–thelatterelement
beingachievedthroughtheuseofanopenorclosedpartylist.InsettinguptheCommission
theBlairgovernmentwasdeliveringonamanifestocommitmenttolookatelectoralreform.
Buthavingwonahugelandslidevictoryundertheoldsystemitisperhapsnotsurprising
thattheGovernmentconsignedtheJenkinsReporttothepoliticalshelf,largelydueto
internaloppositionatseniorlevelswithintheLabourParty.
ipprwasamongthosevoiceswhichconsistentlylamentedthismissedopportunityand
continuedtoargueforaproportionalsystem.TwelveyearsonfromJenkins,wearguethatis
vitalthatanotherchanceisnotallowedtoslipaway.
Atfirstglance,thereareanumberofdifferentsystemswhichcouldbechosen.However,
closerinspectionandreferencetothecriteriaoutlinedabovehelpstonarrowdownthefield
quiteconsiderably.
Wecanquicklyeliminatethosepurelyproportionalsystemswhichrelyexclusivelyonparty
listsfordistributingseatsaccordingtotheproportionofthepopularvotesecuredbyeach
party.Suchsystemsoffernoopportunitytoretaintheconstituencylinkandpotentially
concentratetoomuchpowerinthehandsofpartyleaderships,amovewhichwouldbe
treatedwithsuspicionatthebestoftimes,butcomingonthebackoftheparliamentary
expensesscandalwouldbecompletelyunthinkable.
TheAlternativeVotesystemclearlyhassomevirtues.Thecandidatewhoiselectedmust
achieveatleast50percentsupportamongtheelectorate,albeitinsomecasesthrough
secondpreferencevotes,therebygivingthemagreaterdegreeoflegitimacy.Ittherefore
helpsreducetheproblemofwastedvotessoassociatedwithFPTP.However,despitethelate
conversionofGordonBrownandLabourleadershiptothissystem,theconcessionofa
referendumbytheConservativeleadership,andthefactthatitretainstheconstituencylink,
AVisnottheanswer.
ThecoreproblemisthatAVisnotproportional;itincludesnomechanismtoensurethatthe
allocationofparliamentaryseatsisinproportiontothenumberofvotescastforeachparty.
Itsimplyallowsformoreofthevoters’intentionstobetakenintoaccountindecidingthe
resultinasingleconstituency.Moreover,itcanproduceresultswhichareevenmore
distortedthanthoseunderFPTP.Analysisandmodellingofthe2005generalelectionresult
bytheElectoralReformSocietyshowthatAVwouldhaveincreasedthesizeoftheLabour
majorityby11seats,withtheLiberalDemocratsgainingonlyafurther12seats(Baston
2006).TheConservativesinsuccessiveelectionswouldhavelostoutunderAV–withthe
mostobviousexplanationforthisoutcomebeingthattheConservativeswouldnothave
securedenoughsecondpreferencevotes.
JohnCurtice’sanalysisofthe1997generalelectionhasindicatedthatAVwouldhave
swollenanalreadyhugeLabourmajority(Curtice2010):
Lab455(+26)
Cons70(-95)
LibDem115(+69)
Itisimportanttonotethatallprojectionsofthiskindaremerelythat– projections.Theyare
indicativeratherthanconclusive– butevensotheymustgivesupportersofAVpauseof
thought.ChangingtoasystemwhichcoulddeliverevenmoredistortedresultsthanFPTPis
surelynottheanswerforthoselookingforgenuinereform.
Simplyput,AVwouldnotremovethebiasofthecurrentsystemtowardsthelargestpartyor
partiesandinsomeinstancesitwouldfurtherreinforcethestatusquo.
NextupisAlternativeVotePlus(AV+)whichcombinesanalternativevoteforconstituency
membersandatop-upofadditionalseatswhichareallocatedtopartiesaccordingtotheir
7 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

shareofthevoteusingeitheranopenorclosedpartylist.Initsfavour,AV+retainsthe
constituencylinkanditscombinationapproachinjectsapartialdegreeofproportionality.
However,thefundamentalconcernisthatAV+isbuiltaroundAV,withthebulkof
parliamentaryseatsbeingallocatedonthisbasis.
Baston’sanalysissuggeststhatwhileAV+wouldhaveledtoafairerdistributionofseats
thanAV,itwouldnothaveaproducedaresultwhichwassufficientlyproportional(Baston
2006).
SingleTransferableVote(STV)hasthepotentialtobeoneofthemostproportionalelectoral
systems.IthasbeensuccessfullyusedincountriessuchastheRepublicofIreland,whereit
hasarguablyproducedstablecoalitionsandonasmallnumberofoccasions,majority
governments.
UnderSTV,theelectorateisaskedtorankcandidatesinorderofpreference.Thevotesare
countedusingacomplicatedsetofcalculationsandaftertheinitialcountthecandidatewith
theleastvotesiseliminatedandtheirsecondpreferencesareredistributedtotheremaining
candidates.Thisprocesscontinuesuntiloneofthecandidatessecures50percentofthe
vote.
ThecentralproblemwithSTV,astheJenkinsReportnoted,isthattherearesignificant
doubtsastowhetheritwouldtranslatewelltotheUKcontext(JenkinsCommission1998).
Itsbiggestdrawbackisthatitdramaticallyweakensthelinkbetweentheindividualvoterand
their‘local’candidate.Inordertoensureappropriatelevelsofproportionality,STVrequires
verylargeconstituencies.Forexample,intheRepublicofIrelandjust40constituencies
returnthree,fourorfivecandidatestothe166seatDáil(ElectoralKnowledgeNetwork,
undated).TranslatedtoBritain,thiswouldrequireevenlarger,‘super’constituencies.Asthe
Jenkinsreportstates:
InBritain,withapopulationof58.5millionasagainstIreland’s3.5
million,theconstituencies(unlessthereweretobeamassiveincrease
inthenumberofMPs,whichtheCommissionregardsasunacceptable;
seeparagraph69)wouldneedtobeapproximatelyfourorfivetimes
aslargeastheIrishconstituencies.Thiswouldmakethem
geographicallyfar-flunginruralorsemi-ruralareas,and,evenin
concentratedurbanareas,constituenciesofabout350,000electors
wouldentailaverylongballotpaperandadegreeofchoicewhich
mightbedeemedoppressiveratherthanliberating. (Jenkins
Commission1998)
Thiseffectivelyleavesoneviableoption–thesystemthatisvariouslyknownasAdditional
MemberSystem(AMS),orelsewhereinEurope,astheMixedMemberProportionalsystem.
AMSsupplementstheFPTPsystemforconstituencyelectionswithanadditionalpartylist.
Thelatterisusedtoinjectanelementofproportionality,enablingareadjustmenttotake
placewhichtakesaccountoftheshareofthevotesecuredbyindividualpartiesoften
determinedonaregionalbasis.Inadditiontosupplyingalistofconstituencycandidates,
eachpartyalsosuppliesafurtherlistofcandidates(withitspreferredcandidatesusually
beingplacedatthetopofthelist).DependingonthevariationofAMSadopted,individual
candidatescanappearonbothlistsandtheallocationoflist-basedseatstakesplaceonce
theresultsofthefirstpastthepostseatshavebeendetermined.
Theelectorateisgiventwovotes,onetoelectaconstituencyMP,thesecondtoallocateto
thepartyitwishestoseegainfromthetop-upprocess.
TheJenkinsReportincludesadissentingstatementfromLordAlexanderofWeedon,in
whichhedivergesfromthemajorityviewandarguesforAMSwithFPTPandnotAV+asthe
mostappropriateelectoralsystemfortheUK.LordAlexanderstates:
8 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

IdonotsharetheviewofmycolleaguesthatAV,ratherthanFPTP,is
anappropriatewayofelectingconstituencymembers.
Thisisnotanarcaneortechnicalissueprimarilyofinterestto
connoisseursofelectoralreform.Quitethecontrary.Thesinglemember
constituencywillremainthelinchpinofourelectoralsystem,under
whichabout80%ofmemberswillbeelected.Soitiscrucialthatthe
methodofelectionwithin theseconstituenciesshouldbesoundin
principle,easytounderstandandaboveallcapableofcommanding
theenduringrespectoftheelectorate.IdonotconsiderthatAV
satisfiesthesetests.
AttheheartofLordAlexander’sargumentistheneedtomaintaintheconstituencylink,
whileensuringthatthenotionofproportionalitysitsattheheartoftheUK’selectoral
system.
Hegoesontocriticisehiscolleagues’supportforAV+:
AVcomesintoplayonlywhenacandidatefailstosecureamajorityof
firstpreferencevotes.Itdoesnot,however,thentakeaccountofthe
secondpreferencesofallvoters,butonlyofthosewhohavesupported
theleastsuccessfulcandidates.Soitignoresthesecondpreferencesof
thevoterswhosupportedthetwocandidateswiththehighestfirst
preferencevotes,butallowsthevotersforthethirdorevenweaker
candidatestohavetheirsecondvotescountedsoastodeterminethe
result.
Ifindthisapproachwhollyillogical.Whyshouldthesecondpreferences
ofthosevoterswhofavouredthetwostrongercandidatesonthefirst
votebetotallyignoredandonlythosewhosupportthelowerplaced
andlesspopularcandidatesgetasecondbiteofthecherry?(Jenkins
Commission1998)
LordAlexander’sviewsweresharedatthetimebyanumberofleadingacademics
specialisinginelectoralsystemsandpoliticalreform–amongthemIainMcLean,Professorof
PoliticsatOxfordUniversity,whoadvocatedAMSinhissubmissiontotheJenkins
Commission(McLean1998).
Analysisofthe2005electionresultappearstovindicateLordAlexander’s(andProfessor
McLean’s)position,withBastonsuggestingthathadAMSbeenusedin2005,itwouldhave
producedamorebalancedandrepresentativeparliament(Baston2006):
Labour 242
Conservative 208
LiberalDemocrats 144
Others 54
Furthersupportingevidencecomesfromauniqueexercisewhicheffectivelyre-ranpartof
the1997generalelectiontoenableresearcherstotesttheresultsfullyunderdifferent
systems;Dunleavyetal concludedthat:
Onlyonesystem,theGermanadditionalmembersystem,wouldhave
producedaproportionalresult,matchingtheparties’shareofseatsin
Parliamenttotheirshareofthevotes.(Dunleavyetal 1998)
ItshouldbenotedthatthisexperimentwasbasedontheGermanmodelof50percent
constituencyelectionsand50percenttop-up,whichwethinkwouldbeunacceptableinthe
UKcontext.Theproportionsforconstituencyandtop-upprocessvary,althoughitisusually
intheregionof20–50percent.JenkinsoriginallyarguedthatthesplitfortheUKshouldbe
9 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

83percent(constituency)to17percent(top-uplist).However,DunleavyandMargetts
arguethatJenkins’83/17ratioisinsufficientduetotheimpactof‘thereleasefromthe
constraintsofthepluralitysystem’.Theyconclude:
ItnowseemshighlyunlikelythataJenkinssolutioncoulddeliverbroad
proportionalityandthatalargerproportionoftop-upseatsisalmost
certaintoberequired. (DunleavyandMargetts2005)
DunleavyandMargettsgoontoarguethatthereshouldbea25percentminimumtop-up
(ibid).Wesuggestthatthisshouldbesubjecttofurthertestingbeforeintroductionandthen
periodicreviewthereaftertoensurethebalanceistherightone.
Likeallsystemswhichinvolveatop-uplist,AMSoffersthepotentialforathreshold,which
requirespartiestosecureaminimumproportionofthevotebeforetheycanbeallocatedany
seatsviathelistsystem.Thisismostfrequentlyusedtoexcludeextremistpartiesandhas
beenusedmostnotablyinGermany.
ItisproposedthatifAMSweretobeintroducedintheUK,top-upseatsshouldbeallocated
viaanopenlist,thatisonewhichispublishedandavailablefortheelectoratetoseein
advanceoftheelection.Voterswouldbeabletoseeexactlywhotheyarevotingforandnot
justleavethedecisionontop-upMPstothepartyhierarchies.Closedlistsbycontrastplace
toomuchpoweroverwhositsinParliamentinthehandsofthosewhorunpoliticalparties.
ItisimportanttoacknowledgethatAMSisnotwithoutitscritics.AsBastonnotes:
‘SupportersofAMSclaimthatitcombinesthebestofboth;itsdetractorssayitcombines
theworstofboth’(Baston2006).
OneofthesignificantcriticismsofAMSandothersimilarsystemsisthatthedivisionofseats
betweendirectlyelectedconstituencyMPsandthosewhoareallocatedtheirseatsviathe
listsystemeffectivelycreatesatwotierhierarchy.Thereareanumberofpotentialconcerns
atplayhere.
Firstly,thosewhoareelectedviathetop-uproutedonothaveadirectlinktoindividual
constituencies.Thisputsthematapersonaldistancefromtheelectorateandmeanstheydo
nothavetheworkloadthatconstituencyMPsface.
Secondly,thereisariskthatcandidateswhohavecomesecond,thirdorevenworseinthe
popularvotecouldgainseatsasaresultoftheirpositionontheirparties’top-uplist.
Finally,thereisariskthatthosewhogainseatsviathetop-uplistsmaybesimplyparty
‘placemen’,withanassociatedriskthattheymaybedrawnfromanarrowsectionofsociety
andnotberepresentativeoftheelectorateasawhole.
Theseconcernscouldbeaddressedbyconsideringtheviabilityofsimplemeasuressuchas
theexclusionofconstituencycandidatesfromtop-uplists,regionaldistributionoftop-up
MPs(withassociatedconstituencyresponsibilities)andclearrequirementsregardingthe
representativenatureoftop-uplists.Itisimportanttounderlinethattheseareminor
concernsandshouldcertainlynotbeusedasargumentstodeterreform.
10 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

AMS–thesysteminplace
Asmentionedearlierinthisreport,therecentdebatearoundelectoralreformhasfocusedon
FPTPversusAV.Yetnoneofdevolvedinstitutionsthathavebeensetupsince1997are
electedviaeithersystem.TheScottishParliament,WelshAssemblyandGreaterLondon
AssemblyallusetheAdditionalMemberSystem,whiletheLondonMayoralelectionusesthe
SupplementaryVote.Thesedecisionsappeartohavebeendrivenbythetwinconcernsof
disproportionalityandrepresentation.
WhileitislikelytheGovernmentwouldhavebeenawareoftheJenkinsCommission’s
thinkingwhendraftingtherelevantlegislationforScottishandWelshdevolution,andwas
definitelyinpossessionofitspublishedviewwhenestablishingtheGreaterLondon
Authority,MinisterswentagainstitscounselandoptedforAMSandSupplementaryVotefor
AssemblyandMayoralelectionsrespectively.
Thisbegsanobviousquestion:ifAMSisappropriateforparliamentary/assemblyelectionsin
Scotland,WalesandLondon,whywouldanyotherelectoralsystembeappropriateforthe
wholeoftheUK?
Theargumentssetoutabovesufficeinourviewtoestablishthatthereisaverystrongcase
forreplacingourcurrentsystemwithAMS.Buttoreinforceourcaseweargueinthenext
sectionsomeadditionalbenefitsforourpoliticalculture.

WhywouldAMSbegoodforBritain?
TheintroductionofAMSwouldhaveasignificantimpactonthenatureofUKpoliticallife.It
wouldleadtoamoreequitableandrepresentativepoliticalsystemandensuregreater
accountabilitybetweentheelectorateandparliament.Itcouldalsohelptochangethe
cultureofpoliticsintheUK,movingitawayfromadversarialtribestowardsamore
consensualandcooperativewayofdoingbusiness.Wesetoutbelowthekeyreasonswhy
wethinkAMSisthebestsystemfortheUK.Thesearedividedintotwobroadcategories:
firstly,deliveringaneffectiveandproportionalelectoralsystem;andsecondly,helping
changethepoliticalcultureintheUK.

1.Deliveringaneffectiveandproportionalelectoralsystem
IntroducingAMSwould:
a)Ensureadegreeofcontinuity
AMSclearlyretainsthemechanicsofthecurrentFPTPforalargepercentageof
parliamentaryseats,whileinjectingproportionalityintothesystem.Ittherebymaintainsthe
directlinkbetweenmostMPsandtheelectorateatalocallevel,thussafeguardingthe
principlesoflocalrepresentationandaccountability.
b)Bemoreresponsivetothevotingintentionsoftheelectorate
UnlikethepureFPTPsystem,AMSensuresthatthevotingintentionsoftheelectorate
acrossdifferentpartsofthecountryarereflectedintheelectionresult.Asaconsequence
millionswillbeeffectivelyre-enfranchisedandgonewouldbetheforcedobsessionwitha
smallnumberofmarginalconstituencies.
c)Enabletheelectoralsystemtoreflectregionalandnationalvotingpatterns
AMSwouldreflectthevotingpatternsofdifferentpartsoftheUnitedKingdom,including
boththenationsandregions.Thetop-upseatswhichformacrucialpartofAMScouldbe
allocatedonaregionalbasis,therebyincreasingthedegreetowhichtheelectionresult
reflectsthevotingintentionofthoseindifferentpartsoftheUK.ThattheUKisincreasingly
11 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

dividedelectorallyiswellknown,butperhapslessnotedisthestrikingterritorialdifferences
invotesinthe2010electioninEngland.Furthermore,theseterritorialdifferencesaregrossly
exaggeratedbythecurrentvotingsystemasthegraphsbelowshow:

Partyshareof 100
thevote,by
Englishregion 80
Source:Election
UnpluggedII, 60 LD
Percent

ipprNorth,2010 Lab
40 Con

20

0
NW YH Lon E SE SW WM EM Eng

Partyshareof
seats,by 100%
Englishregion
Source:Election 80%
UnpluggedII,
ipprNorth,2010 60% LD
Lab
40% Con

20%

0%
NE NW YH Lon E SE SW WM EM Eng

2.HelpingchangethepoliticalcultureintheUK
Inadditiontoensuringanaccountableandlegitimateelectoralsystem,AMScouldalso:
a)Bringrenewedpoliticallegitimacy
ArepresentativeparliamentcomprisingMPswhoaretherebecausetheelectoratehasvoted
directlyforthemorfortheirpartywillhaverenewedlegitimacy.Theywillhaveamandate
whichisnotopentoage-oldquestionsaboutproportionalityorrepresentativeness.This
renewedlegitimacycouldalsohelpburytheremaininglegacyofthe‘expensesscandal’and
leadtoareconnectionbetweenpoliticsandthepublic.
b)Bringaboutanewpolitics
InthelongertermthereisthepotentialthatAMScouldresultinasignificantrealignmentof
theUKpoliticalsystemandachangeinthecultureofpolitics.Inparticular,itcouldattracta
widerrangeofpeopleintopolitics,includingthosewhoarerepelledbythecurrenttribaland
adversarialnatureofpartypolitics.UnderAMS,therewouldbeapremiumonskillssuchas
negotiation,cooperation,alliancebuildingandmakingcompromisestoachieveconsensus.
12 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

c)Endundueexternalinfluenceinconstituencypolitics
AMSwouldmeanthatitismuchlesseconomicallyviableforpoliticalpartiesandtheir
variousbenefactorssuchasLordAshcroftortheTradeUnionstotargetdisproportionate
amountsoffundingtoindividualconstituenciesinthehopeoftippingtheresultinone
directionortheother.Therealityisthatallconstituencieswouldremaininplayandeach
partywouldhaveavestedselfinterestincampaigningforeveryvote.
d)ChangetheroleofthemediainBritishpolitics
ThemediawouldhavetoadapttoasignificantshiftintheUK’spoliticalculture.Electoral
reformwouldendthepolarisationofthetwo-partypoliticalsystemandbringaboutchanges
inthetoneandstyleofpolitics.Themediawouldhavetoadapttoo.Indirectly,majorreform
ofBritishpoliticsmayevendiminishthedisproportionateinfluencethatmediafiguressuch
asRupertMurdochcurrentlyhold.Inasystemwhichisnot‘winnertakesall’,theSun
newspaperwillnotbeabletoclaimthatit‘wonit’foranysingleparty.Apoliticalcultureof
plurality,consensusandcooperationshouldleadtoamorethoughtfulandconsideredstyle
ofpoliticaljournalism.
e)HelpkeeptheUKtogether
ItiswellestablishedthatFPTPexaggeratesthesupportofanumberofpoliticalparties
acrosstheUK.Thisdistortionisthesourceofconsiderableinstabilityasithascreatedan
artificialriftbetween‘ToryEngland’and‘Labour’sCelticfringe’(Lodge2010).
Theresultsofthe2010electionhaveunderlinedthisdivision.InEngland,theConservatives
secured297ofthe532seatstoLabour’s191.ConverselyinScotland,Labourhold41ofthe
59seats,withtheConservativeshavingjustasingleScottishMPandcomingfourthinterms
oftheshareofthevote.Thisinevitablypromptsquestionsabouttheterritoriallegitimacyof
eitherpartytogovern,asthewayFPTPexaggeratespartysupportcreatesthepossibilityof
agovernmentbeingformedwithlittlesupportinsomepartsoftheUK.Hadtheoutcomeof
thecoalitiontalksbeendifferent,wecouldcurrentlyhaveaminorityConservativeParty
governmentwithlittlesupportinScotland,oraLabour-LiberalDemocratcoalitionwithouta
majorityofseatsinEngland.Theformerscenarioraisesseriousquestionsofterritorial
legitimacy,whilethelatterwouldresultincriesoffoulplayfromEnglishMPs,asCelticMPs
votedonhealthandeducationlegislationaffectingonlyEngland.
WethinkthatAMSwouldhelptomaintaintheUnionbyensuringthatallvoteswere
reflectedintheoutcomeoftheelection–including,forexample,the16.7percentofthe
ScottishelectoratethatvotedfortheConservativeParty.TheuseofAMSinelectionstothe
ScottishParliamenthasensuredthattheScottishNationalistPartycannotformamajority
governmentonaminorityofthevotescast.Insteadithashadtolistentoandaccommodate
theideasoftheotherpartiesintheparliament.IfAMSwereusedingeneralelectionsthe
evengreaterpluralityofpartysupportthatScotland(andWales)seewouldconvertintothe
properlevelofrepresentationofthatpluralityatWestminster.AsGuyLodgehaswritten,
electoralreform:
Wouldtransformthepartypoliticalmake-upoftheUK,replacing‘Tory
England’andthe‘CelticLabourfringe’withamuchmorefluidand
balancedpoliticalconfiguration,reducingthestarkdifferencesin
representationofthepartieswithinthehomenations.(Lodge2010)
13 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

Thepoliticaldimension
ThereisonefurtherreasonwhyAMSwouldbegoodforBritain–itrepresentsagood
compromisebetweenthemainparties’currentpositionsonelectoralreformandthusisin
thespiritofthe‘newpolitics’whichismuchtalkedaboutatpresent.
Theissuehasalwaysdividedtheparties,bothfromeachotherandinternally.Thathasbeen
thrownintosharpfocusbythepost-electionnegotiationsandtheiraftermath.Ontheone
sidewehaveoneofthetraditional‘bigtwo’ofUKpolitics–theConservativesandLabour–
whichtraditionallyhavebenefitedfromFPTPandthebulkofwhosemembershipsoppose
electoralreform.Ontheother,wehavetheLiberalDemocratswhohistoricallyhavebeen
penalisedbythecurrentsystemandcontinuetoplaceelectoralreformattheheartoftheir
policyagenda.
WesuggestthatAMSmaybeawayoutofsolvingtheconundrumofelectoralreformforthe
veryreasonthatitisnoparty’spreferredoption.Instead,itoffersanelectoralsystemwhich
islargelybuiltonthefoundationsofFPTP(whichtheConservativesandmanyinLabour
appearkeentoclingonto),whilebringingintheproportionalitywhichtheLiberal
DemocratssolikeaboutSTV.

Conclusion
TheFirstPastthePostvotingsystemisnolongerfitforpurpose.Itisthereforevitalthatin
consideringareplacementwelookatalltheoptionsandnotjustthosefavouredbythe
majorpoliticalparties.Wedonotthinkareferendumwhichoffersthevotersastraight
choicebetweenFPTPandAVwouldgivethemthechancetovoteforatrulyproportional
system.Butforthereasonswehavesetout,STVhasseriousdisadvantagesintheUK
context.
Ifelectoralreformistobemeaningfulanddemocratic,itshouldbebasedonabalance
betweenensuringcontinuityandadesiretoembedtheprinciplesofproportionality,
representationandfairnessattheheartofthenewsystem.TheAdditionalMemberSystem
istheonlyoptionwhichsatisfiesthesecriteria.
AMSisthenaturalchoice,politicallyanddemocratically.Itprovidescontinuitywiththe
currentelectoralsystemthroughitsuseoftheFPTP,offeringfamiliarityandpotentially
comfortforthosewhoclingtothecurrentsystem,whileensuringtheproportionalityand
representationdesiredbythosewhoadvocatechange.
Giventhenewpoliticallandscapeinwhichwefindourselves,wherepoliticianswith
passionatelyheldpositionsonelectoralreformarehavingtocompromise,anotherstrong
argumentinAMS’sfavouristhatitiscurrentlypoliticallyneutral–itisnooneparty’s
preferredoption.Therefore,AMSdeservestobeactivelyconsideredasaviableoptionfor
electoralreform,whetheronthebasisofrepresentation,proportionalityorsimplepolitical
considerations.
ItisfittingthatthefinalwordonthisissueshouldgotothelateLordAlexander,who
perfectlyarticulatedthecaseforAMS:
Iwhollysupporttherecommendationforanadditionalmembersystem.
ButIbelievetheconstituencyelectionsshouldbeconductedunder
FPTP.Thiswouldinvolveonlyonechangetoourcurrentelectoral
system.ItwouldpreservetherelationshipbetweenMPsandtheir
constituentsofallpartiesonthebasisofamethodofconstituency
electionwhichisfamiliar.Ibelievethatthissinglechangewouldboth
achieveanextensionofvoterchoiceandasignificantincreasein
14 ippr|DevisinganElectoralSystemforthe21stCentury:ThecaseforAMS

proportionalitywiththeminimumdisruptiontoourcurrentelectoral
system.Itcouldbesimplyandpowerfullypresentedtotheelectorateas
leadingtofairerrepresentationoftheirvotesbothatWestminsterand
intheTop-upareas.(JenkinsCommission1998)

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