View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Thursday 10 March

It's a cold morning and a band of heavy rain or snow is moving up from the west. We are on warning for 20 to 30 cm of snow. Or was that supposed to be Caithness or Sutherland (further east)? The forecast on local radio was not clear. Anyway, I'll let y'all know how we got on, and whether we needed to get the diggers out.

I am actually posting on the vexed question of a new voting system for UK Parliamentary elections. People are going to the polls about this in May, and Stuart has made a posting about it. He summarises the proposed AV [Alternate Vote] system as follows:

When you vote in a general election you will order your candidates in order of preference. Once the votes are counted, the candidate with the least number of votes is removed from the running, the votes are then counted again and all the voting slips that had the now excluded candidate as number one choice will have their second choice counted, and so an ad nauseum until, until at last somebody gets 50%.
If you really want to see proportional representation in action (which the above is not), I'd like to refer to the Dutch voting system. In Holland, there are 150 seats in the Lower House of Parliament, and about 10 million people eligible to vote for those. Which means that each seat roughly equates to 65,000 votes - this is referred to as the Electoral Divider. There are about 20 parties contesting each ballot, of which 10 gain at least 1 seat. A party that gets less than the Divider does not gain any seat at all. First of all, the number of votes for each party is divided by the Divider, which yields the first lot of seats. Any remaining votes (rest votes) will then be distributed according to a set of rules, determined (among others) by the preferential votes for any one candidate, if more than a quarter of the Divider. A tad complicated, but at least you are not in the position that your vote is wasted if you don't vote for a winning candidate.

I am not saying that the UK should adopt this system, because the political system and culture is totally different on this side of the North Sea. After the May 2010 general election in the UK I was glad to see a coalition in power. After a couple of weeks, I had to draw to the conclusion that a UK coalition is subtractive, rather than additive; confrontational rather than consensual. Weak, rather than strong. Although my political preference is not relevant (I'm not eligible to vote in UK general elections), I do prefer to see one party in office now. At least you know what you're going to get.