Saturday, 14 February 2015


The basic notion of a democratic society is that "the people" make a decision on who shall govern them.

Unfortunately democracy has a heck of a lot of flaws. Not least of which is that, even with only two choices, and even if everyone votes, and all votes counted, you could still have 49.999% of people disagreeing with the elected government. But democracy has far greater flaws than that.

The alternative idea here is not really to propose an answer but perhaps start a discussion...

This came out of a discussion last night at a Conservative Party Dinner, to which I was invited as a guest of one of the people with a table. I have many issues with some conservative policies, but it was an interesting evening.

A simple concept was discussed at the table - the idea that everyone gets a vote, but that those votes are weighted somehow. Of course, before you even get to such a concept you have to have a way to make every vote count, by some sort of proportional representation - and even that is complex.

One of the reasons to even consider this is the basic concept that people are not created equal, and that even people who are in fact equally intelligent may not care to spend the time to consider the issues and make a rational decision or have the necessary knowledge or experience to do so, when voting. The vast majority of people are essentially sheep, following friends, relatives, and media in the way they vote, and not considering the actual issues.

I am not trying to be unfair here - for the most part politics is not a useful way for anyone to spend their time, and I too lack the experience or motivation to have a rational viewpoint on a huge number of political issues. There are many issues of government that 99% of people will simply not have to consider.

But the idea of a weighted vote would create interesting problems - the criteria for deciding the weighting would be both tricky and exploitable. If one made it that those with a degree had higher weighting, then there would be a million scams to get people a degree if they will vote the right way.

So, sadly, whilst an interesting idea I wonder if it could every be workable.

There is one idea I did have though - a simple one - allow people to vote with a weighting of their choice. i.e people that actually feel strongly to vote for one party or candidate can say so, and their vote count for more than those that don't really mind either way.

In a way we have that now - you can vote with a weighting of 0 or 1 by whether you bother to vote - so how about having a system where you can say your vote, and state a weighting 0 to 1 (or 1% to 100%). Indeed, knowing you can cross out the default 10% weighting on the form may be an intelligence test in itself.

Could that work?

Update: I did ponder another daft idea: What if it was 1st and 2nd past the post in each constituency (you'd have to make constituencies bigger to have same number of MPs), but the MP's vote in parliament counted based on number of votes they got. If you combine that with a single transferrable vote in the constituencies (so least popular candidates votes transfer to 2nd choice and so on until only 2 remain) you end up with the vast majority of people having someone local that represents them in parliament and is also someone they voted for, but a degree of proportional representation and every vote counting.


  1. It'd work, but we'd never adopt it - even something as simple as ranking parties was widely touted as confusing and too hard for most people to understand, in the AV debate. Adding weightings.. the 'average' person would be stumped.

    The US has the electoral college which is a weighting system of sorts, based on (IIRC) the size of each state.

  2. First past the post is even worse than 49.999% of people being against - it can actually be a huge majority against!

    You could end up with party A getting 30%, parties B and C getting 25% and party D getting 20%, and even though 70% of the electorate voted against party A, they still win in the First Past the Post system.

    That is the sham 'democratic' voting system that we do in this country.

    The proposed alternative in 2011 or whenever it was, AV is a convoluted ugly system, as the issue with AV is that if nobody got over 50% on the first count of 1 votes, it goes to the 2 votes, so potentially, the candidate which got the most 1 votes may not win - it might end up being a 2 majority 2 candidate if the candidate who got the most 1 votes didn't get any 2 votes. Which is just silly. It's yet more sham democracy.

    The only real fair, democratic method is proportional representation, where the number of MP's for each party are allocated according to that parties share of the vote. Obviously that would mean the traditional 'constituency' model would have to go and something different implemented, but in the interests of democracy and the removal of 'safe seats', which generally means the MP can do what they like but they will keep their seat, it would be well worth it.

    The system needs a shakeup - which for me would be to get rid of constituencies and implement MP allocation based on share of the actual vote.

    1. I'd be happy to see the whole constituency approach abolished - physical proximity isn't really the right factor to group by now anyway - but I wouldn't like the idea of switching to a party-centric list system either: how would individual candidates fit in that system? Supposing the "RevK anticensorship party" fell just short of winning a seat, wouldn't those still be wasted votes?

      There are two ideas I'd like to see adopted: something like single transferable vote (where, if your first choice isn't popular enough, your vote then gets moved to your second choice: not quite the same as AV, much fairer IIRC) and more direct democracy - for example, something like the Swiss referendum system, where X signatures triggers a binding referendum on any proposition, bypassing the politicians.

  3. The logical extension of what you propose is a direct representation system with vote assignment. Any registered voter can vote on any parliamentary decision, but they can also delegate their vote to a representative of their choice, who votes with a weight equal to all the people delegating to them. These people are effectively the parliamentary representatives, but there's no need to elect them - their 'constituents' can reassign their vote any time they want, or even recover their vote for one particular issue they care passionately about.

    1. That is not a bad idea. I suppose, for practical purposes you would need a minimum number of people delegating their vote to you to have a seat at debate (an MP).

  4. I really wish the alternative vote system had been brought in like Australia: Rank these candidates in your preferred order.

    Then make it compulsory to vote and on a Saturday. More policies aimed at the middle rather than the base result.

    1. And is Australian politics a goldmine of rational, intelligent and inspiring leaders as a result of AV and compulsory voting?

      My guess is probably not, in which case there is little reason to believe that such technical tweaks to the voting system are going to improve the quality of political discourse in the UK either.

  5. The problem with letting voters assign a weighting of their choice is that the most strongly opinioned people are often the ones with the most nutty ideas that aren't based in reality.

    Can I suggest an alternative system: assign each part of the media a weighting based on the ratio of unbiassed truth:biassed bollocks they spout, and weight the number of votes each electoral choice gets based on the weighting of the media that support that choice. i.e. people voting for stuff the daily mail supports would automatically be weighted downwards by the fact that they spout an unreasonable amount of bollocks.

    (No, I'm not serious, I'm just highlighting what I see as the real problem with democracy - that an extremely high number of people will vote based on what BS the tabloids tell them rather than being based on understanding the real situation!)

    The other issue is, of course, that you have to vote for a "bundle" of policies, so you're left choosing party A because they have an important policy you agree with, even though they have a bunch of less important policies you disagree with.

    jas88: I disagree that physical proximity isn't the right factor to group by. If you remove that limit then you will simply end up with the whole country being governed by London (even more so than it is at the moment), and I'm afraid I think that London is so different from the rest of the UK that I just don't believe people living in London can understand the issues everywhere else. (We already see this with recommendations from those in power in London on how many parking spaces houses/offices/etc. should have, which make absolutely no sense in the parts of the country that have 2 busses a day and no other public transport!)

    1. You have a point about London and their fantasy public transport policies, I just don't think tiny constituencies are the right way to group people. Having larger regions, each with a set of representatives (elected to represent that region's views) would be a big improvement.

      Having said that, even with a national election mechanism, plenty of us would be voting against the "let them take the Tube, never mind that it's hundreds of miles away and no use for their journeys" mob - more so, I suspect, than under the current system.

  6. If the objective of any politician move from wanting to represent the people to wanting to get re-elected, then the concept of hereditary peers somehow becomes more attractive.

  7. How about this approach. You keep the same number of constituency MPs, and vote by constituency as now. However, the voting power of each MP is calculated by their party's overall vote as a proportion of the total vote.

    This would mean that a party that got a disproportionately high number of MPs compared to their overall proportion of the vote would find that their MPs' votes in Parliament counted as less than one; and a party with proportionately too few MPs would have votes that counted as more than one. You'd need a way to grant seats to small parties that got a large enough number of votes but no actual MPs elected.

    This would mean introduction of modern technology to count the votes in the Commons, as it wouldn't be a simple head count; but this would have the advantage of needing less than the 15 minutes it currently takes to hold a division in the Commons.

    So, for example, looking at,_2010 :

    Conservatives got 36.1% of the vote, but 47.1% of the seats;
    Labour 29% of the vote, 39.7% of the seats
    Lib Dems 23% of the vote, 8.8% of the seats

    So you'd scale things so that Conservative MPs would count as 36.1/47.1 = 0.77 MPs; Labour MPs as 29/39.7 = 0.73 MPs; and LibDems as 23/8.8 = 2.61 MPs.

    This would mean that the LibDems, who had a lot more votes, but disproportionately fewer MPs would have a voting power in the Commons that matched the proportion of votes they received nationally.

    You'd still have constituency MPs that were local to you, but the "power" in the Commons would reflect the overall vote.