This is an interesting perspective.
Owen Winter
1

Thanks very much for this. Really interesting stuff. Just a few thoughts.

You’re right that there are plenty of people who haven’t really thought that deeply about electoral reform and proportionality (although I wouldn’t overstate it either), and that these ‘soft FPTPers’ could be persuaded. But that argument works both ways. There are also plenty of people who are superficially attracted by the ‘seats should match votes’ argument, but who have not considered the downsides of PR. I wouldn’t be at all surprised – and experience in the AV ref does somewhat bear this out – if these two groups were to cancel each other out, or even break in favour of FPTP.

On the policy front – you’re also right. This is a tricky issue for both sides. However, it does point to what seems to me a big problem for PR. Support for PR comes almost in its entirety from the left. Yes, there are some Tory PRers, and some UKIPers, but they are a tiny minority. FPTP, however, has broad support on left and right. I’m a left-winger, and I would fight very passionately indeed in favour of FPTP and would be highly motivated to do so. I personally know many others like me. I know of not one Tory who feels the same about PR. It will be a hard sell for pro-PRers to argue for ‘fairness’ when they are the ones arguing from a far narrower and – it will be argued – entirely self-interested base. Arguing for PR as a way to ‘stop the Tories’ – as I often hear – is not a winning message.

Finally, on the campaign itself. You say much has changed since 2011 and 2015. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this. I honestly don’t see it. Support for and interest in PR spiked after the 1974 elections, after 1983 (where it was talked about and discussed endlessly – certainly far, far more than it is now and by far more prominent politicians) and to some extent around 1997. All those surges petered out. And let’s not mention the disaster for PR that was the coalition government. I genuinely don’t see what is happening now that makes PR more likely.

All this might change – but for now, I see no signs of that at all.

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