Last week Daniel Kawczynski MP wrote for these pages about the "fundamental flaws" of proportional representation. The 47th and final comment on Daniel’s article was from Charles Tannock MEP, defending PR for European elections. We thought it deserved wider notice and have republished it below. It was a comment and is not, therefore, as polished as Mr Tannock would probably have produced if it had been formally submitted as an article… but his arguments are clear enough and worthy of consideration.
I can see the logic of FPTP for Westminster where you want clear majorities and stable government but I don’t agree with Daniel that its equally desirable or applicable for Euro elections. Granted in 1999 I probably wouldnt have been elected in London on a single member Constituency so some might argue I will say the following for personal interest reasons.
I can now after 9 years in office see the advantages of the multimember regional list for the European Parliament. Not only does it allow an elector to write to his or her MEP of party choice but also a degree of choice in finding an MEP who sits on the relevant committee with specialist knowledge of the matter in question. In the EP most legislation is highly technical and doesn’t always divide on party lines but on national ie UK plc lines and in the area of supranational legislation we have to build consensus across parliament so a spread of political views are necessary to gage public opinion. I very much doubt with the reducing number of total UK MEPs even if we had our own FPTP Constituency (with 10 Westminster constituencies within it) that we could ever be known personally to the million or so population this would entail. Furthermore when we were at our most unpopular the MEPs were a useful backup for local party structures in the large swathes of the country with no elected Tory representation at all.
I do not seek personal recognition in my Regional constituency and am happy to leave that glory to my Westminster colleagues and am keen instead to get on with the job in hand. Furthermore if I did have personal recognition with London’s 5 million electors I might be deluged with correspondence without the resources to cope with it – which has anyway increased exponentially in the last decade as a result of the internet in which in "write to them" you plug in a postcode and all elected representives get sent the same email irrespective of whether its in our jurisdiction or not (I get housing, immigration, health etc enquiries better handled by the local councillor, MP or AM) but still have to issue a polite reply as they are all my Constituents (well there is some debate if those who aren’t on the electoral register are Constituents but that’s another debate).
There is also the other advantage the closed list for Europe brings
that in theory we all stand or fall together and cannot compete with
each other once the list is decided whereas a FPTP could mean adjacent
Euro PPCs could break ranks and disagree and we have enough of division
over Europe as it is.
Lastly I believe that under EU law PR is mandatory for Euroelections
and once adopted cannot be returned to FPTP which is permissible only
intially until a form of PR is settled on. I agree this is wrong but we
signed up to this years ago.
I doubt David Cameron will regard this Euro PR issue a priority and
besides the Conservative Party is well aware that ultimately
parliamentarians are all basicaly elected on a party ticket (MPs are in
my view on a closed party list of one and other than in exceptional
cases rarely have a large personal vote above a couple of thousand
votes) so an incoming Tory government by enjoying a degree of party
control of the Euro list will probably happily live with the status quo.
Related link: Charles Tannock MEP on ‘Why we need to take the European Parliament more seriously’