Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Single Transferable Loser

You know how it is. Christmas (as in the period from 1 December to Boxing Day) has come to an end. And you're left in "Christmas" (the period from 27 December to lunchtime on New Year's Eve). So yesterday evening, some of my friends and I got together, had a bottle of the Archdruid's favourite Beaker Mead, and played the game where you spin a bottle round, and whoever the bottle points at has to come up with a stupid idea.

This morning I woke up, thought about the ideas of last night, and realised that, without noticing at the time, we had in fact come up with a Think Tank. So we're calling it "Thinking" Beaker Folk.
The quote marks were the Archdruid's idea.

So today I'm glad to announce the following suggestion for improving the democratic process, and simultaneously reforming the House of Lords. I'm calling it "Single Transferable Loser".

Put simply, each constituency has an election the same as usual. And the winner, on the First Past The Post system, goes to the House of Commons to represent his or her constituency, just as they do now.

But the radical bit is - the second-ranking candidate in each constituency gets to go to the Upper House, the House of Lords having been abolished.

You see what that does? It achieves the following:
  • It provides a moderating influence on whoever wins - because if one party has a majority in the Commons (remember those?) they won't have one in the House of Seconds - by definition.
  • If there's a massive swing to the left-wing (or to libertarianism) - then by virtue of that swing, the House of Seconds will probably have gone the same way on the swing as well, reflecting the will of the people.
  • The people of the House of Seconds will be relatively whip-free - because they're losers, let's face it, and unlikely to be allowed to stand again.
  • The British like a plucky underdog, and they'll get the chance to be governed by a whole bunch of them.
  • Tactical voting will have less point - as if your choice doesn't get into the Commons, there's a good chance they'll get into the Seconds.
  • The country will be freed of another 650 politicians wandering the streets wondering what on earth they can do for a living. Let's face it, they're not up to much else other than being in Parliament.
  • Lord Sugar will be merely "that bloke off the Apprentice" again.
  • The Parliament Act will still apply, so the people we really wanted can still push through laws over the dead bodies of the Seconds if they have to.
I realise that in these circumstances the Seconds Chamber will be just as unpopulated with people who understand the real world and have had real jobs as the current House of Commons. So in addition to those elected on the Second Past the Post principle, we would "top up" the House of Seconds with the following, whom we would describe as "Talented People":
  • All Nobel Prize winners with British Citizenship
  • All living Sports Personalites of the Year
  • All winners of the Turner Prize
  • All winners of the X-factor

We feel in this way, expertise will be kept in the Second Chamber, and if bishops, friends of the Prime Minister or superannuated politicians wanted to be involved in politics, they could enter the X-factor just like everybody else.

For those who are interested in the numbers, the House of Seconds, excluding the Talented People, would look much as follows based on May's General Election figures:

Party Total
Blaenau Voice 1
Con 190
Green Belt 1
Ind 2
Ind CHC 1
Lab 149
Lab Co-op 10
LD 242
PC 6
Respect 1
SF 4
SNP 29
Grand Total 649

(numbers crunched from the Grauniad)


  1. The thing I like about that is that the Conservative led Con-Dem coalition in the commons could be held in check by a Liberal Democrat led Dem-Con coalition in the seconds.

  2. Wonderful idea, the only problem is
    how do we get rid of the lot that are currently in?
    I take assassination is out?

  3. Cymraeg, I think the point about democracy round here is that we vote for people, and then they form a government. We may not always like the results, but that's because other people get a vote as well.


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