Ranked ballots won’t elect “grey” candidates

I have written a large number of posts about preferential voting (aka ranked ballots or the Alternative Vote) over the course of this blog’s existence. During the UK campaign leading up to the referendum on AV back in 2011, I tried my best to clarify some of the misconceptions surrounding AV. One of the most common objections to AV (other than the fact that it’s not a proportional system) is that it results in the election of bland, middle-of-the-road, “grey” candidates. The argument is that first preference votes will be split between two more polarizing candidates, for example, a right-wing candidate and left-wing candidate, and so voters’ second and third preferences would go to more moderate (i.e. bland) candidates since […]


Baby steps on parliamentary reform

The Liberal Party of Canada released a plan for political and parliamentary reform this week and many, if not most political commentators seemed quite enthusiastic about much of what the party proposed. I must admit that I was somewhat underwhelmed. The proposals for parliamentary reform were at best minor tinkering. Maclean’s Aaron Wherry provides a much more comprehensive overview of parliamentary and political reforms that have been, or could be, proposed. It’s much more interesting. The Liberals’ proposals for parliamentary reform address Question Period, Committees, prorogation and omnibus bills, free votes and changes to financial procedures. I’m going to focus on only on the first four. Question Period The Liberals propose to restore relevance to Question Period by establishing a […]

OMOV can co-exist with stronger caucus control over the party leadership; the two are not mutually exclusive. What is being proposed in the much-watered down Reform Act does not go anywhere near as far as what either Labour or the Lib Dems do; indeed, it isn't even mandatory for parties to adopt any of its proposals. Would Canadian parties be willing to move in this direction? That, sadly, is doubtful, despite all of the extremely good reasons for why they should.

Some thoughts on party leadership

Is the use of One-member-one-vote (OMOV) incompatible with a parliamentary party’s caucus having a degree of control over the party leadership? This is a question that surfaced as MP Michael Chong’s Reform Act faced opposition in the Canadian Senate. One Senator explained his opposition to the bill on the grounds that it would (potentially) give sitting MPs the right to ditch the party leader, which would upset the party membership which had elected said leader. Maclean’s Aaron Wherry has an excellent piece dissecting this point. On Twitter, Will Murray (@Will_Murray) tweeted the following: 1. Whether people like it or not, the Canadian political/parliamentary system has moved beyond the idea the caucus picks the leader. (link) 2. Each party now uses […]


On clapping in the Chamber

During an address to the UK House of Commons, parliamentary leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) Angus Robertson, in reply to an intervention by a Labour MP, stated: Obviously, the hon. Gentleman has difficulty reconciling the conscience of him and his colleagues who trooped through the Lobbies shamefully unaware that support for the austerity agenda. This pronouncement was applauded by his fellow SNP members. Speaker Bercow immediately called the House to order and reminded the SNP that clapping was not part of the House of Commons’ traditions: Order. May I say at the start of the Parliament that the convention that we do not clap in this Chamber is very, very long established and widely respected, and it would […]

In our proceedings every Member should be heard courteously, whatever views he or she is expressing. Members of this House have a duty to behave with civility and fairness in all their dealings.

Speaker Bercow

The duties and responsibilities of honourable Members

The UK House of Commons directs the Speaker to make a statement at the beginning of each Session about the duties and responsibilities of honourable Members. This is what Speaker Bercow said: I begin by reminding Members of their duty to observe the code of conduct agreed by the House and to uphold the seven principles of public life that underpin it: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The House asserts its privilege of freedom of speech. It is there to ensure that our constituents can be represented by us without fear or favour. It is an obligation on us all to exercise that privilege responsibly. It is enjoyed by Members of Parliament only in their work in […]

I was fortunate enough to work closely with the PCRC, (...) during the 2010-15 Parliament. It carried out groundbreaking investigations into previously neglected areas, including a consideration of the possibility of a code for independent local government. Its inquiry into the idea of a written constitution for the United Kingdom was the first ever to be conducted.

Andrew Blick

On the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

It is without exaggeration that I write that I was quite saddened to learn today that my favourite UK House of Commons Select Committee, The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) has been abolished. Yes, I am that much of a parliament geek that I had a favourite select committee. The PCRC was created at the start of the previous Parliament, in 2010, to scrutinize the work of the Deputy Minister Nick Clegg who was responsible for the coalition government’s rather ambitious constitutional reform agenda. The Committee did just that, and much more, as Andrew Blick reports, and there would have been a lot more good work to be done in this new Parliament. I thought that the decision to […]