The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Monday, January 09, 2006

One Voice

In the course of a post on "Cleaning up Washington", Brad Plumer manages to put in a plug for proportional representation:
That means: Proportional representation, publicly-financed elections, third parties...
Meanwhile, Peter Hitchens -- who, unlike Mr. Plumer, has actually experienced proportional representation and multiparty government -- describes what it means in practice:
Labour and the Tories are like a pair of corpses, stiff with rigor mortis, propping each other up. They no longer represent the true divisions in British society, which is why Labour can win only 22% of the popular vote, and the Tories a mere 20%. It is astonishing to think that neither of the major parties opposed the Iraq war; that neither resists the introduction of civil partnerships, devolution or the Northern Ireland peace process; that neither advocates withdrawal from the EU, a return to selective education or the reintroduction of the death penalty. Every important issue is left undebated and unexamined while the frontbenches quibble over trivia.
Of course, Mr. Plumer's political ends are far more widely approved in coastal cities, and in particular inside the Beltway, than in the nation as a whole. Thus his hankering for proportional representation is either strikingly ingenuous, or equally disingenuous. I suspect that he knows full well where it leads, and advocates it as a means not to empower the people, but to silence them.

Mr. Plumer would do well to bear in mind that this worm has not finished its turn, and that the Eurosceptic, elitist, death-penalty-supporting, Iraq-war-opposing, gay-marriage-banning, devolution-hating majority in England is fully aware that it is being railroaded, sacrificed, victimized, bloodied, undermined, fleeced and generally ignored. To prevent the emergence of extremists, Britain [and continental Europe, even more so] have gradually repressed opposing speech and banned extremist parties; but this process will be made more difficult by economic hardship and cannot continue indefinitely.

As Old Europe's democracies become increasingly unattractive and undemocratic, perhaps the role of proportional representation in their fall will be recognized. Perhaps it will become so clear that Mr. Plumer will conveniently forget that he ever advocated such a thing.

[Update 10 January: Mr. Plumer points out that Britain does not have a proportional system. Details are in the comments, for those wishing to decide if I've tarred with the wrong brush.]