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awkward and cumbersome. The system there adopted is, I think, not the most convenient application of the principle. But it must be admitted that they have given a fair and just result, though perhaps in a rather troublesome way. But shall we abandon the principle of just representation because it gives us some inconvenience? Is it not worth a little trouble ? For my part I cannot abandon the substance of justice to the shadow of simplicity; to do so would be to sacrifice the end to the means.
There are, I know, some who, while admitting the justice of our principle, think there is no simple method by which it can be brought into practical operation. But this is not so: on the contrary, there are several. The cumulative vote and the limited vote are already in operation. Mr. Westlake has recently described the Free List system. On the whole, however, the system known as the single transferable vote has perhaps the largest number of advocates. So far from not being simple, it is even simpler than the mere majority plan of voting would be in large constituencies.
Suppose, to take an example, some borough returning three members and containing 20,000 electors, of whom 12,000 were Liberals and 8,000 Conservatives, and that Mr. Gladstone and a generally acceptable, but less known, Liberal candidate were opposed by two Conservatives. If every elector had one vote, but untransferable, it is clear that the two Conservatives might be elected. Every Liberal would naturally wish to vote for Mr. Gladstone, so that the second Liberal candidate might receive very few votes.
This result, however, might be avoided if the vote were transferable; that is to say, if the elector were allowed to indicate on his paper the order of his preference. In that case we may assume that the Liberal elector would mark his voting papers as follows :
Voting papers, then, marked as above would be counted for Mr. Gladstone until such a number of votes as would secure his election had been recorded for him. After that the papers so marked would be counted for the second Liberal candidate. The result of course would be that the two Liberals and one Conservative must come in. If the Conservatives divided their votes equally, the numbers would be
Let us take one other case, that of a borough returning six members. Let us suppose the electors to be 72,000, of whom 42,000 were Liberal and 30,000 Conservative. The Liberals would probably start four candidates, and the Conservatives three. In this case it is clear that under any circumstances a candidate receiving 10,286 votes must be elected, because 10,286 x 6=61,716, leaving only 10,284 for any other candidate or candidates. Each Liberal elector would place on his voting paper against the names of the Liberal candidates 1, 2, 3, and 4, in the order of his preference.
The returning officer would count each vote for the candidate against whose name the number 1 was placed, until a sufficient number were recorded for him, after which they would be transferred to the second, and so on. It is of course obvious that four Liberals and two Conservatives would be elected.
Under this system all necessity for interference or dictation by any caucus or agent is entirely obviated. The elector can freely vote for whom he pleases, without any fear that his vote will be thrown away.
The most eminent and trusted leaders would be sure of election, and we should not see Cabinet ministers in difficulties about a seat.2
So far as the elector is concerned nothing could be more simple.
No doubt, to provide for cases where the number of candidates is more in excess of the number of seats, some further instructions to the returning officer are needed, about which, however, there is no difficulty.
The quota which would elect a member would be the number next greater than that found by dividing the number of votes given by one more than the number of vacancies. Suppose, for instance, an election at which 24,000 votes were given for three candidates. 24,000 divided by 3+1 is 6,000, and the quota will accordingly
i The names would be entered alphabetically.
2 Of course it would be possible to leave each elector in possession of several votes. This could perfectly be done, but it would obviously give him no more power, and would therefore introduce an unnecessary complexity,
be 6,001. It is clear that any candidate receiving 6,001 votes must be elected, because 6001 x 3=18003, leaving only 5,997 votes for any other candidate or candidates.
Every candidate whose voting papers equal or exceed the quota would be elected. When any candidate had secured the quota, the remaining voting papers would be transferred to the next candidate (if any) first designated on them, and counted for him after and in addition to the voting papers originally given for him ; and any candidate whose voting papers are by this means raised to the quota would be elected.
The objection still remains that a party putting forward too many candidates would run the risk of defeat. This difficulty, we know, exists at present. Under the single transferable vote it might be obviated by enacting further, that if after all the surplus votes of the successful candidates have been thus transferred any vacancy still remains unfilled, then the name of that candidate who has received the smallest number of votes would be cancelled, and the votes given to him would be transferred to, and counted for, the first of the remaining candidates designated thereon; and this would be repeated until there were left no more than the number of candidates to be elected,
These suggestions are mainly taken from the Bill introduced in 1872 by Mr. Morrison, with some modifications suggested by Mr. Droop and Mr. Parker Smith : they may be said to be Mr. Hare's celebrated scheme applied within the constituency. I suggest them not as President of the Proportional Representation Society, but merely in my individual capacity.
The Proportional Representation Society has indeed hitherto confined itself to the adoption as the basis of its constitution of the following resolution : "That without prejudging how far the principle may. be subsequently carried out, it is indispensable, as a first step towards securing the true representation of the electors, that whenever a constituency returns more than two members some form of proportional representation should be adopted.'
I regret that this question bas been so often argued as if the great or even the main reason for it was to admit representatives of small minorities. Indeed, it is often said that any such system would merely admit members who are in favour of crotchets. It is no doubt difficult to say what is really a crotchet. When Mr. Grote brought up the question of the Ballot was that a crotchet? When Mr. Villiers brought forward Free Trade was that a crotchet ? Many and many of the opinions now generally entertained were regarded as crotchets when things first made their appearance. Everything must have a beginning, and almost everything, even proportional representation itself, has been at first regarded as a fad and a crotchet.
But in my humble judgment the representation of small sections
is a very small part of the question. Whether small minorities represent the temporary delusion of the moment, or a great, although as yet unrecognised truth, the House of Commons is scarcely the proper sphere for their exertions. What I am much more anxious about is that the great parties in the State should be adequately represented in the different districts of the Empire.
Those who object to the fair representation of minorities do not seem to realise the difference between an executive government and a representative assembly. A government of course must be as far as possible homogeneous and of one mind, but a representative assembly should be a mirror of the nation. The exclusion of the minority, which is a necessity in the one case, would be tyranny and injustice in the other. We are told by those who have not studied the question that we wish to give to minorities the power which rightly belongs to majorities. The very reverse is the case. An untrammelled system of proportional representation is, as Mr. Mill has truly said, 'not only the most complete application of the democratic principle that has yet been made, but its greatest safeguard.' I trust that under the new Bill we may secure for the new voters, as well as those already on the register, the right not merely of recording a vote, but of doing so in such a manner as may give to it all just and reasonable effect. If this be done, the Parliament of 1880 will have given effect to a great principle, and we shall have for the first time a really representative assembly. I venture to recommend the system of proportional representation to the House of Commons and to the country because it would give its just political weight to the vote of every elector; it would insure the return of leading and trusted statesmen, as well as of those who are most favourably known in their own districts; it would elevate and purify the whole tone of electoral contests; would obtain for the minority a fair bearing; and last, not least, because it is the only mode of securing for the majority that preponderance to which of course they are justly entitled.
The following Members of Parliament have already joined the Proportional Representation Society :
C. T. Dyke Acland
VOL. XV.-No. 86.
Right Hon. Edward Gibson