Thursday, January 19, 2012

MEP resignations show what's wrong with the list system

European Voice reports that the Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis is to resign as MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber. Apparently she wants to "take a break from politics" and believes it is time "for someone with fresh eyes to take over".

All of which makes it a little odd that Diana stood as president of the European Parliament earlier this week.

But there is a deeper issue here. Because Diana's resignation appears to form part of an increasing trend for MEPs to stand down between elections.

I suppose the thinking is that it will help resigning MEP's party in the next election if its list boasts more people with experience in Brussels.

But there is a danger that these resignations give the impression is in the gift of the resigning member or that member's party rather than the voters.

The fact that Diana is likely to be succeeded by her husband Stewart Arnold strengthens the impression that Euro seats are the member's personal property to give away, but the Roger Helmer and Rupert Matthews saga (Gollygate? UFOgate?) has made it clear - see the comments on this post - that the seat is in the gift of the retiring member's party.

One thing is for sure: the voters are not consulted.

All of which should remind us how bad the list system is. As someone said in a tweet to me today, we must make sure it is not used for elections to a reformed House of Lords.

With thanks to Lib Dem Voice.


martijn said...

I am probably biased, as I grew up in a country that uses the D'Hondt (list) system for all its elections, but I really don't think the list system is so bad. Perhaps list systems with a very small number of seats per constituency (as in European elections in the UK) are a bit odd, but then one should use national lists.

Yes, people are free to resign and have the next person on the list automatically replace them. With a few exceptions, I believe that most MEPs were elected purely based on the party they represent. Another representative of the same party to replace them shouldn't thus be a big problem.

Richard Gadsden said...

Until we can get a better electoral system, this habit will make a big difference to selections: parties should ensure that their selection process is highly robust for selecting the second, third place candidates as well, as they are likely to succeed as MEPs and then very likely be reselected as a sitting MEP.