John Cleese’s VHS-Era Pitch for Proportional Representation

In 4 days BC votes on the provincial government, and more importantly on whether to become the first major jurisdiction in North America to bring in a proportional representation voting system.

I have the same worries about proportional representation that I’ve always had — de-localizing politics, reducing the transparency and hence accountability of the voting mechanism. The Single Transferable Vote system proposed mitigates the de-localization concern substantially, but definitely makes my head hurt when I try to imagine how exactly a given set of marks on a ballot would translate into somebody getting elected or not.

That said, I still have the same hopes for a proportional representation system: the de-dumbing-down of politics, eliminating the lowest common denominator and forcing us to actively and openly negotiate multiple, openly expressed values to reach workable political compromise. Enfranchisement of non-centrist views, maybe even a general re-engagement with politics. First-past-the-post is just a ridiculous way to vote.

So I’ll be voting for STV with bells on. I’m looking forward to it. If you’re still on the fence, you could go to the pro-STV people and watch their videos, or the anti-STV campaign and watch theirs. But what I really recommend is to watch the video that first got me interested in proportional representation. Here it is: John Cleese on why 1980s Britain should really consider proportional representation.

Basically the same system, basically the same conversation, 20 years later. But I think this time we’re going to do it.

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