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Proportional Representation by John H. Humphreys

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the services in Parliament of their ablest members. Although there were
33,907 Unionists in Manchester and Salford, Mr. Balfour, the leader of
the party, experienced the mortification of being rejected by one of the
divisions. This failure was paralleled by the defeat of Sir William
Harcourt at Derby in 1895, whilst Mr. Gladstone, in contesting Greenwich
in 1874, only succeeded in obtaining the second place, the first seat
being won by a Conservative. A way is usually found by which party
leaders return without delay to the House of Commons, but there are
members of the highest distinction and capacity who, especially if these
qualities are associated with a spirit of independence, find, it
increasingly difficult to re-enter political life. Victory at the polls
depends not so much upon the services which a statesman, however
eminent, may have rendered to his country, as upon the ability of the
party to maintain its majority in the particular constituency for which
he stands. Indeed, in this matter a leader of opinion is placed at a
disadvantage as compared with an ordinary member of the party; his very
pre-eminence, his very activities bring him into conflict with certain
sections of the electorate which, insignificant in themselves, may yet
be sufficiently numerous to influence the result of an election.
Statesmen, moreover, have often lost their seats merely because they
have endeavoured to give electors of their very best. When Mr. John
Morley (now Lord Morley of Blackburn), during the election of 1906,
received a deputation of Socialists, he, with characteristic courage,
explained very frankly the ground on which he could not support their
principles.[3] A similar candour on his part in 1895 cost him his seat
at Newcastle. Can we wonder then that there arise complaints that our
statesmen are deficient both in courage and in ideas? Single-member
constituencies are, as Gambetta pointed out more than twenty years ago,
inimical to political thinking, and recent General Elections have
afforded numerous examples in support of this statement. The courageous
and forcible presentment of ideas has time after time been rewarded by
exclusion from the House of Commons.

_Degradation of party strife._

There is a further and equally serious charge that can be laid against
the existing electoral system--it is in no small measure responsible for
that increasing degradation in the methods of warfare which has
characterised recent political and municipal contests. This debasement
of elections cannot fail to contribute to that undermining of the
authority of the House of Commons, upon which stress has already been
laid. Indeed, there is abundant evidence to show that in conjunction
with the imaginary instability of the electorate, the debasement of
elections is weakening the faith of many in representative institutions.
An efficient bureaucracy is now being advocated by a writer so
distinguished as Mr. Graham Wallas, as the best safeguard against the
excesses of an unstable and ignorant democracy. There is no need to
undervalue the importance of competent officials, but all experience has
shown the equal necessity of an adequate check upon the bureaucracy,
however efficient, and such check must be found in the strengthening of
representative bodies. Mr. Graham Wallas declares that "the empirical
art of politics consists largely in the creation of opinion by the
deliberate exploitation of subconscious non-rational inferences,"[4] and
cites in support of this statement the atrocious posters and mendacious
appeals of an emotional kind addressed to the electors in recent
contests. It does not appear from electoral statistics that so large a
proportion of voters are influenced by such appeals as Mr. Wallas
thinks; his conclusions, like those of others, are based upon the false
impressions arising from false results. It is, however, sufficient for
the purpose of the political organizer to know that a number of the
electors will succumb to such influences. The votes of this small
section of the electorate can turn the scale at an election, and so long
as we adhere to a system under which the whole of the representation
allotted to any given constituency is awarded to the party which can
secure a bare majority of votes, we must expect to see a progressive
degradation of electoral contests. The successful organizer of victory
has already learnt that he must not be too squeamish in the methods by
which the victory is obtained, and if "the exploitation of subconscious
non-rational inferences" is necessary to this end he will undoubtedly
exploit them to the best of his powers.

_The final rally._

Mr. Wallas gives from his personal experience an admirable illustration
of the way in which elections are often lost and won. His vivid
description of the close of a poll in a County Council election in a
very poor district is in itself an emphatic condemnation of our
electoral system. "The voters," says he, "who came in were the results
of the 'final rally' of the canvassers on both sides. They entered the
room in rapid but irregular succession, as if they were jerked forward
by a hurried and inefficient machine. About half of them were women with
broken straw hats, pallid faces, and untidy hair. All were dazed and
bewildered, having been snatched away in carriages or motors from the
making of match-boxes, or button-holes, or cheap furniture, or from the
public-house, or, since it was Saturday evening, from bed. Most of them
seemed to be trying in the unfamiliar surroundings to be sure of the
name for which, as they had been reminded at the door, they were to
vote. A few were drunk, and one man, who was apparently a supporter of
my own, clung to my neck while he tried to tell me of some vaguely
tremendous fact which just eluded his power of speech. I was very
anxious to win, and inclined to think that I had won, but my chief
feeling was an intense conviction that this could not be accepted as
even a decently satisfactory method of creating a Government for a city
of five million inhabitants, and that nothing short of a conscious and
resolute facing of the whole problem of the formation of political
opinion would enable us to improve it." The political "boss" has no such
qualms; victory may turn upon the votes recorded at this final rally,
and every effort must be made to ensure that the party's poll exceeds
that of the enemy. Mr. Wallas does not propose any remedy; he merely
suggests that something must be done to abolish the more sordid details
of English electioneering. Why not go to the root of the evil and amend
the electoral system which places so great a premium upon the success of
such practices? It is indeed evident that this cannot be accepted as "a
decently satisfactory method of creating a Government." But we are not
compelled to continue the use of such a method. What possible
justification is there for making the representation of all the other
electors of a constituency depend upon the result of a final rally?

_Bribery and "nursing"_

Evidence was tendered before the Worcester Election Commission[5] to the
effect that there were 500 voters in the city who were amenable to the
influence of a small bribe, and that the party which secured the votes
of these electors won the election. Again, is there no alternative to an
electoral system which makes the representation of a town depend upon
the action of the least worthy of its citizens? Direct bribery has been
rendered more difficult by the Corrupt Practices Act, but bribery in a
much more subtle form--"nursing" the constituency--would appear to be on
the increase. Mr. Ellis T. Powell, who has had a considerable
electioneering experience, gives an admirable statement[6] of the
expenses attending a successful candidature. "If the candidate's means,"
says he, "permit of a favourable response to these invitations (appeals
for money), he is said to be engaged in 'nursing' the constituency in
which the gifts are distributed. A great proportion of these appeals
relate to funds which are for public, or quasi-public purposes, such as
those of hospitals; and there is no suggestion that any direct political
influence is exercised in consequence of donations or contributions made
to these institutions. But what is certain is that a section of the
electorate-diminishing, but still potent, section--is favourably
influenced by the fact that Mr. A. has given £100 to the funds of the
hospital, whereas Mr. B. has given £5, 5_s_., or nothing at all.
Candidates and their agents are perfectly well aware of this, and are
even known to delay the announcement of their contributions in order to
ascertain their respective amounts, and so to guard themselves against
giving less than others have done. Mr. A. is inclined to give £20, but
waits to see if Mr. B. gives £25, in which case he will raise his
intended £20 to £30. These tactics are adopted, not because either of
the candidates desires to be lavish or ostentatious in his gifts, and
still less from any vulgar desire for notoriety in itself. They are
simply an element, almost vital under existing conditions, of a
successful appeal to the electorate. They may be said to be of the
psychological rather than the political order, introducing into the
electoral arena forces which have no business to be there, and whose
activity is wholly vicious; but forces which nevertheless no politician
can ignore, unless he wishes to postpone his realisation of their exact
potency until the declaration of the poll places it before his, own eyes
in large and unmistakable characters.... The writer was once consulted
by a gentleman who, from motives which were truly laudable, desired to
represent a London constituency. The path was clear to his selection as
a candidate; the only question was that of expense. The writer, after
noting the number of electors, informed him of the maximum sum which he
might expend at a contest, but at the same time warned him that unless
he were prepared to spend from £1500 to £2000 a year from that time
until the General Election (of which there was no immediate prospect) he
might regard his ambition as a hopeless one. The constituency was one
where money _must_ be spent. The other candidate would spend it, and his
opponent must do at least as much, while his chance at the poll would be
increased if he did a little more. When his opponent gave 10s. to a
local cricket club, he could give no less. If he gave a guinea it might
make a difference in his poll. The advice was not given in regard to
electoral conditions as they ought to be, but as they are. The writer
gave it with regret, and felt that he was playing almost a cynical part
when he uttered the words. Yet it was in complete accord with the
necessities of the existing system." Some of the practices associated
with constituency-nursing can perhaps be reached by further legislation,
but, if so, bribery in all probability will only take a form still more
subtle. Again, why not strike at the root cause which makes these
practices so highly profitable? Why continue to make the representation
of all electors depend upon the votes of those who are influenced by the
attentions of a rich patron?

_The organization of victory._

The cumulative effect of these demoralising elements in party warfare is
shown in the separation of the work of the party organizer from that of
the party leader--separation which is becoming more and more complete.
The work of covering hoardings with posters of a repulsive type, the
task of preparing election "literature," must be carried out by men of a
different character from those who are responsible for the public
direction of the party; and as party agents often obtain their
appointments because of their previous success in winning elections, the
mere force of competition is compelling agents, sometimes against their
own wishes, to resort to these questionable practices. The success of
the Municipal Reform campaign in the London County Council election of
1907 was followed by a demand from many Progressives that the tactics of
their opponents should be copied, that gramophone should be answered by
gramophone, poster by poster. It is, however, certain that the more
victory depends upon the work of the party organizer the more must his
power increase, and this fact explains the unique position of the
political "boss" in the United States, where ordinary electoral methods
have been carried to their logical conclusion.[7] The political "boss"
has become all-powerful because he has made himself the indispensable
factor in successful political organization. At the London County
Council elections in 1907, the leaders of the Municipal Reform Party
dissociated themselves from the more extreme accusations made against
the administration of the Progressives, but the conduct of the elections
was apparently outside their powers of control. It may never become
possible in England for a political organization such as "Tammany Hall"
to succeed in planting on the register of voters a large number of
fraudulent names, nor is it necessary yet for the press to issue a
notice such as that which appeared in the New York _Evening Post:_
"There are a thousand 'colonizers' waiting to vote for the Tammany
ticket. Vote early, so that no one can vote ahead of you in your
name."[8] In New York the Citizens' Unions have at each election to
spend several weeks in succession in thwarting attempts at this offence
on a large scale, and though our more perfect organization of elections
renders such frauds impossible, still if we are to arrest the
Americanization of our electoral contests we must cease to allow the
results of a "final rally," the votes of the least worthy citizens,
assiduous "nursing," or suggestive posters to decide the representation
of a constituency.

_Party exclusiveness._

The preceding criticism of recent developments in electoral warfare must
not be read as a condemnation of party organization as such. Party
organization there must be, and unquestionably the success of a party is
intimately bound up with the efficiency of its organization. But our
defective electoral system confers upon party organization a weapon
which is not an adjunct to efficiency in the true sense of the word, but
a weapon which has been and can be made a serious menace to the
political independence and sincerity both of electors and of Members of
Parliament. During the memorable three-cornered fight in Greenwich in
1906, Lord Hugh Cecil made this statement: "The opposition to me is not
to put a Tariff Reformer in, but to keep me out. ... We are face to face
with an innovation in English politics, and it is a question of how far
it is desirable to introduce methods which may be handled with a view to
creating a party mechanism so rigid, so powerful, and so capable of
being directed by a particular mind towards a single object, that it may
become a formidable engine for carrying out a dangerous proposal. We do
not want a system of political assassination under which any one who is
in the way may be put out of the way." To realize the dangerous weapon
which our present system places in the hands of party organizations, it
is not necessary to give complete assent to the statement of Lord Hugh
Cecil as to the character of the opposition brought against him. The
power undoubtedly exists. Prior to the election of January 1910, the
secret organization known as "confederates" was reported to have marked
down all Unionist candidates who would not accept a course of policy
approved of by this body. The action was defended on the ground that it
was essential to secure Tariff Reform immediately and at all costs, but
it nevertheless constituted a serious attack upon the representative
character of the House of Commons. By such methods that historic House
will be deprived of its rightful place in the constitution of this
country. Political power will no longer be centred in the House of
Commons; it will be vested in organizations outside Parliament, which
will only meet to carry out their bidding. At the General Election of
1906 the mere threat of a three-cornered fight was sufficient to induce
many Free Trade Unionists to retire from the contest; the purging was
completed at the election of January 1910, and it would seem that in the
future only those politicians who can with alacrity adopt the newest
fashions or change their party allegiance can hope to take a permanent
part in the political life of their country. Many of those who were so
eager for Tariff Reform at all costs--the "confederates"
themselves--would probably have protested most vigorously had the same
policy of excluding competent men from Parliament been adopted for the
attainment of political objects of which they did not approve, and the
comment of _The Times_ on this exclusive policy reflects the opinion of
those who value the representative character of the House of Commons
more highly than an immediate party triumph:--

"Parliament ought to represent the opinion of the country as a whole,
and each of the great parties ought to represent the diversities of
opinion which incline to one side or the other of a dividing line
which, however practically convenient, does not itself represent any
hard and immutable frontier. Now the variety and elasticity of
representation, which are the secret of the permanence of our
institutions, are directly injured by any attempt to narrow the basis of
a party. If such attempts were to succeed upon any considerable scale we
should have a couple of machine-made parties confronting one another in
Parliament, with no golden bridges between their irreconcilable
programmes. There is some danger at the present day of an approximation
to a state of things in every way to be deprecated, and it is surely not
for the Unionist party to promote any movement tending in that

This process of excluding valuable elements from our representative
chamber is equally at work within the Liberal party. At the General
Election of 1906 Sir William Butler, a Liberal of very high attainments,
was compelled to withdraw his candidature for East Leeds on the ground
that he could not fully support the Education policy of the Government.
Mr. Harold Cox, during the Parliament of 1906, criticised the work of
the Liberal Government from the point of view of a Liberal of the
Manchester school, and the Preston Liberal Council withdrew its support.
Nor does the Labour Party escape the same charge. Originally each member
was required to accept in writing the constitution of the party, and
this condition was rigorously enforced. In January 1911 it was decided
at the Party Conference held at Leicester to dispense with the written
pledge, but it would appear that a cast-iron conformity to party
decisions is still insisted upon. On 10 February 1911 the party moved an
amendment to the Address in favour of the Right to Work Bill, a measure
as to the practicability of which there is a difference of opinion
within the party. Mr. Johnson, the member for Nuneaton, voted against
the amendment, and commenting on the incident the _Labour Leader_ said:
"Is Mr. Johnson to be allowed to defy the Party's mandate? We invite
the Labour stalwarts of Nuneaton to give their earnest consideration to
this question. And there can be no doubt as to what the verdict
will be."

_Mechanical debates._

These repeated attempts to make members of a party conform in all
respects to a specified pattern, this constant insistence that members
must give up the right of criticism and support on all occasions the
party to which they belong, must and does react on the composition of
the House of Commons. The duty of a Member of Parliament will tend more
and more to be restricted to registering his approval or disapproval of
the decisions of the Government, and, as the central organization of
each party is in close touch with the party whips, the free and
independent electors will be more and more confined, in the election of
their representatives, to a choice between the nominees of machine-made
parties. Moreover, in a House of Commons so composed discussion
necessarily loses its vitalizing character. The debates on Free Trade in
the House of Commons in 1905 towards the close of Mr. Balfour's
administration were very real and full of life, because argument could
and did affect the votes of members, but if the process continues of
excluding all elements save those of the machine-controlled, debates
will become more and more formal. They will lose their value. As Lord
Hugh Cecil has said[10]: "The present system unquestionably weakens the
House of Commons by denuding it of moderate politicians not entirely in
sympathy with either political party, and consequently rendering
obsolete all the arts of persuasion and deliberation, and reducing
parliamentary discussion to a struggle between obstruction on the one
side and closure on the other. The disproportion, moreover, between the
majority in the House and that in the country, which it is supposed to
represent, deprives the decisions of the House of much of their moral
authority. The rigid partisanship, and the essentially unrepresentative
character of the House of Commons as now constituted, leave it only the
credit which belongs to the instrument of a party, and deprive it of
that higher authority which should be the portion of the representatives
of the whole people. "Similarly Mr. Birrell, in speaking[11] of the
debate on the Women's Franchise Bill (12 July 1910), stated that he
rejoiced in the immunity on that occasion from the tyranny of Government
programmes and the obligation to all to think alike. "To think in
programmes," said he, "is Egyptian bondage, and works the sterilization
of the political intellect." And the nation suffers.

_The disfranchisement of minorities in bi-racial countries_

The extreme partizan who believes that political action is possible only
through a well-controlled organization may be affected but little by the
preceding arguments, and is, moreover, nearly always inclined to
postpone the consideration of any reform which might possibly deprive
his party of the advantages which he imagines it may obtain at the next
General Election. Yet cases have occurred when parties have sacrificed
their own advantage to the higher interests of the nation as a whole,
and national interests demand a change in electoral methods. For the
disfranchisement of minorities often gives rise to serious difficulties.
The elections which took place in the Transvaal and Orange River
Colony,[12] after the grant of self-government in 1906, show how racial
divisions are unduly emphasized by such disfranchisement. Only
one--Barberton--of the twenty-six country constituencies of the
Transvaal returned a member who did not owe allegiance to Het Volk,
although the figures of the polls showed that the minority numbered more
than 25 per cent, of the electors. In Pretoria the Progressives gained
but one seat, and that as the chance result of a three-cornered contest.
The disfranchisement of minorities heightened the natural difference
which existed between Johannesburg and the rest of the Transvaal--a
difference which would have been still more pronounced had not Het Volk
succeeded in obtaining six and the Nationalists five out of the total
of thirty-four seats allotted to Johannesburg and the Rand. The first
elections in the Orange River Colony resulted in a similar exaggerated
contrast between Bloemfontein and the rest of the country. Five seats
were allotted to Bloemfontein, four of which were won by members of the
Constitutional party, whilst the fifth was only lost to them by the
extremely narrow majority of two. Before the election _The Friend_, the
organ of the Orangia Unie, stated that "if Bloemfontein ventures to vote
for the Constitutionalists it will be setting itself in opposition to
the whole country, and will be manifesting a spirit of distrust of the
country population for which it will have to suffer afterwards." On the
morrow of the election the same paper declared that "the election
results of Bloemfontein will be read with deep disappointment throughout
the colony, where the feeling will be that the capital has now shown
itself politically an alien city." But would Bloemfontein have "shown
itself politically an alien city" if the electoral method had been such
that the minorities, both in Bloemfontein and in the country districts,
had been able to secure representation in proportion to their strength?

Had the Constitution of South Africa provided for the representation of
minorities in the House of Assembly, as proposed in the original draft
signed at Cape Town, the process of race unification, both in the
Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, would have been facilitated, and
the conflicting interests of the constituent States and of town and
country would not by their exaggerated expression in the United
Parliament have impeded the consolidation and unification of South
Africa. The problem presented by racial differences is not confined to
South Africa. The United Kingdom itself presents a conspicuous example
of a nation in which the process of unification is still far from
complete, and the process has been retarded, and is at the present time
being retarded, by the electoral method in force. Not only does Ireland
still continue to chafe against the Union, but the racial divisions
within Ireland itself are encouraged and fostered by the failure of our
representative system to do justice to minorities. The South and West of
Ireland is represented in the House of Commons by Nationalists, and
Nationalists alone, and, ranged in opposition to them, the North-East is
represented by a smaller but equally determined body of Unionists, while
those forces in Ireland which would endeavour, and in the past have
endeavoured, to bridge over the differences between the North and South
are entirely unrepresented. Had the minorities in the North and South of
Ireland been represented within the House, there would probably have
still remained a notable contrast between the two areas, but that
contrast would not have appeared in its present heightened form, and, in
addition, with a true electoral system there would have come from
Ireland representatives whose sole aim and purpose was to achieve its
unification. The picture which Ireland would have presented within the
House would have been of a different character to that presented to-day,
and the perennial Irish problem would have been infinitely less
difficult, because the forces which made for union would have had full
play. Even the unification of England and Wales may, in some respects,
be described as incomplete; but such differences as exist largely arise
from the electoral system which sometimes deprives the minority in Wales
of all representation in the House of Commons. When in 1906 the fortunes
of the Welsh Conservatives reached their lowest ebb, the latter numbered
36 per cent. of the voters, whilst in former elections the minority
sometimes exceeded 40 per cent. Had Welsh Conservatives, during the last
two decades, been adequately represented in the House of Commons, would
not our conception of Wales from the political point of view have been
considerably modified, would not the process of political unification
have been made more complete?

The non-representation of minorities in Belgium accentuated the racial
religious and language differences between Flanders and Wallony.
Flanders was represented by Catholics only; the French-speaking
districts by Liberals and Socialists. With proportional representation
members of all three parties are returned in both areas, and this result
has brought in its train a great national advantage, the political
consolidation of Belgium. Another example of the disintegrating effects
of the disfranchisement of minorities is to be seen in the American
Civil War. A committee of the United States Senate unanimously reported
in 1869 that this war might have been averted had the minorities in the
North and South been duly represented in Congress. In the words of the
report the absence of minority representation "in the States of the
South when rebellion was plotted, and when open steps were taken to
break the Union was unfortunate, for it would have held the Union men of
those States together and have given them voice in the electoral
colleges.... Dispersed, unorganized, unrepresented, without due voice
and power, they could interpose no effectual resistance to secession and
to civil war."

_Defective representation in municipal bodies_.]

False impressions of public opinion, unstable legislation, the weakening
of the House of Commons, both in authority and in personnel, the
degradation of party warfare, the undue exaltation of party machinery,
the heightening of racial differences and of sectional interests, these
are the fruits of that rough and ready system of Parliamentary elections
with which hitherto we have been content. The electoral methods in force
both in County Council and in Municipal elections are based on the same
false principle, and in these spheres of corporate activity results
almost equally disastrous are produced. The London County Council
elections of 1907 presented most of the features which characterized the
Parliamentary elections of 1906. Such catastrophic changes in the
personnel of the County Council as took place in 1907 involves serious
consequences to London ratepayers. In this election two ex-chairmen of
the Council, the vice-chairman and several chairmen of committees, lost
their seats. These were men who had been chosen by their colleagues
because of their special fitness for their positions, and this wholesale
dismissal as a result of a temporary wave of public feeling may make it
more difficult to secure as candidates those who are prepared to devote
the necessary time to the study of London's problems, for it is
generally admitted that the position of a London County Councillor is no
sinecure. The effective discharge of his duties demands unremitting
attention to details. The new Council was remarkable for the number of
members who had yet to win their spurs in public work, and London was
the poorer for the loss of those able administrators whom thousands of
voters desired as their representatives. A true electoral system would
not only secure the adequate representation of all parties, but the
presence in the Council of the most competent exponents of
different policies.

_Wasteful municipal finance._

Not only does the electoral system involve undue changes in the
personnel of the Council, but it leads to an extremely wasteful
expenditure of public money. Whether the London County Council was or
was not justified in establishing a steamboat service, nothing can be
more wasteful than that one Council should establish such a service at
great cost, and that its successor should immediately reverse that
policy. The steady development of a works department by one Council and
its abandonment by a succeeding Council similarly involves useless
expenditure. A fully representative Council would not display such
violent alterations of policy, and it is of the utmost importance that
the objects on which it is decided to spend public moneys should be the
deliberate and considered choice of a Council on which all interests are
fairly represented.

_No continuity in administration_.]

The Metropolitan Borough Council elections tell a similar tale. The
Lewisham Borough Council consisted in 1900 of 35 Moderates and 7
Progressives; in 1903 of 34 Progressives and 8 Moderates and
Independents; in 1906 of 42 Moderates, no representatives of the
Progressive or Labour parties being elected. In three successive
elections there was a complete change in the composition of the Council.
Lewisham's experience is typical of that of several other London
boroughs. Many councillors of the widest experience in municipal affairs
lose their seats at the same time, and there is in consequence no
security of continuity in the administration of the business of the
Metropolitan boroughs. Dr. Gilbert Slater, in giving evidence before a
select committee of the House of Lords, said: "I found, of course, when
I came on to the Council without any previous municipal experience
except by observation, that I and other members equally inexperienced
had to take great responsibilities upon ourselves. For instance, I was
vice-chairman of the Finance Committee, and my Chairman also had had no
previous municipal experience; the Finance Committee was felt to be one
of the most important of the Committees of the Council, and the fact
that its Chairman and Vice-chairman were two new members itself was a
weakness."[13] Dr. Slater added that it took three years' hard work
before a councillor could really master the affairs of a London borough,
and that being so, is it surprising that it is becoming increasingly
difficult to secure the services of competent men for the work of our
local bodies? There undoubtedly are, on both aides, men of marked
ability and of whole-hearted devotion to public affairs, but if our
electoral system is such that, in the presence of an undiscriminating
swing of the pendulum, their ability and devotion count for nothing,
such men tend, albeit unwillingly, to withdraw from public life. The
influence of the permanent official increases; the authority of the
representative assembly declines.

_The root of the evil._

In parliamentary, in county, and in borough council elections alike we
trace the evils of defective electoral methods. These evils constitute a
complete answer to Lord Morley's criticism of Mill, that the latter laid
undue stress upon the efficiency of electoral machinery. Erected on a
false basis, those democratic institutions, on which so many hopes have
been built and on which our future still depends, are found full of
shortcomings due not only to the imperfections of human nature but to
the ill-working of a defective electoral system. The evils arising from
the latter cause can at least be remedied, and in remedying them we may
make it possible for the electors to put more intelligence and
conscience into their votes. Since Mill was, as Lord Morley says,
concerned with the important task of moulding and elevating popular
character, he was rightly anxious that the electoral machinery should be
such as to give due weight to those who desired to take an intelligent
interest in the affairs of their country.

[Footnote 1: _The Manchester Guardian_, 12 February 1909.]

[Footnote 2: Annual Meeting, Proportional Representation Society, 9 May

[Footnote 3: _The Times_, 8 January 1906.]

[Footnote 4: _Human Nature in Politics_, pp. 241 _et seq_.]

[Footnote 5: _The Times_, 22 August 1906.]

[Footnote 6: _The Essentials of Self-Government,_ pp. 102 _et seq_.]

[Footnote 7: It is a matter for congratulation that in so many States
there is now (1911) a movement of revolt against the domination of
the "boss."]

[Footnote 8: _The Manchester Guardian_, 21 April 1908.]

[Footnote 9: _The Times_, 22 January 1909.]

[Footnote 10: Letter read at the annual meeting of the Proportional
Representation Society, 24 April 1907.]

[Footnote 11: Eighty Club, 25 July 1910.]

[Footnote 12: Before the Union.]

[Footnote 13: _Report on Municipal Representation Bill (H. L.)_, 1907



The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority that
succeeds by force or fraud in carrying elections. To break off that
point is to avert the danger. The common system of representation
perpetuates the danger. Unequal electorates afford no security to
majorities. Equal electorates give none to minorities. Thirty-five years
ago it was pointed out that the remedy is proportional representation.
It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of thousands
who would otherwise have no voice in the Government; and it brings men
more near an equality by so contriving that no vote shall be wasted, and
that every voter shall contribute to bring into Parliament a member of
his own opinion."--LORD ACTON

The disfranchisement of minorities, noted in the two previous chapters
as the outcome of our electoral methods, attracted considerable
attention during the latter half of the nineteenth century, and several
legislative proposals were carried with the specific object of remedying
the evil. Indeed every electoral reform bill, beginning with that of
1832, has been accompanied with a demand or a suggestion for an
improvement in methods of election in order to secure for the House of
Commons a fully representative character. For it was clearly realized
that without some such improvement neither an extension of the franchise
nor a redistribution of seats would necessarily make the House a mirror
of the nation. These attempts to secure representation for minorities
have, however, often been confounded with the movement in favour of
proportional representation--the just representation of all parties--and
this confusion of thought may be partly due to the eloquent plea for the
representation of minorities advanced by Mill in the chapter in
_Representative Government_ devoted to the advocacy of Hare's scheme of
proportional representation. This confusion showed itself in the speech
which the Marquis of Ripon contributed to the debate[1] on the second
reading of the Municipal Representation Bill, introduced by Lord
Courtney of Penwith in 1907, for the purpose of enabling municipalities
to adopt a system of proportional representation. "It was a remarkable
thing," Lord Ripon said, "that so far as the experiments had gone they
had not succeeded, and that, he thought, should make them cautious when
looking into proposals of this kind." The experiments to which Lord
Ripon referred were legislative proposals for the representation of
minorities, and it cannot be admitted that these experiments were
failures. They did secure the representation of minorities. The
machinery provided did not enable them to do more, and an analysis of
the results of these experiments will show to what extent they succeeded
in their object, and at the same time disclose in what respects these
experiments fell short of a true electoral method.

_The Limited Vote_.]

The first of these experiments was known as the Limited Vote--a method
of voting which involves the creation of constituencies returning
several members but limits the elector in the number of his votes; the
elector is only permitted to vote for a number of candidates which is
less than the number of members to be elected, whilst he may not give
more than one vote to any one candidate. The Limited Vote was first
proposed by Mr. Mackworth Praed in Committee on the Reform Bill of 1831,
and the proposal was renewed by him in the following year in the Bill
which became the great Reform Act of 1832. Up to that time the
constituencies of England returned two members apiece, with the
exception of the City of London, which returned four, and of five
boroughs each returning one member. The Reform Bill provided that a
third member should be added to the representation of each of seven
counties, and that certain other counties should be divided into two or
more constituencies, each returning two members. Mr. Praed proposed to
drop this subdivision of counties, although permitting the additional
members to be given, and proposed that in constituencies returning
three or four members an elector should not be allowed to vote for more
than two candidates. The arguments advanced by Mr. Praed are worth
quoting. "He was of opinion," said he, "that it was an error in the
original construction of the Representative Assembly of this country to
allow any person to have more than one vote, for, by the present system,
it was frequently the case that the same persons, constituting perhaps a
bare majority of the electors, returned both members.... In the present
case, if large counties were not divided each freeholder would have four
votes. He wished to restrict them to two, and he thought that this
object might be attained even without the division of counties by
allowing each freeholder to vote only for two members although four was
to be the number returned. Some measure should be taken to make the vote
and views of a large minority known in the legislature."

This form of voting was proposed by Lord Aberdeen's Government in the
Parliamentary Representation Bill of 1854. In this Bill it was proposed
to give a third member to 38 counties and divisions of counties (in
addition to the seven counties which already possessed that privilege),
and also to eight boroughs. Lord John Russell, in introducing the
measure, made a powerful plea on behalf of the representation of
minorities in each of these constituencies, but the Crimean War rendered
further consideration of the Bill impossible. The system was, however,
applied to thirteen constituencies by the Representation of the People
Act of 1867. It was not provided for in the Bill as submitted by the
Government, nor was it supported by the leader of the Opposition. Its
introduction was due to the action of Lord Cairns, who, on 30 July 1867,
carried in the House of Lords, with the support of Lord Russell and Lord
Spencer, the following amendment:--

"At a contested election for any county or borough represented by three
members, no person shall vote for more than two candidates." A further
amendment applicable to the City of London, which returned four members,
was also carried. The system remained in force until the Redistribution
Act of 1885, when three-member constituencies were abolished. "There is
nothing," said Lord Cairns, in the course of a memorable speech, "so
irksome to those who form the minority of one of these large
constituencies as to find that from the mere force of numbers they are
virtually excluded from the exercise of any political power, that it is
in vain for them to attempt to take any part in public affairs, that the
election must always go in one direction, and that they have no
political power whatever."

The following table will show that Lord Cairns' proposal secured the
object which he had in view--the representation of minorities:--

1868. 1874. 1880.
Constituency. Actual Probable Actual Probable Actual Probable
results results results results results results
with without with without with without
Limited Limited Limited Limited Limited Limited
Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.
L. C. L. C. L. C. L. C. L. C. L. C
Berkshire 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3
Birmingham 3 0 3 0 3 0 3 0 3 0 3 0
Buckinghamshire 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3
Cambridgeshire 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3
Dorsetshire 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3
Glasgow 3 0 3 0 2 1 3 0 3 0 3 0
Herefordshire 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3 2 1 3 0
Hertfordshire 2 1 3 0 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3
Leeds 2 1 3 0 1 2 3 0 2 1 3 0
Liverpool 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3 1 2 0 3
London (City) 3 1 4 0 1 3 0 4 1 3 0 4
Manchester 2 1 3 0 1 2 0 3 2 1 3 0
Oxfordshire 1 2 0 3 1 2 3 0 1 2 0 3

Totals 22 18 19 21 16 24 9 31 20 20 15 25

The actual results show the relative strength of the two great political
parties in each constituency; the probable results are based on the
hypothesis that if each voter could have given one vote to each of three
candidates, each of the parties would have nominated three candidates,
and that as the electors would for the most part have voted on party
lines, the larger body would have secured all three seats. In Berkshire,
Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Hertfordshire,
Oxfordshire, Liverpool and London, the Liberal minorities each obtained
a representative, whilst the Conservative minorities in Herefordshire,
Leeds, and Manchester also obtained representatives. There were only two
constituencies--Birmingham and Glasgow--where the minority failed to
obtain representation, and this was due to the fact that the minorities
in these particular constituencies were comparatively small.

A consideration in detail of the election in Birmingham in 1880 will
show why the minority sometimes failed to obtain representation, and
will, at the same time, direct attention to the defects of the system.
The figures of this election were as follows:--

H. Muntz (Liberal) 22,969
John Bright (Liberal) 20,079
Joseph Chamberlain (Liberal) 19,544


Major F. Burnaby (Con.) 15,735
Hon. A. C. G. Calthorpe (Con.) 14,208


It will be seen that the Liberals obtained 62,592 votes and the
Conservatives 29,943 votes, and that the latter therefore numbered
slightly less than a third of the constituency. If the Liberal votes had
not been distributed as evenly as they were over their three candidates,
it might have resulted that the lowest candidate on the poll, Joseph
Chamberlain, would have received less votes than Major Burnaby, who was
the highest of the two Conservative candidates. In order to obtain the
full advantage of their numerical superiority it was necessary for the
Liberal organization to make an extensive canvass of their supporters,
to ascertain as accurately as possible their strength, and to issue
precise instructions to the voters in each district as to the manner in
which they should record their votes. The memorable cry associated with
these elections--"Vote as you are told and we'll carry you through
"--was fit accompaniment of these efforts of the Birmingham caucus.[2]
But had there been a mistake in the calculations of the Liberal
organization, had the polls disclosed a larger number of Conservatives,
disaster would have followed the nomination of three Liberal candidates.
If for example the votes had been as follows:--

Muintz Liberal)...... 21,000
Bright (Liberal)..... 20,000
Chamberlain (Liberal) 20,000


Burnaby (Conservative). 22,000
Calthorpe (Conservative). 21,000


the Conservatives would have returned two members, and the Liberals,
although in a majority, would have returned only one. In brief, the
party organizers had to be quite sure that their supporters numbered
more than 60 per cent. of the electorate, and that these supporters
would vote faithfully as ordered before they could recommend the
nomination of three candidates. The attempt to obtain all three seats at
Leeds, in the General Election of 1874, failed, with the result that the
minority got the larger share of the representation. The poll on this
occasion was as follows:--

M. Carter (Liberal)..... 15,390
E. Baines (Liberal) .... 11,850
Dr. F. R. Lees (Liberal). 5,945


W.St.J.Wheelhouse (Con.) 14,864
R. Tenant (Con.) . . .....13,192


In this election the total Liberal vote amounted to 33,185, and the
total Conservative vote amounted to 28,056, but the Conservatives
obtained two seats out of three.

The practical working of the Limited Vote has therefore shown that the
representation of a minority in a three-member constituency was always
secured whenever that minority numbered not less than two-fifths of the
electors, and as, in the majority of constituencies, the minority
exceeded this proportion the minority was able to return one of the
members. The system, however, possesses no elasticity. No party can put
forward a complete list of candidates without incurring considerable
risk, and even if the party has an ascertained strength of more than
three-fifths complete victory is only possible if the members of the
party are willing to carry out implicitly the instructions of the party
organization. It should be noted, in connexion with this system of
voting, that the more limited the vote the greater is the opportunity
afforded to the minority to obtain representation. When in a four-member
constituency each elector has three votes the minority must number
three-sevenths before it can obtain a representative; if, however, each
elector is limited to two votes a smaller minority, namely, a minority
which exceeds one-third of the electors, can make sure of returning a

_The Cumulative Vote_.]

The Cumulative Vote, the second of the experiments referred to by Lord
Ripen, although by no means free from serious defects, has also secured
the object for which it was designed--the representation of minorities.
With this system the member has as many votes as there are members to be
elected, and is permitted to distribute them amongst candidates, or to
cumulate them among one or more candidates according to his own
discretion. It was warmly advocated for the first time under the name of
the Cumulative Vote by James Garth Marshall in an open letter entitled
"Minorities and Majorities: their Relative Rights," addressed by him in
1853 to Lord John Russell. But three years earlier, in 1850, it was
recommended[4] by the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and
Plantations, and adopted by Earl Grey in the draft Constitution proposed
for the Cape of Good Hope. The Legislative Council of Cape Colony
continued to be elected under this system until the Council disappeared
under the new Constitution of United South Africa. The Cumulative Vote
secured the representation of minorities in the Legislative Council of
Cape Colony, and a striking testimony to its value, from this point of
view, was given by Lord Milner when speaking in the House of Lords on 31
July 1906, on the announcement of the terms of the new Transvaal

"I hope," said Lord Milner, "that when the time for making the Second
Chamber elective comes, this matter may be reconsidered, for it is
certainly very remarkable how much more fairly the system of
proportional representation works out in the Cape Colony than the
system, not of single members there, but of double-member
representation. Take only a single instance. In the Cape Colony, take
the bulk of the country districts; you have, roughly speaking, about two
Boers to every one white man who is not a Boer. On the system which
prevails for the Lower House the representation of these districts is
exclusively Boer, for one-third of the population is absolutely excluded
from any representation whatever. Under the system which prevails in the
election to the Upper House, as nearly as possible one-third of the
representatives of those districts are British. Inversely, in the case
of the Cape Peninsula, where there is an enormously preponderant British
population, but still a considerable Dutch population also, you get in
the Lower House no single Dutch representative, whereas in the Upper
House there are three representatives, one of whom represents the Dutch
section. You could not have a more curious illustration of the great
difference in fairness between the two principles as applied to the
practical conditions of South Africa. And I cannot help hoping that
between this time and the time when the Constitution of the projected
Upper House comes to be decided, there may be such a development of
opinion as will enable and justify the Government of that day adopting
the far sounder principle for the elections to the Upper Chamber. It
certainly has a great bearing upon that development of better feeling
between the two great races of South Africa whom we are all agreed in
desiring to see ultimately amalgamated and fused."

The Cape Assembly was elected by constituencies returning one or more
members, and when more than one each voter could give a single vote to
as many candidates as there were members to be elected, with the
consequence that the majority in every constituency commanded the whole
of its representation. The Council was elected by larger areas with the
cumulative vote. Lord Milner in his speech refers to the cumulative vote
as proportional voting, but it cannot, strictly speaking, be so
described. Nevertheless his testimony clearly shows that the cumulative
vote secured the representation of minorities--the great need of which
has been recognized by all impartial students of South African political

Mr. Robert Lowe endeavoured to introduce this form of voting into the
Electoral Reform Bill of 1867, but failed, and the only practical
application of the system within the United Kingdom has been in
connexion with School Board elections. It was introduced into the
Education Act of 1870 on the motion of a private member, Lord Frederick
Cavendish, whose proposition, supported as it was by W.E. Forster,
Vice-President of the Council for Education, by W.H. Smith and by Henry
Fawcett, was carried without a division. Under this Act London was
divided into eleven electoral areas, returning from four to seven
members each; whilst the large towns, such as Manchester, Birmingham,
and others, each constituted an electoral area itself, electing a Board
of some fifteen members. The Education Act for Scotland which followed
in the same Parliament embodied the same principle in the-same manner.
The figures of any School Board election will show that the object aimed
at--the representation of minorities--was undoubtedly achieved. The last
election of the School Board for London, that of 1900, will serve for
purposes of illustration. The figures are as follows:--

Votes Obtained. Members Returned.
Constituency. Mode- Pro- Inde- Mode- Pro- Inde-
rate. gressive. pendent. rate. gressive. pendent.
City 4,572 2,183 3 1
Chelsea 7,831 5,408 2,144 3 2
Finsbury 7,573 7,239 837 3 3 1
Greenwich 6,706 6,008 3,375 2 1
Hackney 5,438 9,130 1,579 2 3
Lambeth, E 4,370 9,913 1,313 1 3
Lambeth, W. 8,709 14,156 54 2 4
Marylebone 9,450 7,047 536 4 3
Southwark 2,636 3,430 2,328 1 2 1
Tower Hamlets 6,199 7,437 5,495 1 3 1
Westminster 4,829 2,354 3 2

Totals 68,313 74,305 17,661 25 27 3

In each constituency the minority was enabled to obtain some
representation, and although in the majority of cases the representation
was still confined to the two main parties, yet it was possible for an
independent candidate, as in the Tower Hamlets, or a Roman Catholic
candidate, as in Southwark, to succeed in their respective candidatures.
The Cumulative Vote not only secured the representation of minorities,
but in so doing facilitated very considerably the working of the
Education Act. Mr. Patrick Cumin, at that time permanent secretary of
the Education Department, in giving evidence before a select committee
of the House of Commons, stated that "it would not have been possible to
carry the Act into effect, and certainly there would have been more
friction if the cumulative vote had not been in existence; for instance,
he did not believe that the bye-laws could possibly have been carried
into effect without co-operation." The Right Hon. W.E. Forster and Sir
Francis Sandford bore similar testimony, and the Royal Commission on the
Elementary Education Acts, in the Report issued in 1888, strongly
advised the retention of a system of minority representation.

The Cumulative Vote was also adopted by the State of Illinois for the
elections to the State House of Representatives. Each constituency
returns three members, and the elector may cumulate or divide his votes,
giving one vote to each candidate, or one and a half votes to each of
two candidates, or three votes to one candidate. "As a result," says
Professor Commons, "both parties have representatives from every part of
the State instead of from the strongholds only, and there are no
hopeless minorities of the two main parties. Every citizen who has
business before the Legislature has some member of his own party to
transact that business." Constituencies returning three members are,
however, not sufficiently large to do justice to this method of voting.

The Cumulative Vote, whilst securing representation to the minority,
does not necessarily secure the representation of majorities and
minorities in their true proportions. As with the Limited Vote, the
party organizations, if they desire to make use of their polling
strength to the fullest advantage, must make as accurate an estimate as
possible of the numbers of their supporters, and must issue explicit
directions as to the way in which votes should be recorded. To nominate
more candidates than the party can carry may end in disaster. In the
first School Board elections in Birmingham the Liberal organization
endeavoured to obtain the whole of the representation, and nominated
fifteen candidates. The party polled a majority of the votes, but as
these votes were distributed over too many candidates, the Liberals
succeeded in returning only a minority of representatives. It is not
easy to understand how the Birmingham National League came to imagine
that, with the Cumulative Vote, they would still be able to elect a
Board composed of members entirely of their own side, and Mr. Forster
banteringly suggested that the League should obtain the assistance of a
well-taught elementary schoolboy who would be able to show them that it
was impossible to get the return which they supposed they might obtain.
While there was little excuse for the mistake made by the Birmingham
National League, it must be remembered that with the Cumulative Vote it
is easy to fall into the opposite error of nominating too few
candidates. Every School Board election furnishes examples of an
excessive concentration of votes upon individual candidates. The Glasgow
School Board election of 1909 resulted as follows:--

Elected----James Barr 81,109
Canon Dyer 58,711
John Shaughnessy 54,310
Charles Byrne 54,236
Rev. James Brisby 51,357
W. Rounsfell Brown 35,739
R. S. Allan 24,017
Rev. J. Fraser Grahame 23,806
Dr. Henry Dyer 23,422
Mrs. Mary Mason 22,929
W. Martin Haddow 21,880
Rev. Robert Pryde 21,692
Miss K. V. Bannatyne 18,864
Mrs. Agnes Hardie 18,794
J. Leiper Gemmil 18,619
Unelected--Rev. J. A. Robertson 18,534
James Welsh 13,951
Dr. Sloan 13,114
S. M. Lipschitz 12,680
Dr. Charles Workman 7,405
James Laidlaw 4,869
Patrick Gallagher 2,478

It will be seen that the candidate at the head of the list, Mr. Barr,
obtained over 81,000 votes, and the highest of the unsuccessful
candidates 18,534 votes. The total number of votes polled was 602,516,
and one-fifteenth of this number, viz. 40,167, would have been amply
sufficient to secure the return of any one candidate. The votes given to
Mr. Barr in excess of this number were wasted, and thus, although with
the cumulative vote minorities can secure representation, neither
majorities nor minorities secure with any degree of certainty
representation in their true proportions.

_The Single Vote_.]

Japan, keenly alive to the evils of a defective electoral system,
abandoned, after a short trial, the system adopted when the Japanese
Constitution was promulgated in 1889. The administrative areas (with
some exceptions) were then divided into single-member constituencies,
but it was soon found how unsatisfactorily this system works. It would
appear from a memorandum prepared by Mr. Kametaro Hayashida, Chief
Secretary of the Japanese House of Representatives--a memorandum which
is printed in full in Appendix I.--that in certain of the administrative
areas a minority of the voters often obtained a majority of the members
elected. It was almost impossible for political parties to obtain
representation in proportion to the strength of their supporters. In
1900 a new election law was adopted. The administrative areas,
irrespective of size, were made parliamentary constituencies returning a
number of members varying from one to twelve according to the population
of the area, but the voter in any area was permitted only one vote. He
can vote for one candidate and no more. Under this system minorities can
and do get a share of representation whenever the area returns two or
more members. A secondary advantage of considerable importance was
secured by making the administrative areas conterminous with the
parliamentary constituencies. Future redistributions of seats would
leave the boundaries of these areas untouched; they would merely
consist of a re-arrangement of the number of members to be returned by
each area.

The new system secured not only the representation of minorities, but
also the representation of the chief parties in reasonable proportion to
their voting strength. Further, to men of independent mind and character
the new system offered a greater opportunity of maintaining their
position in the House of Representatives. As will be seen from Mr.
Hayashida's memorandum, both Mr. Ozaki, the Mayor of Tokio, and Mr. S.
Shimada, have never lost their seats in Parliament, although they have
stood as independent candidates. At the General Election of 1908 they
were returned for their native prefecture or town with a great number of
votes. These are results of no mean value which are certainly not
possible with our Parliamentary system of single-member constituencies,
or with the block vote as used in the London municipal elections. Yet,
in spite of the marked superiority of the Japanese system, it falls
short of a true system of representation; it lacks the elasticity and
adaptability which should characterize such a system. Like the limited
vote and the cumulative vote, the Japanese system of the single vote
demands exact calculations on the part of party organizations, which
otherwise may fail to secure for their party the maximum number of
representatives. The number of candidates nominated must depend upon a
careful estimate of probable support, and when the nominations have
taken place efforts must be made by the party organizations to allot
this support to their candidates in such a way that not one of them is
in danger of defeat. Moreover, as the nomination of too large a number
of candidates would, as with the limited vote, be disastrous, parties
have in some constituencies been unwilling to nominate more than the
number of candidates who were successful at the previous election.

_The need of minority representation_.]

It cannot be maintained then, as was suggested by Lord Ripon, that the
experiments made for the purpose of securing the representation of
minorities have failed. All the methods tried--the limited, the
cumulative, and the single vote--have without question accomplished
their purpose. They have done even more. The cumulative vote facilitated
the smooth working of the Elementary Education Act, the single vote has
secured for Japan a House of Representatives which reflects in
reasonable proportions the political forces of the country. The problem
for the future is not the abandonment of the principle of minority
representation, but the adoption of such improvements in voting
mechanism as will do justice to majorities and to minorities alike. For
the need of minority representation is becoming more and not less
urgent. A brief reference to the more important Parliamentary Bills of
recent years will show that the most difficult problems which our
administrators have had to face in the framing of those Bills have
centred round the problem of representation--and that problem will recur
with greater frequency in the future. Mr. Birrell, the Chief Secretary
for Ireland, considered it essential that some special provision for the
representation of minorities should be embodied in the Irish
Administrative Council Bill introduced into the House of Commons in May
1907. But the method proposed--that the Council should consist of
eighty-two elected members and twenty-four nominated members--was
essentially undemocratic. The nominated members, even if they were
representative of the minority, would never have had the same authority
or influence as they would have had as members duly elected by the votes
of the minority; and even if we admit the special difficulties attending
the representation of minorities in Ireland the solution proposed by Mr.
Birrell was in every sense of the term unsatisfactory, and obviously of
a temporary character. The first step towards the solution of Irish
problems will have been taken when due provision has been made by
popular election for the representation of minorities.

Lord Morley of Blackburn, in preparing his great scheme of Indian
reforms, found himself face to face with the same problem--the
representation of minorities. He had, moreover, been advised by the
Indian Government that "in most provinces the Muhammadans are in favour
of election, and regard nomination as an inferior method of obtaining
admission to the Legislative Council."[5] Lord Morley, willingly or
unwillingly, was compelled to brush aside the English electoral methods
as inapplicable to India, and to provide for the representation on the
proposed Provincial Legislative Councils of Hindus and Muhammadans in
proportion to their strength. The method proposed was an arbitrary one,
and can be best described by quoting the terms of Lord Morley's
preliminary despatch.

"Let it be supposed that the total population of the Province is twenty
millions, of whom fifteen millions are Hindus and five millions
Muhammadans, and the number of members to be elected twelve. Then since
the Hindus are to Muhammadans as three to one, nine Hindus should be
elected to three Muhammadans. In order to obtain these members, divide
the Province into three electoral areas, in each of which three Hindus
and one Muhammadan are to be returned. Then, in each of these areas,
constitute an electoral college, consisting of, let us say, a hundred
members. In order to preserve the proportion between the two religions,
seventy-five of these should be Hindus and twenty-five Muhammadans. This
electoral college should be obtained by calling upon the various
electorates ... to return to it such candidates as they desired, a
definite number being allotted to each electorate. Out of those offering
themselves and obtaining votes, the seventy-five Hindus who obtained the
majority of votes should be declared members of the College, and the
twenty-five Musalmans who obtained the majority should similarly be
declared elected. If the Musalmans returned did not provide twenty-five
members for the Electoral College, the deficiency would be made good by
nomination. Having thus obtained an Electoral College containing
seventy-five Hindus and twenty-five Musalmans, that body would be called
upon to elect three representatives for the Hindus and one for the
Muhammadans; each member of the College would have only one vote, and
could vote for only one candidate. In this way it is evident that it
would be in the power of each section of the population to return a
member in the proportion corresponding to its own proportion to the
total population."[6]

Lord Morley proceeded to explain that "in this manner minorities would
be protected against exclusion by majorities, and all large and
important sections of the population would have the opportunity of
returning members in proportion to their ratio to the total population.
Their choice would in that event be exercised in the best possible way,
that, namely, of popular election, instead of requiring Government to
supply deficiencies by the dubious method of nomination." The system of
nomination, considered by Mr. Birrell as an adequate solution of this
problem in Ireland, was summarily rejected, and rightly so, by Lord
Morley as being inferior to popular election, inferior even to the
arbitrary method proposed by himself. The plan finally adopted by Lord
Morley was a modification of the proposal here outlined, and its
working, as the working of all arbitrary schemes must, has evoked
criticism on the ground that it does not hold the scales even as between
the two sections to be represented.

The Select Committee appointed by the House of Lords "to consider the
suggestions made from time to time for increasing the efficiency of that
House," was compelled to propose a method of election by which the
Liberal minority might retain some representation in that House. In the
election of Representative Peers for Scotland the majority method of
election is followed, with the result that none but Unionists are
chosen. It was obvious that no proposal for the reform of the House of
Lords which embodied an electoral method so unjust could possibly be
entertained, and therefore this Select Committee, following in this all
previous proposals for the reform of the Upper House, reported that the
representation of the minority was essential. A new Second Chamber is
now advocated both by Liberals and Unionists.

Again, Mr. Asquith's Government experienced a very distinct rebuff in
its attempt to abolish the cumulative vote in the elections of Scottish
School Boards without making any alternative provision for the
representation of minorities. The Government proposed to substitute the
block vote for the cumulative vote. The block vote would have enabled
the majority of the electors to have secured the whole of the
representation on the Board. The deletion of the Government's proposal
was proposed in the Scottish Grand Committee, but was defeated. A
further amendment by Mr. Phipson Beale in favour of the principle of
proportional representation was, in spite of the strong opposition of
the Secretary for Scotland, defeated only by twenty-two votes to
eighteen. The Government finally withdrew their proposal to abolish the
cumulative vote, and it has been made abundantly clear that, while the
cumulative vote is far from satisfactory, it can only be dispensed with
by the introduction of a better and more scientific way of securing the
representation of minorities.

In framing the Port of London Bill, Mr. Lloyd George had to make some
provision for the representation of the various interests concerned, and
so far as possible, in due proportion. It was impossible to entrust the
control of the new Port to the largest interest only, and accordingly he
proposed that "in prescribing the manner in which votes are to be
recorded, the Board of Trade shall have regard to the desirability of
votes being so recorded, whether by allowing the voter to record a vote
for a number of candidates in order of preference or otherwise, as to
secure that so far as possible the several interests concerned shall be
adequately represented on the Port Authority."[7] The reports of the
Poor Law Commission also raise in an acute form the problem of minority
representation. If the far-reaching suggestions of these reports are to
become law, and especially if the powers of County and County Borough
Councils are to be still further increased, the constitution of these
bodies will have to be closely examined. Are minorities to be excluded
altogether from the new authorities; are they to secure representation
through the processes of co-option and nomination; or are they to obtain
a hearing by a system of election that will provide them with
representation in their own right?

While these and other matters are bringing into greater prominence the
need of minority representation, a new problem--one with which the
Continent has long been familiar--has arisen in connexion with English
parliamentary elections. In an increasing number of contests three or
more candidates have taken the field, and the candidate obtaining the
highest number of votes has been elected although he may have received
less than half the votes recorded. A member so chosen obviously
represents only a minority of the electors in the constituency for which
he has been returned. Such results have come as a shock to those who
have hitherto accepted with composure the more glaring anomalies of our
electoral system, and so the growing frequency of three-cornered fights
will assist those other forces which are making for a complete
readjustment of our electoral methods. The new problem is, however,
quite distinct from that of minority representation, and is of
sufficient importance to warrant consideration in a separate chapter.

[Footnote 1: 30 April 1907.]

[Footnote 2: "One ward voted for A and B, another for A and C, a third
for B and C, a fourth for A and B, &c. The voter who had left the
selection of the three candidates to the general committee was also to
renounce the privilege of selecting from them the two which he
preferred. 'Vote as you are told' was the pass word."--Ostrogorski,
_Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties_, vol. i. p. 162.]

[Footnote 3: If in a four-member constituency the number of voters is
21,000 and the parties are in the ratio of 12,000 to 9000, the larger
party would, if each elector had three votes, have 36,000 votes in all
and the smaller party would have 27,000. No candidate of the smaller
party could obtain more than 9000 votes, whilst the 36,000 votes of the
larger party carefully divided among four candidates would also allow
each candidate to receive 9000 votes. If then the larger party had
slightly more than 12,000 supporters out of a total of 21,000, the
larger party would obtain all four seats, as each of its candidates
would, if the votes were carefully distributed, receive more than 9000
votes each.]

[Footnote 4: "If it is desired that the body should not be a
representation of a single interest and a single class of opinions, some
means must be adopted to guard against its falling entirely into the
hands of the dominant party. With this view we would recommend that, in
the election of the council, each elector should have as many votes as
there might be members to be chosen, and should be entitled to give all
these votes to a single candidate, or to distribute them among several.
By this arrangement a monopoly of power in the Legislative Council by
any one party, or any one district of the Colony, would be prevented,
since a minority of the electors, by giving all their votes to a single
candidate, would be enabled to secure his return."--Earl Grey, _The
Colonial Policy of the Administration of Lord John Russell_, vol. ii.,
Appendix, p. 362.]

[Footnote 5: _East India_ (Advisory and Legislative Councils, &c.) (Cd.
4426), p. 14.]

[Footnote 6: _East India_ (Advisory and Legislative Councils, &c.) (Cd.
4426), p. 45.]

[Footnote 7: Port of London Act, 1908, Schedule I., Part IV. (1).]



"Le député, au lieu de représenter la majorité des électeurs, devient
prisonnier de la minorité qui lui a donné l'appoint nécessaire pour son


" ... every fool knows that a man represents
Not the fellers that sent him, but them on the fence."


_Three-cornered contests._

It was stated in the first chapter that the rise of the Labour Party as
a political force, with an organization wholly independent of those of
the older parties, would make a change in our voting system imperative.
Both prior and subsequent to the appointment of the Royal Commission on
Electoral Systems political organizations have shown themselves keenly
alive to the necessity of such a change. At the meeting of the General
Committee of the National Liberal Federation at Leicester, on 21
February 1908, a resolution in favour of the early adoption of the
second ballot was carried unanimously. The Trades Union Congress, at its
meeting in September 1908, less eager to pronounce in favour of a reform
of such doubtful value, passed a resolution in favour of an
authoritative "inquiry into proportional representation, preference or
second ballots, so that the most effective means of securing the true
representation of the electors may be embodied in the new Reform Bill."
The spokesman of a deputation from the Manchester Liberal Federation,
which waited upon Mr. Winston Churchill on 22 May 1909, said: "The point
on which we wish to speak to you to-day is the reform of the present
system of voting, which we hold to be out of date, archaic, and in
great need of reform." Mr. Churchill's reply was a significant
reinforcement of Mr. Asquith's previous declaration, that "it was
impossible to defend the present rough and ready methods." "I think,"
said Mr. Churchill, "the present system has clearly broken down. The
results produced are not fair to any party, nor to any section of the
community. In many cases they do not secure majority representation, nor
do they secure an intelligent representation of minorities. All they
secure is fluke representation, freak representation, capricious
representation." The figures of two bye-elections--those of the Jarrow
Division of Durham and the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield--will show
how completely Mr. Churchill's language is justified. The figures are as


Curran (Labour) 4,698
Rose-Innes (Conservative) 3,930
Hughes (Liberal) 3,474
O'Hanlon (Nationalist) 2,124


Pointer (Labour) . . . . 3,531
King-Farrow (Unionist) . . . 3,380
Lambert (Liberal) . . . . 3,175
Wilson (Ind. Unionist) . . . 2,803

In the case of Jarrow the successful candidate obtained just less than
one-third of the votes polled, and in the case of Attercliffe the member
returned represented a little more than a quarter of the electors. The
representation which results from elections of this kind is without
doubt most capricious and uncertain in character. A House of Commons so
built up could have no claim to be representative of the nation, and its
composition would be so unstable as seriously to impair its efficiency.
Nor can we afford to regard such elections as being a mere temporary
feature of our parliamentary system. The General Election of 1906 showed
a notable increase in the number of three-cornered fights over previous
general elections, and the bye-elections during the four years
1906--1909 were marked by a still further increase. The Report submitted
by the Executive Committee of the Labour Party to the Portsmouth
Conference in January 1909 foreshadowed a very large addition to the
number of Labour candidates. Some thirty-eight candidates, in addition
to the then existing Labour members in Parliament, had been formally
approved by the Executive Committee of the Labour Party after due
election by the Labour organizations to which the candidates belonged,
and although constituencies were not found for all of these new
candidates, the number of three-cornered contests in the election of
Jan. 1910, in which Liberal, Unionist, Labour (or Socialist) took part,
was no less than forty-one, and this number would have been greater had
not several Liberal candidates withdrawn. Owing to the desire on the
part of the Liberal and Labour parties to avoid the risk of losing seats
there were in the elections of December 1910 fewer three-cornered
fights. But the Labour party, the permanence of which is no longer open
to question, will not be content to remain with its present share of
representation. It can however gain additional seats only at the expense
of the older parties, and although the Liberal party, as in the
Mid-Derby bye-election of May 1908, may sometimes yield seats to Labour
nominees, it is not to be expected that the Liberal organizations will
always be willing to give way. At the Mid-Glamorgan bye-election in May
1910 the local organization, against the advice of the chief Liberal
Whip, nominated a Liberal candidate, and succeeded in retaining the seat
although it had been "ear-marked" by the Labour Party. In Scotland,
where Liberalism is less complaisant than in England, no seat has been
surrendered to the Labour Party without a fight, and when a Labour
candidature was threatened in December 1910, in the Bridgeton division
of Glasgow, the Liberals retaliated by threatening to place a Liberal
candidate in the Blackfriars division where Mr. Barnes, the Labour
representative was again standing. These facts should dispel any
illusion, if such still exist, that the problem of three-cornered fights
is a transitory phenomenon which can safely be ignored. The political
organizations, with a true instinct, have realized the importance and
urgency of this problem, and increasing pressure will doubtless be
brought to bear upon the Government to introduce a system of second
ballots, or some other electoral method, that will give effect to what
Mr. Churchill has described as "the broad democratic principle, that a
majority of voters in any electoral unit, acting together, shall be able
to return their man." The advocates of the second ballot and cognate
methods of reform seek a solution of this one problem only. They desire
to maintain the essential characteristic of the present system--the
exclusive representation of the majority in each constituency--and make
no attempt to remedy any of the other evils associated with
single-member constituencies. But the question at once arises whether
the problem of three-cornered contests can be solved by attempts to
preserve the distinctive feature of the present system--the
representation of the majority only. A little reflection must convince
the reader that such a solution deals with the form of the problem
rather than with its essence. For the new problem arises from the fact
that three parties instead of two are now seeking representation in
Parliament, and no remedy can be regarded as effective which does not
provide for the realization of the legitimate aspirations of all three
parties. This the system of second ballots has completely failed to do;
indeed its results only reinforce the arguments of previous chapters,
that so long as we compel the electors of any one district, whatever
their divisions of opinion, to be all represented by one man, their real
representation will be impossible. An examination of the effects of the
second ballot in those countries in which the system has been tried
fully justifies these statements, and fortunately the body of
experience now available is so considerable that the conclusions to be
drawn therefrom have an authoritative character.

_The second ballot._

The Reports furnished by His Majesty's representatives abroad show that
the second ballot, in one form or another, is, or has been, in force in
the majority of continental countries. The forms differ in detail, but
reference need only be made to the three chief types. In Germany the two
candidates highest at the first poll proceed to a second election. It
was this form of the second ballot that was introduced into New Zealand
in 1908. In France all candidates in the original election and even
fresh candidates may stand at the second election. At this second poll a
relative--not an absolute--majority of votes is sufficient to secure the
election of a candidate. As a rule only the two candidates highest at
the first election take part in the second ballot, and therefore in
practice the German and French methods closely approximate to one
another. The third type concerns the application of the second ballot to
the _scrutin de liste_ or block vote in multi-member constituencies. It
was formerly used in the Belgian parliamentary elections, and is still
employed in the election for the Belgian Provincial Councils. The
candidates who receive the support of an absolute majority of the
electors voting at the first ballot are at once declared elected; the
candidates next highest on the poll, but only so many as are equal to
double the number of vacancies remaining to be filled, take part in a
second ballot.

The object of the second ballot--to ensure that every elected candidate
should finally have obtained the support of a majority of the electors
voting in the constituency for which he has been returned--has,
generally speaking, been achieved. But that does not solve the problem
of the representation of three parties; a general election based on such
a system yields results which are far from satisfactory. The party which
is unsuccessful in one constituency may suffer the same fate in the
majority of the constituencies, and this is the fatal flaw in all forms
of the second ballot. Moreover experience has shown, and it is evident
_a priori_, that with this system the representation of any section of
political opinion depends not upon the number of its supporters, but
very largely upon the attitude taken towards it by other parties. For,
at a second ballot, the result is determined by the action of those
smaller minorities which were at the bottom of the poll at the first
ballot. No party can be certain of securing representation unless in its
own strength it can obtain an absolute majority in at least some of the
constituencies. The largest party in the State, if its voting strength
is evenly distributed, may be at the mercy of hostile combinations at
the second ballots, unless it is so large as to command a majority of
votes throughout the country, and when three parties have entered the
political arena it rarely happens that any one of them is in this
favourable position. That being so, the new element of uncertainty
associated with the system of second ballots may yield results which are
further removed from the true representation of the whole electorate
than the results of the first ballots.

_Experience in Germany._

Continental experience has shown that the coalitions at the second
ballots are of two types. One party may incur the hostility of all other
parties, and if so, the second ballots will tend uniformly to the
suppression of that party. The combination of parties whose aims and
purposes are to some degree allied may be regarded as legitimate, but
the cumulative effect of such combinations over a large area is most
unfair to the party adversely affected. No defence at all can be urged
in palliation of the evils of certain other coalitions also
characteristic of second ballots--the coalitions of extreme and opposed
parties which temporarily combine for the purpose of wrecking a third
party in the hope of snatching some advantage from the resulting
political situation. Sometimes such coalitions are merely the expression
of resentment by an advanced party at the action of a party somewhat
less advanced than itself. But, whatever the cause, the coalitions at
the second ballots do not result in the creation of a fully
representative legislative chamber; on the contrary, they tend to take
away all sincerity from the parliamentary system. Illustrations of the
first type of coalitions abound. The German general elections afford
numerous examples, but as a special note on the working of the second
ballots in Germany is to be found in Appendix II., it will suffice to
quote some of the results of the election of 1907. The Social Democrats
were engaged at the second ballots in ninety constituencies. At the
first ballots they were at the head of the poll in forty-four of these
constituencies, but at the second ballots they only succeeded in
retaining that position in eleven. In the forty-six constituencies in
which they were second at the poll they were only able to improve their
condition in three cases. These figures show how the German Social
Democrats suffered from hostile combinations. It was with the utmost
difficulty that they obtained representation in constituencies other
than those in which at the first elections they were in an absolute
majority. No wonder that one of the planks of the platform of the Social
Democratic party is proportional representation.


The Social Democrats of Austria suffered in the General Election of 1907
in the same way. Professor Kedlich,[1] in an article entitled "The
Working of Universal Suffrage in Austria," wrote as follows: "The
Christian Socialists have ninety-six seats in the new House, the Social
Democrats eighty-six ... The number of seats won by them weighs still
heavier in the balance when we reflect that in many second ballots the
majority of the opponents of social democracy joined their forces
against them. Not less instructive are the relative numbers of the votes
recorded for each of the parties. Over a million votes were given to the
Social Democrats as against 531,000 for the Christian Socialists." Such
results destroy the representative character of legislative bodies. The
same lesson on a smaller scale is to be gathered from the Italian
elections. Speaking of the General Election of 1904, the Rome
correspondent of _The Morning Post_ pointed out that, in not a few
constituencies, like the second division of Rome, a rally of Clericals
at the second ballots enabled the Conservative Monarchists to triumph
over the Socialists.


The combinations of allied parties against a third party, as in the
examples already given, may be defended, but the coalitions at second
ballots, as has been pointed out, are not always of this character.
Should parties, angered and embittered by being deprived of
representation, use their power at the second ballots to render a stable
Government impossible, then the results are disastrous. Such were the
conditions which obtained in Belgium before the abandonment of second
ballots. "The system," says Sir Arthur Hardinge, "answered well enough
so long as only two parties contested an election; but the moment the
Socialist Party formed a distinct third party, after the establishment
of universal suffrage in 1894, it began to act in a manner which
produced unsatisfactory results.... The overwhelming victory of the
Clerical party in 1894 was largely due to the fact that in every second
ballot between Catholics and Socialists the Liberals voted for the
former, whilst in every second ballot between Catholics and Liberals,
with the single exception of the Thuin Division, the Socialists
preferred the Catholics as the creators of universal suffrage and as, in
some respects, a more genuinely democratic party, to the Liberals, whom
the Labour leaders regarded with peculiar hatred as the apostles of free
competition and individualism. In 1896 the Socialists were in their turn
the victims, as the Liberals had been in 1894, of the working of the
system of second ballots. Liberal electors at these elections voted
everywhere at the second ballots for Clerical against Labour candidates,
with the result that the Clericals won every one of the eighteen seats
for Brussels, although the total number of Clerical electors in a total
electorate of 202,000 was only 89,000, as against 40,000 Liberals and
73,000 ultra-Radicals and Labour men. Two years later the Liberals swung
round to an alliance with the Socialists against the Clericals, and in
several constituencies, owing to the system of second ballots, the
Socialists, although actually in a minority, won all the seats with the
help of the Liberals, who on the first ballot had voted unsuccessfully
for Liberal as against both Catholic and Labour candidates. It was the
practical experience of conditions such as these which gradually
convinced all the Belgian parties that, given a three-cornered fight in
every, or nearly every, constituency, the only way of preventing a
minority from turning the scales and excluding from all representation
the views of nearly half the electorate was to adopt the system of
proportional representation."[2]

Count Goblet d'Alviella furnishes an excellent example of the working of
the second ballots at Verviers in the General Election of 1898, the last
parliamentary election in Belgium, at which second ballots were used. In
the election for Senators the Socialists spoiled the chances of the
Liberals by voting for the Clericals, whilst, in the election for the
Chamber, the Liberals, not to be outdone, spoiled the chances of the
Socialists by also supporting the Clericals. The Clericals thus obtained
all the seats both in the Senate and in the Chamber with the assistance
of the Socialists and of the Liberals in turn. The absurdities of the
General Election of 1898 were so flagrant that on the day after the
election so determined an opponent of proportional representation as _La
Chronique_ exclaimed, "Can anything be more absurd than the working of
the second ballots in this country? ... What becomes of the moral force
of an election in which parties are obliged, if they wish to win, to
implore the support of electors who yesterday were their enemies? Such
support is never obtained without conditions, and these conditions are
either promises which it is not intended to keep or a surrender of
principles--in either case a proceeding utterly immoral."[3]


French elections also furnish examples of the use of the second ballots
for the purpose of fostering dissension between opponents. At the
General Election in 1906 it was stated that the Conservatives in the
South of France, despairing of obtaining representation themselves,
intended to support the Socialists at the second ballot in the hope of
obtaining an advantage by accentuating the difference between the
Socialists and the Radicals. M. Jaurès indignantly denied that there was
any understanding between the Socialists and the Conservatives, and took
advantage of the accusation to write in _L'Humanité_ a powerful plea for
proportional representation. "This reform," he declared, "would make
such unnatural alliances impossible. Each party would be induced and,
indeed, it would be to each party's advantage to fight its own battle,
for every group would have an opportunity of obtaining its full share of
representation. There would no longer be any question of doubtful
manoeuvres, of confused issues; Socialism would have its advocates,
Radicalism its exponents, Conservatism its leaders, and there would be a
magnificent propaganda of principles which would inevitably result in
the political education of the electorate. Every movement would be
assured of representation in proportion to its real strength in the
country; every party, freed from the necessity of entering into
alliances which invariably beget suspicion, would be able to formulate
quite clearly its essential principles; governmental and administrative
corruption would be reduced to a minimum; the real wishes of the people
would find expression; and if parties still continued to dispute for
power, it would be to enable them to promote the more effectually the
measures for which they stood." In spite, however, of this eloquent
disclaimer on the part of M. Jaurès, the Conservatives have at the
bye-elections continued their policy of supporting the Socialists. The
bye election of Charolles in December 1908 is a case in point. At the
first ballot the figures were as follows:--

M. Sarrien fils (Radical) 5,770 votes
M. Duoarouge (Socialist) 4,367 "
M. Magnien (Conservative) 3,968 "

At the second ballot--

M. Ducarouge (Socialist) 6,841 " Elected
M. Sarrien fils (Radical) 5,339 "
M. Magnien (Conservative) 301 "

It should be explained that the Conservative candidate, although his
name still appeared upon the ballot paper, retired before the second
election, and it is evident that the votes of many of his supporters
were given to the Socialist candidate. In the following April (1909)
several further instances occurred. At Uzès a vacancy was caused by the
death of a Radical Socialist member who, at the General Election of
1906, had beaten the Duc d'Uzès, a Reactionary, the Socialist candidate
on that occasion being at the bottom of the poll. In the bye-election
the Socialist was returned at the head of the poll, but so obvious was
the fact that the Socialist owed his victory to Conservative support,
that he was received in the Chamber by the Radicals with the cry of "M.
le duc d'Uzès." Uzès was typical of other elections and, as the Paris
correspondent of _The Morning Post_ remarked, "the successes of the
Unified Socialists in the recent series of bye-elections are in part to
be attributed to the votes of the Reactionaries, who voted for the
Unified candidates as being enemies of the Republic." This abuse of the
purpose of second ballots--an abuse engendered by the failure of the
minority to obtain direct representation--destroys the last semblance of
sincerity in the representation of a constituency, and must hasten the
abolition of the second ballots in France in the same way as
combinations of a similar nature rendered imperative the introduction of
a more rational system of election in Belgium.

The foregoing facts are sufficient to show that a system of second
ballots does not necessarily result in the formation of a legislative
chamber fully representative of the electorate. In Germany the largest
party has had its representation ruthlessly cut down by the operation of
the second ballots. Indeed, were it not for the overwhelming
predominance of this party in certain areas it might not have obtained
any representation whatever. In Belgium the effect of the second ballots
was to deprive the middle party, the Liberals, of their fair share of
representation. In 1896, owing to the coalitions of Socialists and
Catholics at the polls, the Liberals had only eleven representatives in
the popular chamber. All their leaders had been driven from Parliament,
their electoral associations had become completely disorganized save in
some large towns, and in many constituencies they had ceased to take
part in elections. Yet the results of the very first elections (1900)
after the establishment of proportional representation, showed that the
Liberals were the second largest party in the State, and that it was a
party which still responded to the needs and still gave voice to the
views of large numbers of citizens.

_The bargainings at the second ballots in France_.]

The system of second ballots not only deprives large sections of the
electorate of representation, but the very coalitions which produce this
result bring parliamentary institutions into still further disrepute.
These coalitions are condemned in unequivocal terms by Continental
writers and statesmen of widely differing schools of thought. The
scathing language of M. Jaures has already been quoted, and we find his
views endorsed by politicians of the type of M. Deschanel, an
ex-President of the Chamber of Deputies, who declared that these
coalitions entirely falsify the character of the popular verdict. Again,
M. Yves Guyot, an ex-Minister, asserts that "the second ballots give
rise to detestable bargainings which obliterate all political sense in
the electors." M. Raymond Poincare, a Senator and a former Minister,
condemns the system of second ballots in equally forcible language. "It
will be of no use," he says, "to replace one kind of constituency by
another if we do not, at the same time, suppress the gamble of the
majority system and the jobbery of the second ballots." These
expressions of opinion on the part of individual French politicians
could be multiplied, but it will be sufficient to add to them the more
formal and official declaration of the Commission du Suffrage Universel,
a Parliamentary Committee appointed by the Chamber of Deputies. In the
Report issued by this Committee in 1907, it is declared that "the
abolition of the second ballots with the bargainings to which they give
rise will not be the least of the advantages of the new system
[proportional representation]."

_The "Kuh-Handel" in Germany._

It would appear that the German second ballots are also characterized by
this same evil of bargaining. Karl Blind, writing in _The Nineteenth
Century_, March 1907, stated that "in this last election the oddest
combinations have taken place for the ballots in the various parts of
the Empire and within different States. There was no uniformity of
action as to coming to a compromise between Conservative and Liberal, or
Liberal and Social Democrat, or Centre and any other party, as against
some supposed common enemy who was to be ousted from his insufficient
majority by a subsequent alliance between otherwise discordant groups,
or who wanted to have his insufficient majority increased to an absolute
one by the addition of the vote of one of the defeated candidates whose
friends finally choose the 'lesser evil'....

"To some extent these necessary, but sometimes rather sordid,
transactions are made all the more difficult through the very existence
of separate States with 'Home Rule' legislatures of their own. Political
development has in them gone so far in a centrifugal sense that the
nation has been sadly split up and the public mind too much divided into
merely local concerns and issues....

"Irrespective of this baneful influence of a so-called 'Home Rule' state
of things on the life of the nation at large, I must confess that the
huckstering at the second ballots does not strike me as an ideal
institution. It generally goes, in Germany, under the name of
_Kuh-Handel_ (cow-bargain). It often brings out the worst symptoms of
intrigue and political immorality.... Those who dabble in the
_Kuh-Handel_ either lead their own contingent as allies into an enemy's
camp from spite against another adversary, or they induce their own men
to desist from voting at all at a second ballot, so as to give a chance
to another candidate, whom they really detest with all their heart, but
whom they wish to use as a means of spiting one still more
deeply hated."

_The position of a deputy elected at a second ballot_.]

The separate experiences, therefore, of France, Belgium, and Germany all
yield convincing and corroborative testimony to the demoralizing
influence on political life which results from the coalitions at the
second ballots. Insufficient attention, however, has been directed to
one aspect of this influence, its pernicious effect upon the inner
working of parliamentary institutions. The deputy who is elected as the
result of a coalition of forces at the second ballot finds himself in an
extremely difficult and unstable position. Instead of being the
representative of the majority of the electors he too often becomes, in
the apt phrase of M. Yves Guyot, "the prisoner of the minority," and,
whilst in Parliament, he is being continually reminded of the power of
that minority to make or unmake him at the next election. The persistent
pressure of that minority explains those contradictory votes in the
French Chamber which, to a foreigner, are often incomprehensible. The
deputy will usually act in accordance with the opinion of the group to
which he belongs and vote accordingly, but at a subsequent sitting he
will find it necessary to vote in such a way as will give satisfaction
to that minority whose support assured his success at the previous
election, and without whose support he cannot hope for re-election when
the time comes for a fresh appeal to the country. The pressure which
such a minority can exert must often be intolerable, and must, in any
case, render it impossible for any deputy either to do justice to
himself or to the legislative chamber to which he belongs.[3]

_The alternative vote._

The shortcomings of the system of the second ballot are so pronounced
and are so generally recognized that there now exists but little, if
any, demand for its introduction into this country, and more attention
has therefore been given to the mechanism of the alternative vote as
affording a means of securing the object of the second ballot whilst
avoiding many of its inconveniences. Under this suggested plan the voter
is invited to mark his preferences against the names of the candidates
on the voting paper by putting the figure "1" against his first
favourite; the figure "2" against the man he next prefers, and so on
through as many names as he may choose to mark. At the end of the poll
the number of papers in which each candidate's name is marked "1" is
ascertained, and if one of them is found to have secured the first
preferences of an absolute majority of all the persons voting, he is
declared elected; but if no candidate has obtained such a majority the
papers of the candidate who has obtained the least number of first
preferences are examined and transferred one by one to the candidate
marked "2" upon them. In this transfer, the papers on which only one
preference had been marked would be ignored, the preferences, to use
the current phrase, being "exhausted." If, as the result of this
transfer, any candidate has secured the support of an absolute majority
of the number of effective preferences he is declared duly elected; but
if there is still no candidate with an absolute majority the process is
repeated by distributing the papers of the candidate who is left with
the lowest number of votes, and so on until some candidate has got an
absolute majority of effective preferences.

The alternative vote undoubtedly possesses many and valuable advantages
as compared with the second ballot. In the first place, its introduction
into the English electoral system would keep English voters in touch
with Colonial rather than with Continental practice. Preferential
voting[4] has been in use in Queensland since 1892; it was adopted in
1907 by the West Australian Parliament, and was proposed in a Bill
submitted by Mr. Deakin to the Australian Commonwealth Parliament in
1906. Moreover, the alternative vote enables the election to be
completed in a single ballot; and the fortnight that is wasted between
the first and second ballots on the Continent would be saved. There has
also been claimed for this method of voting this further advantage, that
it would prepare the way (perhaps by rendering it inevitable) for the
more complete reform--proportional representation.

The principle of the alternative vote is extremely simple. It is
embodied in two Bills which were introduced into the House of Commons in
1908 by Mr. John M. Robertson and by Mr. Dundas White; and also in a
modified form in a Bill introduced in 1907 by Mr. A.E. Dunn. Its purpose
and mechanism is set forth in the memorandum of Mr. Robertson's Bill as

"The object is to ensure that in a parliamentary election effect shall
be given as far as possible to the wishes of the majority of electors
voting. Under the present system when there are more than two candidates
for one seat it is possible that the member elected may be chosen by a
minority of the voters.

"The Bill proposes to allow electors to indicate on their ballot papers
to what candidate they would wish their votes to be transferred if the
candidate of their first choice is third or lower on the poll and no
candidate has an absolute majority. It thus seeks to accomplish by one
operation the effect of a second ballot."

Mr. Robertson's Bill, as originally introduced in 1906, was applicable
to single-member constituencies only; but the amended form in which the
Bill was re-introduced provided for the use of the transferable vote in
double-member constituencies as well, but, in doing so, still maintained
the essential characteristic of the existing system of voting--that each
member returned should have obtained the support of a majority of the
electors voting. Mr. Dundas White, however, in applying the alternative
vote to double-member constituencies, made a departure from this
principle, and proposed to render it possible for a candidate to be
returned who had obtained the support of less than one-half but more
than one-third of the voters.[5] The effect of Mr. Robertson's Bill
would have been that it would still be possible in double-member
constituencies for the party finally victorious to secure both seats;
whilst with Mr. Dundas White's provisions the two largest parties would
in all probability have obtained one seat each.[6]

The difference between the two measures is, however, of no great
consequence; the number of double-member constituencies is not very
large, and their number may be still further reduced in any future
scheme of redistribution of seats. It will, therefore, be sufficient to
consider what effect the alternative vote would have in single-member
areas. Let us take the Jarrow election, in which there were four
candidates, and apply to that election the possible working of the
alternative vote. The figures for the election may be repeated:--

Curran(Labour) . . . . 4,698
Rose-limes (Unionist). . . 3,930
Hughes (Liberal) . . . . 3,474
O'Hanlon (Nationalist) . . 2,122

The electors would, with the alternative vote, have numbered the
candidates on the ballot papers in the order of their choice, and, as
none of the candidates had obtained an absolute majority, the votes of
the lowest candidate on the poll would be transferred to the second
preferences marked by his supporters. If, for purposes of illustration,
it is assumed that every one of the 2122 supporters of Mr. O'Hanlon had
indicated a second preference, that 1000 had chosen Mr. Curran, 1000 had
chosen Mr. Hughes, and 122 had chosen Mr. Rose-Innes, then the following
table will show the effect of the transfer:--

Candidate. First Count. Transfer of O'Hanlou's Votes. Result.

Curran (Labour) 4,698 +1,000 5,698
Rose-Innes (Unionist) 3,930 + 122 4,052
Hughes (Liberal) 3,474 +1,000 4,474
O'Hanlon (Nationalist) 2,122 -2,112 --

Total 14,224 -- 14,224

Only three candidates now remain for consideration, and their position
on the poll as the result of the transfer is as follows:--

Curran . . . . . . 5,698
Hughes . . . . . . 4,474
Rose-Innes . . . . . 4,052

As neither has as yet obtained a majority of the total votes polled, it
becomes necessary that the votes given for Mr. Rose-Innes, who is now
lowest on the poll, should be transferred in accordance with the next
preferences of his supporters. It is conceivable that the larger
proportion of these preferences would have been given for the Liberal
candidate, Mr. Hughes, rather than for Mr. Curran, and, if so, the final
result might easily have been the election of Mr. Hughes as member
for Jarrow.

_The alternative or contingent vote in Queensland_.]

Before considering the value of the transferable vote in single-member
constituencies as a means of securing a true expression of the national
will, it may perhaps be pointed out that the procedure prescribed by the
Queensland Act differs from that contained in the English Bills. The
regulations of the Queensland Act are as follows:--

"When one member only is to be returned at the election, if there is no
candidate who receives an absolute majority of votes, all the candidates
except those two who receive the greatest number of votes shall be
deemed defeated candidates.

"When two members are to be returned, and there are more than four
candidates, if there is no candidate who receives an absolute majority
of votes, all the candidates except those four who receive the greatest
number of votes shall be deemed defeated candidates."

It will be seen that the system here prescribed approximates to the
German form of the second ballot, according to which only the two
candidates highest on the poll may stand again. Were the Queensland form
of preferential voting applied to the Jarrow election, both Mr. Hughes
and Mr. O'Hanlon would be declared defeated candidates, and only the
further preferences recorded by their supporters would be taken into
account in determining the relative position of the two highest
candidates, Curran and Rose-Innes. The provisions of the West Australian
Act of 1907, and of Mr. Deakin's Bill of 1906, followed the more
elastic and undoubtedly superior method embodied in the English

Sir J.G. Ward, in introducing the Second Ballot Bill into the New
Zealand Parliament in 1908, defended the selection of this electoral
method on the ground that the system of preferential voting introduced
into Queensland had been a partial failure. He stated that the privilege
of marking preferences had not been extensively used, and quoted the
opinion of Mr. Kidston, a former Queensland Premier, that the marking of
preferences should be made compulsory. As explained in the course of the
New Zealand debates, part of the alleged failure of the Queensland
system was due to the unnecessarily cumbrous nature of the regulations.
The Queensland Electoral Acts still retain the old method of
voting--that of striking out from the ballot paper the names of such
candidates as the elector does not intend to vote for. The confusion
produced in the mind of the elector may readily be imagined when he is
instructed to strike out the names of candidates for whom he does not
intend to vote in the first instance, and then to mark such candidates
in the order of his choice. Moreover, the provisions, as detailed above,
for giving effect to preferences are so defective that only a proportion
of the preferences marked can be taken into account. Even so,
preferential voting in Queensland sometimes has a decisive influence
upon the result of the election, as the following example, taken from
the elections of 1908, will show:--


_First Count_.

1st Candidate . . . 1,605
2nd " . . . 1,366
3rd " . . . 788
Total . . . 3,759

The votes recorded for the third candidate were then
distributed according to the preferences marked, which were as follows:--

1st Candidate . . . 15
2nd ,, . . . 379
No preferences . . . 394

The result of the distribution brought the second candidate to the top
of the poll, the final figures being as follows:--

2nd Candidate . . . 1,745
1st ,, . . . 1,620

_West Australia_

Where the more simple and straightforward instructions have been
adopted, as in West Australia, it has been found that a larger
percentage of the electors make use of the privilege of marking
preferences. Here are the figures for the constituency of Claremont in
the elections of 1908:--

_First Count._

Foulkes . . . . 1,427
Briggs . . . . 825
Stuart . . . . 630
Total . . . 2,888

When the votes recorded for the candidate lowest on the poll were
distributed it was found that nearly 75 per cent, of his papers were
marked with additional preferences. The numbers were as follows:--

Briggs . . . . . 297
Foulkes . . . . 174
No preferences . . . 165
Total . . . 636

The final figures were as follows:--

Foulkes . . . . 1,601
Briggs . . . . 1,122

These figures doubtless show that even in West Australia, when the
transferable vote is applied to single-member constituencies, a
considerable number of the electors will not indicate a preference for
any candidate other than for that of their own party, but similar
abstentions occur at the second ballots in France, where it is found
that a considerable percentage of the electors usually refrain from
going to the poll on the second occasion. The Labour Party in Queensland
has sometimes issued instructions to its supporters to abstain from
marking preferences for the purpose of keeping the party solid and
absolutely separate from other parties. Such action necessarily
increases the percentage of abstentions. Nor can any remedy for action
of this kind be found in making the marking of preferences compulsory.
Even in Belgium, where "compulsory voting" is in force, the compulsion
only extends to an enforced attendance at the polling place. The act of
voting is not compulsory, for a blank unmarked ballot paper may be
dropped into the voting urn. The compulsory marking of preferences when
the elector has none may still further vitiate the results of elections
in a most undesirable way, whilst abstention from preference marking
merely deprives those abstaining of a privilege which they might
exercise if they chose. It is quite conceivable that an elector after
voting for the candidate of his choice may be indifferent to the fate of
the remaining candidates and, if so, an enforced expression of opinion
on his part would not be of any real value, and should not be counted in
determining the result of an election.

_Mr. Deakin's failure to carry the alternative vote._

Does then the alternative, or contingent vote, as used in West
Australia, solve the problem of three-cornered fights--the problem of

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