‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Should graduates have two votes? They did.

Until 1950 graduates of British universities used to have two votes. They could vote in the constituency where they lived and they were also entitled to a second vote for a university MP. Some graduates today might like the sound of this, as a sort of ‘buy one, get one free’ voting offer in return for having paid tuition fees.

The university seats were Cambridge (2 MPs), Oxford (2 MPs), London (1 MP), Combined English Universities (2 MPs), Combined Scottish Universities (3 MPs), University of Wales (1 MP) and Queen’s University Belfast (1 MP). The MPs who represented these seats had little canvasing to do and received virtually no constituency correspondence. Some MPs might be tempted by this.

Many high-profile political figures represented university seats, including Gladstone, Palmerston, Peel and Ramsay MacDonald, along with able independents, such as AP Herbert and Eleanor Rathbone. Campaigners for higher-calibre candidates and more independent MPs could find something of interest in this.

A system of proportional representation was used for university seat elections (the Single Transferrable Vote). Electoral reformers might like the sound of this.

Perhaps this quaint and undemocratic system was not such a bad idea after all!

1 comment:

  1. Was a serious proposal in Belgium at one time.
    Certainly think there should have been a list of random questions about the running of the E.U Attached to the referendum ballot. Each right answer would give you an extra vote. Name your local M.E.P.would stump most.