Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Voting: the numbers game


The requirement for ID in Thursday's local elections has caused upset - Richard Murphy calls it 'a reversal of the right to vote.' At least he (correctly) thinks it's important.

So does the EU, which is why it is post-democratic by design: its Parliament is nothing more than a talking shop. Moreover, the individual's ballot is swamped by sheer numbers - on average there are over 600,000 inhabitants for each MEP.

The UK has a similar problem on the latter point. The average size of Parliamentary constituency in England is 73,000. How could you possibly make your voice heard in such a crowd? Only four British stadiums could accommodate that number. None of them could take all the 113,000 voters of the Isle of Wight - more than the total of dairy cows in the world's biggest farm.

Which is why the electoral system has become one of herd management. How interesting that the new 2010 ruling Con-LibDem Coalition wanted to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, further worsening the ratio of constituents to representatives!

Let's go back to the Levellers of the English Civil War, who so annoyed the Puritan Grandees with their proposals for democratic reform. The 'Agreement of the People' called for 400 MPs at a time when the population of England and Wales was in the region of 5.6 million, less than one-tenth of what it is today.

Eligible voters would be men aged 21+ (except for in the Universities). Women were excluded and although child mortality was higher (about 30%) families were larger - some five or six children would survive to adulthood. Also disqualified would be servants and wage-labourers (plus, at that time, supporters of the King, but let us gloss over that.) At a guess, a constituency would number less than one thousand - John Wesley sometimes preached to bigger open-air crowds in the next century.

Yet now, even local council wards nationally average over 5,700 (1, 2).

Quantity impacts on quality, in power relationships.

This raises some questions:

  • Who should be allowed to vote?
  • How should communications between voter and government be improved?
  • Should there be limits on the capacity of local and national authorities to interfere in our lives?
  • Are there matters on which the electorate should decide directly, rather than via Party political manifestoes?
  • What is the proper role of a national government?

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TB
United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames