Anything that connects voters to the political system in a cohesive way is a good thing, and I support it.
I realize I'm fighting an uphill battle perhaps with my audience in attempting to suggest that we just temper your enthusiasm for your local representative role. I've overstated the case, only because of course I think it's overstated generally in the other direction. In no way am I trying to suggest that I want a system where there is no connection. There should be a connection. In fact, I don't agree with my colleague's comment that PR would represent a trade-off on the local representation front.
As you heard from our Irish experts, the Irish have very strong opinions about the connection they should have, and local members who do not do their service are rapidly punished by their electorate. The beauty of the Irish system is that voters can punish a local representative who is slacking off and not doing the local job without sacrificing the support that they want to give to their party. That is a very sophisticated way to balance out these different interests. That's what I'm asking you to consider as you move forward: we can have our cake and eat it too on the local representation and effective representation for parties. I say that because I really do think the parties are so crucial.
When we take away parties, what happens? We have local representation. Voter turnout plummets, because without parties, voters find it very difficult to participate. What happens when you leave your party and you run as an independent? You lose, because that party label is a crucial part of the way that people participate in politics.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am in no way discrediting the hard work you're doing on the doorstep or the appreciation felt by that small group of people who come to see you. That is really meaningful to them, absolutely, but I say that we can have that and that the claims we hear about PR systems somehow wrecking it are false and unsubstantiated.