It’s time for electoral reform

First Past the Post is outdated and undemocratic

 First Past the Post is outdated and undemocratic

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems a logical and eminently sensible attitude to most things in life. But who can now say honestly and without prejudice that the UK’s electoral system isn’t well and truly “broken”, as it does not take into consideration in any relevant way the total number of votes cast in an election?

A clear example of the First Past the Post system (FPTP) being undemocratic was demonstrably apparent when in the 2019 general election, less than 30% of the total electorate gave the Conservatives what Boris Johnson described as his “stonking majority”. “Stonking” in terms of Conservative seats in the Commons yes, but “stonking” in the number of votes cast for individual parliamentary candidates most certainly not.

And it’s getting worse. The Tory plan to disenfranchise any person without photographic identification or voter ID will take away voting rights from hundreds of thousands, the majority of whom would be likely to vote other than for the Conservatives. Even Johnson said back in 2004: “If I am ever asked to produce my ID card as evidence to say I am who I am, I will take that card and physically eat it.” 

Now the Prime Minister’s appetite for what is palatable has changed, and despite widespread opposition from campaigners, election experts, academics and some politicians, the government’s Election Bill is making its way through Parliament. Even the most devoted Conservative must in reflective moments admit to themself if no-one else, that the FPTP, which the new laws will only strengthen, is unfair and undemocratic. But why would they change it?

They are in power for most of the time, meaning Conservative policies prevail, becoming more right of centre with each Parliament. And Labour is little better in its approach and attitude, knowing that while for most of the time they are in Opposition, the current system does give the Party the occasional opportunity to govern.

In the whole of Europe, FPTP is used in only the UK and Belarus. Doesn’t that in itself say something? The system has long been regarded as outdated and even worse, cannot be relied upon to fend off extreme elements and therefore encourage moderate, consensual politics. Under FPTP, those more moderate, middle-ground opinions are mostly stifled, meaning that debate is concentrated on fewer issues and bounces from one extreme to the other.

The Liberals unwisely and unnaturally threw their lot in with the Tories back in 2010, and the move almost led to their extinction as the two parties are not natural partners. But surely now it is time for a new “progressive alliance”, which includes Labour and the Liberals and strives to introduce a system of proportional representation that allows every voice from every area of our society to be fully represented and fully heard and focuses on issues relevant to all of the people all of the time.

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