Arguments for PR

On the Road to a Proportional Representation Voting System

by Jenny Cronin, Hannah Mitchell Foundation

It’s over a year on from the December 2019 General Election and we are living through the Covid19 pandemic with a Conservative government. At that time in 2019, with Brexit in the mix of factors for voters to consider in deciding who and what to vote for, the First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system demonstrated its blunt inadequacies. The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) produced a report on that election ‘Voters Left Voiceless’ and it gives ample statistical and qualitative analysis of the outcomes and provides a vivid case study of what happens when under such a system. The descriptions below give just snapshots from it and also from campaigning group Make Votes Matter.

Through FPTP the Conservatives gained an extra 48 seats on a 1.3% increase in vote share and a majority of 80 seats in the Commons. Parties other than Conservative and Labour won a quarter of votes cast but they attained less than 13% of the seats. A striking example is that of the Greens who nationally won over 865,000 votes but elected just one MP. These are just a few hints which show how unequal FPTP is in the results it brings. It’s worth reading the whole report.

ERS supports Proportional Representation. Their analysis indicates that over all the UK more than 22 million votes (70.8%) were of no consequence because their candidates of choice were not elected OR were surplus to what the elected candidate needed. Smaller Parties across the whole country – Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Brexit Party continue to be disadvantaged. For example, for the Liberal Democrats an 11.5% vote share across Britain yielded 1.7% of Commons seats.

So by contrast what would be beneficial for the voters and fairer for the candidates if a method of Proportional Representation were to be used in Party Political elections?

First of all there are a number of models and other starting points for arguing the case for Proportional Representation (PR). Make Votes Matter (MVM) also campaigns For PR and on their website points to how in 2019 even a big party like the Labour Party had to gain over 50,000 votes to elect each MP while the Conservatives needed only 38,000. In a fairer more proportional, voting system each vote would have equal value and it would take roughly the same number of votes to elect each MP. There are a number of more proportionally representative voting systems across the world. The ERS website has some enlightening pages which use the same descriptors to analyse 9 different systems used in different parts of the world.

Electoral Reform Society

The features tracked are: Proportionality, Voter Choice, Local Representation. It provides some interesting insights to move the debate further on what would be a better voting system than First Past The Post and continue the debate positively.

Sources: Electoral Reform Society – publication –Voters Left Voiceless, Make Votes Matter

Next post on the subject of Proportional Representation and fairer voting systems will look at the different models from around the world.

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