Dear Prime Minister – First Past The Post Is No Longer Fit For Purpose

 

Dear Prime Minister,

For decades, our system of First Past The Post has resulted in disproportionate electoral outcomes. Yet, without a hint of irony, the Government declared the first week of July as ‘National Democracy Week’. Despite being billed as a celebration of British democracy, this week-long event came even as the government still refuses to consider, let alone support a more proportional electoral system.

However, the government is increasingly alone in its opposition. Indeed, recent polling now suggests that the desire for Proportional Representation has never been greater. Every poll on the issue since 2015 has found overwhelming support for reform. Most recently, YouGov found 62% support PR and just 27% support First Past the Post. Yet, many MPs are still committed to preserving this antiquated system of voting in which millions are denied a vote that truly counts. Why?

As you are undoubtedly aware, thanks to First Past the Post (FPTP)- most of the population do not have a vote that truly counts or is a direct influence upon the composition of Parliament. Most recently, in the 2017 general election, 68% of votes cast had no impact on the result; either going to losing candidates or simply bolstering ‘safe seats’. The 2015 General Election was perhaps the most disproportionate in UK history. One party needed only 23,000 votes to win a seat, while another needed almost 4 million. And nearly three-quarters of the votes (22 million) did not count towards the outcome.

The idea of a minority ruling over the majority subverts the very basic ideas of democracy. However, with FPTP, this has become the norm. For approximately 90% of general elections since 1935, the UK has witnessed the formation of single-party majority governments. Yet, not one of them had a plurality of support from a majority of voters. In 2015, the Conservative government came to office from a majority based on merely 37% of the vote. The Conservatives and DUP currently share a majority of seats with just 43% of the votes.

You would be correct to argue that in a modern representative democracy, all votes are worth the same. Yet, with First Past the Post, this is certainly not the case. In the last election, it took 28,000 votes for the SNP to win a seat compared with over 500,000 for the Green Party. Almost 600,000 votes for UKIP won absolutely nothing. In the 2015 general election, it took 34,000 votes to elect a single Conservative MP, but 300,000 votes to elect a Liberal Democrat MP, 1.2 million votes to elect a Green MP, and 3.9 million votes to elect a single UKIP MP.

With Proportional Representation every vote would have equal value and everyone would have an equal voice wherever we live and whoever we vote for. Indeed, it takes roughly the same number of votes to elect each individual MP – whichever party they happen to belong to. PR simply means seats match votes – so Parliament fairly reflects the people it governs – and means all votes matter equally.

Additionally, countries with PR enjoy a wide range of correlating benefits, including higher turnout, more women in Parliament, more equal societies, healthier environments and lower incidence of war- features that are essential in any democracy. Remember, PR is the norm in democracies; used in some form by 85% of OECD countries.

Today, our voting system remains broken, and there is no excuse for it. The number of seats a party gets bears little relationship to the votes they receive. And only a minority of voters have the power to affect the outcome of an election, which means most people have no say about who represents them. This must not continue.

Our voting system should ensure: that those who are entitled to vote have a vote that counts, and counts equally – no matter who they vote for, or where they live; that the share of seats a party gets should closely reflect the share of votes the people give them. Only PR can conceivably achieve this.

In order to raise awareness of the issue from a cross-party angle, I wonder whether you would consider meeting with me and my team to discuss further ways in which we can truly improve the way we elect our representatives? Indeed, we feel it would be a perfect way to demonstrate your commitment to creating a more fair and just society for all.

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