THE BLOG

Why This Election Is Crying Out for Proportional Representation

06/05/2015 17:41 BST | Updated 06/05/2016 10:59 BST

It's Friday morning, and many of us are waking up with an all too familiar feeling: political mutism. Once again, a government is being formed that we as a nation are pretty sure we didn't vote for. As always, the First Past the Post system has ensured that in each constituency, those who didn't choose to buckle with the majority have been outright ignored. Hundreds of thousands of ballot papers, spelling out our political opinions, are rendered pretty pointless as we float into another seemingly random coalition. Many of us who were forced into tactical voting, are feeling rather bitter about the whole thing, as the safe seat in question, remained predictably safe.

It is no wonder people are feeling a little apathetic - this well-worn system is getting old.

So why do we keep up this charade of democracy every five years? Simply, it is all down to a stale obsession with strong government. New Labour and then the Tories, have staunchly stood guard of FPTP for nearly two decades, revelling in its ability to create so-called "decisive government." But this is a well-worded spin on something far less democratic.

What they never mention, is that this decisiveness is secured by an unjust advantage which FPTP guarantees the large parties over the small. They never tell us, that the current system allows them to sit smug in their bounty of safe seats, comfortable in the knowledge that the tens of thousands of votes cast against them, will be resigned to the bin.

Cameron, apparently a man of the people, once suggested that proportional representation, 'doesn't put power in the hands of the people, it puts power in the hands of politicians.' Frankly, this is nonsense. More of us are rendered politically impotent under the current system than ever before. Despite huge swathes of a disenchanted electorate turning to minority parties like the Greens (and indeed Ukip), as if by magic, it is likely that this government will look pretty darn similar to the last.

Let's take the upcoming election. Polls are suggesting that 5% of us will vote Green tomorrow, which under a PR system would equate to around 33 seats.* In reality, it is unlikely that any other Greens will join Caroline Lucas in parliament. Similarly, the Lib Dems are predicted a 9% share, which would earn them 53 seats proportionally. Yet they may find themselves with a measly 17 seats on Friday morning. It is thus unsurprising that both of these parties continue to campaign tirelessly for PR.

At the other end of the spectrum, the SNP will render nearly all other votes in Scotland void, perhaps taking 46 of the 59 seats available, as opposed to the 28 they would earn proportionally. It goes without saying, both the Tories and Labour will benefit as per usual. These are the only people experiencing empowerment at the hands of FPTP.

Let's say you are an ardent Green voter unfortunate enough to live in a Tory safe seat. At current your options are looking fairly bleak: you could vote tactically, and thus compromise on your political beliefs for the minute chance of ousting Cameron; you could stick to your guns and vote Green or stick in to the man and not vote, both of which would ultimately waste your ballot paper; or finally, you could emigrate to Sweden/Finland/Malta or almost anywhere else in Europe to get your voice heard. In a true democracy, there should be other options.

Strong government was perhaps an excusable argument in the era of the landslide, when the public decisively spoke in favour of a single party. But as we look further left and further right, it is clear that those days are gone.

Certainly, the electorate are no longer asking for strong government, but rather a truly democratic parliament which represents them as a whole: the majority and the minority.

If this election makes one thing painstakingly clear, it is that proportional representation should now be at the top of the agenda. **

* All based on a regional system with five per cent of votes needed to win seats. For more see: http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/the-case-for-reforming-our-voting-system-in-three-charts--e1jDbYPFgb

** I have decided to avoid a somewhat drawn out discussion of AV vs. STV and so on, though of course it is important. For more information on this see: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk