THE BLOG

Demand For Electoral Reform Going Strong As Petition Surges Towards 100,000

06/03/2017 10:25

Despite being nearly two years since the last General Election; despite the government sweeping constitutional issues under the carpet; despite Brexit and Trump dominating headlines; people are still clamouring for a fairer voting system.

At the time of writing, a petition, on the official Government petition website, is on the cusp of 90,000 signatures - unprecedented at this stage in the electoral cycle. Electoral reform is traditionally an issue centred around elections, an outcry at the unfairness of the system quickly brushed aside by the Government. Since 2015, however, the demands for reform have continued unabated.

At a grassroots level, local Make Votes Matter campaign groups have sprung up around the country. Rallies have drawn national attention. More organisations than ever before are joining the alliance to change the voting system.

In Parliament, two ten minute rule Bills have been put forward to change the voting system - the most recent being defeated by only seven votes. Almost 70 members of Parliament have added their names to an Early Day Motion for Proportional Representation. Pro-reform MPs and Peers have teamed up to form an All-Party Parliamentary Group for PR.

Never before has demand for Proportional Representation been so relentless and resolute.

The petition points out how unrepresentative our current First Past the Post system is, noting how the Conservatives won a majority of parliamentary seats with less than 37% of the vote. This means the current British government has the worst democratic mandate of any parliamentary majority government amongst OECD nations.

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Meanwhile, almost a quarter of voters supported UKIP, the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party, who now share just 1.5% of MPs.

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After the petition reached 10,000 signatures the Government responded, wheeling out the same old argument that 'the public voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the FPTP system' in 2011. In reality, voters never had the chance to voice an opinion on Proportional Representation. Instead they were offered a pitiful compromise, Alternative Vote; a system which frequently throws up results even less proportional than First Past the Post.

In fact, MPs - including Theresa May - actively denied the British people a say on PR when they voted down an amendment to the AV Referendum Bill. The amendment would have included two truly proportional systems as options on the ballot paper.

If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, MPs will debate PR, giving reformers another opportunity to expose the crumbling First Past the Post system.

Irrespective of this petition, the issue of PR is unlikely to go away anytime soon. An alliance of activists, politicians, organisations and celebrities have signed up to the 'Make Votes Matter Declaration', pledging support for a system which ensures that every vote counts equally and that everyone is fairly represented. The alliance includes figures from across the political spectrum - Noam Chomsky to Nigel Farage. From all walks of life - Carey Mulligan to Caroline Lucas. And all different political parties - Pirate to Plaid.

Brexit will obviously have serious constitutional implications. Already it has resulted in a re-examination of the role of the executive and spurred rumours of House of Lords reform. So why not evaluate our other democratic institutions whilst we're at it? At a time when people feel left behind, are lashing out at the 'political establishment' and want to 'take back control'; it is more important than ever that our parliament is responsive, accountable and representative. We need a voting system that makes all votes matter. We need Proportional Representation.

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