THE BLOG

The Next General Election Must Be About Voting Reform

01/08/2017 14:39 BST | Updated 01/08/2017 14:39 BST
Rui Vieira/PA Wire

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Image courtesy of polyp.org.uk

With every general election, we come to one simple understanding: our democracy is broken.

On the 8th June 2017, Britain proceeded to the polls to determine the future of this country and what we found was an increased polarisation of British politics. There was some apparent shift in support for the major parties, but the actual cause for this was because of tactical voting.

We've perhaps all dealt with this at some stage - because it's an inherent element of our voting system - and that causes the present First-past-the-post system to drive on. Tactical voting is where the voter chooses the candidate most likely to succeed, over their preferred choice. However, there is a strong substitute for this system.

Proportional voting systems are generally misunderstood as equally broken forms of democracy - enabling closed door negotiations and ineffective, damaging coalitions - but you simply need to look at the 2010 and 2017 elections where the Conservatives have joined up with Liberal Democrats and the DUP to recognize this is already the case. While true proportional representation serves further compromise, it also changes how campaigning works and reveals a healthier politics, eliminating the polarisation sickness that has lead society into a 'them or us' structure, like the two-party practice in the United States. Our democracy should be about cooperation and respect, not divisiveness and partisanship. If change is to happen, we must resist these clichés about strangled governments and smoke-filled rooms because look at what's going on now.

There was a large amount of debate around the recent general election about it being a 'tactical' election regarding voting. One such case is the Green Party's progressive alliance strategy; a product of an archaic system. No political party should ever have to remove candidates in a representative democracy as voters should always have plenty of choices. This makes it evident how much First-past-the-post subverts democracy.

The fight for proportional representation has gone on a long time, and one electoral reformer told me the fight isn't worth continuing because ordinary people won't change the way they vote. Make Votes Matter - the campaign for implementing PR - suggests otherwise;

"We have a real chance to get rid of First Past the Post and introduce a form of Proportional Representation - as the vast majority of the world's developed democracies already have. We call on everyone who wants real democracy in the UK to take action and campaign to make this a reality - Make Votes Matter is here to support this grassroots action. It's only when ordinary people take action that democracy is extended, and it's only real democracy that can begin to solve the many issues we face as a society."

The need for proportional representation at Westminster is a crisis needing urgent assistance. Without it, our elections just become formalities in which people think they have the power to choose, when they only have the power to choose from two parties that, put collectively, don't represent the views of the whole country. However, fair votes are about putting our basic democratic rights above political parties and in this country, we see the Labour Party and Conservatives backing an old fashion democracy because it benefits them and wins elections, even if that means sacrificing the basic foundations of democracy.

Interestingly, Winston Churchill can be quoted in saying proportional representation is "the fairest, the most scientific and, on the whole, the best in the public interest". Even during a time when democracy was prevailing victorious over dangerous alternatives, Churchill insisted a system of proportional representation would be better to that of First-past-the-post. Despite Corbyn's Labour having no promise about PR in their manifesto, shockingly Blair's 1997 manifesto supported the implementation of PR in the European Parliament stressing 'greater openness and democracy in EU institutions'. Again, this reaffirms the idea that the two major parties are sticking to FPTP for their own gain.

Ensuring everybody is represented through proportional representation, in every area of the UK, is essential in crafting a world-leading democracy, accordant politicians, and successful campaigns. It can only serve all of us well. If anybody doubts such a change can happen, know there's isn't change without hope and those willing to fight for it.