We're on a roll

Independent front cover
5 May 2015

With less than two days to go before the election, the spotlight is well and truly on our out-dated First Past the Post electoral system - and not without reason.

Last week the Electoral Reform Society released our poll which showed huge public support for fair votes, with three quarters of the public backing the principle of proportional voting.

Today, the Independent leads with a front page showing similar findings – overwhelming support for a better way of electing our representatives.

People are getting increasingly frustrated with an electoral system that simply does not match votes with seats. It’s time for a change.

One in ten will vote ‘tactically’ this Thursday – that is, for their second or third choice candidate, in order to keep out someone they like even less. Most people would say you should be able to vote for who you believe in – rather than having to wear a nose-peg in the polling booth. What we have now is a recipe for disillusionment.

It’s made worse by just how skewed the actual results are. The two biggest parties will get two thirds of the vote – but over 80% of seats. Meanwhile smaller parties could get a fifth of the vote and just a handful of seats. The SNP could get nearly every seat in Scotland on just over half the vote. For many, that doesn’t sound like democracy.

This election has shown how much people have changed. The leaders’ debates showed it more visibly than anything else – seven leaders debating head-to-head. The party system is fragmenting before our eyes; people shop around and support a wider range of parties than ever before. But the system can’t cope with their choices.

A clear example of this is the fact that the ERS has been able to predict the majority of seat results before the election. That’s 368 seats so safe they can already be called, and 27 million voters suffering the consequences. Opposition parties effectively abandon these constituencies and focus on the key marginals instead.

In the face of all this, it’s clear that this system is fundamentally broken – and it’s time for change.

Encouragingly, more and more people are recognising this, from all parties and persuasions – whether it’s the Conservatives’ Dan Hannan, the Times’ Tim Montgomerie, former civil service chief Lord O’Donnell or Guardian columnist Owen Jones. Now we need to put this shift in opinion into concrete change.

It’s essential that this election is the last under our archaic voting system. We need a system where people can vote with their hearts and heads – and not have to make an unenviable choice between the two. A system where everyone’s votes count – and not just those in marginal constituencies. And a system where safe seats are a thing of the past, where parties’ number of MPs are reflective of how people actually vote, and where parties don’t have to pretend they’ll win a majority when they know they won’t.

Whatever happens this Thursday, let’s build a better democracy together. Democracy is too important for us to miss this opportunity.

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Comments

6 Responses to We're on a roll

Nigel Baldwin 5 May 2015
9:20pm

The system we need for all elections in the UK is the Single Transferable Vote - let's call it the SUPERVOTE
"Equal Votes for equal people!"

Becky Nash 5 May 2015
10:09pm

I'm interested

Mike Drew 5 May 2015
11:36pm

Please only vote for a candidate who promises to support a change to our voting system. referably STV.

Ivor Soutar 6 May 2015
9:36am

The party system just perpetuates the "difference" in the people.
We really need a system that represents what is right for the country and it's people rather than a party thet only represents it's own kind. Parliamentary Democracy may be good for a party but not for the majority of the people.
 
Ivor Soutar

Ralph Nimmann 6 May 2015
1:46pm

The more people vote for small political parties, the bigger the pressure to change our voting system.
Every vote for Labour or Tory will just encourage them to go on as before.
See http://www.rainbow-cambridge.org.uk/opinion/election-voting.htm

Roy Victor Parkes 6 May 2015
10:53pm

Those advocating reform MUST use Plain English when they describe any system to replace First Past the Post.  And please use more words than a typical tweet.  Those opposed to reform will divide and conquer by exposing the differences between the reformers.  We should unite behind one system - if its 'STV' then when mentioning it we must explain what it will mean in the Polling Booth and at the Count, otherwise the public enthusiasm will prove short-lived.  Is anyone out there willing to give us a user-friendly definition?

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