Ministers are ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to boundaries

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive

Posted on the 3rd January 2018

The government’s Minister for the Constitution has claimed that millions of voters living in oversized constituencies are being under-represented.

Speaking about the current boundaries, Chris Skidmore MP said: “It is an affront to democracy that 27 million people are under-represented.” 

But it’s a red herring – there are far deeper problems of under-representation going on.  Ones which Ministers have been ignoring.

Of course, Mr Skidmore is right about the importance of having fair and up-to-date boundaries: a situation where constituencies vary from having between 41,000 and 93,000 electors is clearly undesirable. 

And revised boundaries are required that balance the need for equal constituency sizes with flexibility to help seats reflect actual communities.  

But when we are talking about insults to democracy, then there is a much bigger elephant in the room. 

Because of the current winner-takes-all voting system for electing Members of Parliament, 22 million votes were wasted at last year’s General Election – that’s 68% of the total votes cast.

So no matter what the size of your constituency is, most votes went into the black hole of our voting system.

That means 22 million people not just being under-represented – but not being represented at all in Parliament’s elected chamber.  

Their votes are being thrown on the scrapheap – and the result is a highly distorted legislature that fails to represent the country.   

Another consequence of First Past the Post is that people are forced into feeling they must vote tactically, if their vote is to count.  

A report by the Electoral Reform Society following the last election found an estimated one in five people held their nose and opted for a ‘lesser evil’. .  

That is 6.5 million people voting not for who they want to represent them in Parliament, but voting against those candidates they do not want to see sitting in the House of Commons.  

This figure was double the rate of 2015, indicating a worrying surge in tactical voting.  

In his comments on fair boundaries, Mr Skidmore added it is time to ensure “fair and equal representation” for all voters.  

It’s good to see Ministers concerned about ensuring real representation. The next step is to achieve this: by replacing the hugely undemocratic electoral system currently in place with proportional representation.

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