Electoral reform

The way we elect our MPs is bad for voters, bad for governance and bad for democracy.

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The way we elect our parliament means that it doesn’t represent Britain. With the system we use, First Past the Post, one party can get millions of votes and one MP, whilst another can get ten times as many MPs on a few hundred thousand votes.

You can see what is wrong by looking at the difference between how we voted, and what we got.

General Elections under First Past the Post

We need reform so that every vote counts – and where public opinion is properly represented in Parliament. The system we use to elect our MPs has a real impact on life in Britain – it’s time we made sure seats matched votes.

Voters ignored

Voters are tired of being told that the party they support ‘can’t win here’. Half the votes cast in 2015 didn’t help elect an MP to Westminster – the highest proportion in a recent election. This made it the most disproportionate in British history, people’s votes simply didn’t translate into seats.

Some 15 million people’s votes had no impact on the result. We saw the same in 2010, when 53% of votes didn’t elect anyone.

Ignoring voters doesn’t solve their problems

Ignoring voters doesn’t solve their problems. But First Past the Post means that politicians can continue to get elected without dealing with major issues.

When you include the votes that went to candidates who already had enough support to win, nearly three-quarters of votes were wasted (74%, compared to 71% in the 2015 General Election) – 22 million people who voted yet had no influence on the outcome.

And under our winner-takes-all system, one MP might have twice the support of another – yet they have the same power in parliament.

A fair and proportional voting system would mean if your first choice didn’t have enough support to win, your second choice would be taken instead – meaning far fewer wasted votes and ensuring that your voice will always be heard.

MPs – and governments – elected by a minority

MPs can be elected to Parliament even though the vast majority of voters don’t want them. In 2015 one MP was elected with just a quarter of the vote. That means someone opposed by 75% of the local electorate can get to speak on their behalf in Parliament –a disaster for democracy.

Governments the majority of voters don’t want

A party can form a government even if the majority of voters don’t want them to. This situation has grown worse as voters have chosen to support a wider range of parties.

Without majority support, voters can experience massive shift in policy from one government to the next – on the basis of a handful of switched votes in marginal seats.

The system makes it harder for parties to collaborate to sort out the long-term challenges facing society – and makes for bad government.

Fostering division

The UK is being artificially divided, with whole parts of the country becoming ‘electoral deserts’ where parties have no representation despite having real support.

Elections become postcode lotteries

When large areas of the country are electoral deserts, parties are left to fight over the handful of hotly fought-over seats – leaving millions of people with almost no contest locally. This turns elections into a postcode lottery. Parties with support from across the country suffer and smaller parties can only win seats by putting all their efforts into one or two areas.

Safe Seats

Because of the way we elect our MPs in some ‘safe seats’ the odds are firmly stacked against any voters looking for change.

Safe seats are the 21st Century’s rotten boroughs. The average constituency last changed hands between parties in the 1960s, with some super safe seats having remained firmly in one-party control since the time of Queen Victoria.

Resources targeted on a small number of marginal seats

The majority of seats can be predicted because of Westminster’s broken First Past the Post electoral system.

As constituencies are small and only elect one MP, rival parties often don’t stand a chance of winning in hundreds of seats across the UK. Even if they have significant support it counts for nothing if they don’t come first. As the loss of safe seats is rare, parties target their resources on a small number of floating voters in marginal seats – meaning they give up on millions of voters across the country.

Safe seats in 2015

Four weeks away from the last election, we predicted the results for over half of the total constituencies. 364 seats were been called based on how ‘safe’ they were in 2010, in line with current national and local opinion polls.

We got just two wrong – that’s how predictable the result is in many parts of the country. It’s no wonder people become disillusioned and switch off.

First Past the Post is the worst possible system for electing our representatives. We want to see a fairer, more proportional voting system that makes seats match votes – and means no one’s voice is ignored.

Highlights from the Westminster Hall Debate on Proportional Representation

It is time to make seats match votes

The last two General Elections showed that our voting system is broken beyond repair. This General Election was no better, with millions of voters ‘holding their nose’ at the ballot box, or left ignored in the hundreds of safe seats across the UK. Sign our petition calling for a fairer, more proportional system to elect MPs.

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Date published
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Westminster Hall Debate on PR 30th October 2017

Electoral Reform