ERS: Polls show Westminster’s voting system now an ‘engine of instability’

Posted on the 4th July 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 4th July 2019.
  • Contact mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630 for bids or more information

Campaigners have called for urgent reform of Westminster’s ‘undemocratic and discredited’ voting system, following a series of polls that reflect voters ‘shopping around more than ever’.

The latest YouGov poll for the Times has four parties hovering around 20% of the vote – suggesting the next election could see an unprecedentedly close race. Just a few percentage points up or down can be the difference between a party becoming the largest party in parliament or getting only a handful of MPs.

The UK is the only country in Europe that uses a First Past the Post system for its general elections. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all use forms of proportional representation for devolved elections.

It forms part of a picture of record-breaking polls, with a YouGov poll last week showing the lowest ever vote share for a party in 1st place (22% for the Brexit Party and the Conservatives), and the second such poll with five parties on 10% or more [2].

A cross-party coalition of parties – including the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats – has called for electoral reform this week [3].

ERS spokesperson and Director of ERS Cymru Jess Blair said:

“This poll is part of a trend of party fragmentation that raises urgent questions about Westminster’s archaic electoral system.

“With four parties on around 20% of the vote, the one-person-takes-all system means each party is just a few percentage points between annihilation at the next election, or winning an unfair landslide.

“This absurd instability means it is now clearly in the national interest to back a democratic, proportional voting system that guarantees voters fair results and cooperation – not this bizarre lottery we have now.

“Millions are likely to feel forced to vote ‘tactically’ rather than for their first choice, and ‘vote-splitting’ may lead to unprecedented volatility and random results. First Past the Post – far from being ‘strong and stable’ – is now an engine of uncertainty.

“We are now a multi-party democracy operating under a broken, one-person-takes-all voting system. It is time for an electoral system that delivers voters the representation they deserve.”

ENDS

Notes of Editors

[1] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/labour-poll-support-at-record-low-x2l8qnz7r

[2] https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/06/26/voting-intention-brex-22-con-22-lab-20-lib-dem-19-

[3] https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/liberal-democrats/news/104996/brexit-party-teams-lib-dems-call-major-shake

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