MPs to debate overhauling Westminster’s ‘divisive’ electoral system (Tuesday 23rd)

Posted on the 23rd April 2019

MPs will debate the case for reforming the Commons’ ‘divisive, broken electoral system’ on Tuesday (23rd), in a Westminster Hall debate [1].

The Electoral Reform Society say the case for change has been made clear by the Brexit impasse, with the Commons’ electoral system leading to distorted results and a polarised politics.

The ERS have produced a briefing for the debate [2].

Labour figures including Stephen Kinnock MP and former Corbyn adviser Nancy Platts have recently renewed calls for reform [3], with most smaller parties also backing change.

Last week the ERS published new research showing that 300 seats have been guaranteed to parties and candidates before the local elections in May, in uncontested wards. The ERS say it is a symptom of a voting system that encourages ‘safe seats’, creating ‘electoral wastelands’ across England [4].

Scotland, which has used a PR system (STV) since 2007, has seen the problem of uncontested seats virtually disappear since adopting a fairer voting system.

Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“We welcome this debate on Proportional Representation. Westminster is almost alone among modern democracies in the way MPs get elected. In Europe, only France and the authoritarian state of Belarus use a disproportional electoral system like First Past the Post.

“Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the London Assembly all use proportional systems. Voters using these systems show no appetite to replace them with First Past the Post.

“Voters believe that seats should closely match how people vote at the ballot box. This is a key democratic principle which is not being met by the current system. Only 14% of people oppose switching from FPTP to Proportional Representation. Now is surely time to reflect on how our political system can be improved.”

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society said:

“The divisive Westminster voting system is totally out of sync with how voters want to be represented today. All too often voters feel powerless and distant from political decisions: updating Parliament’s outdated electoral system would help to remedy this.

“’First Past the Post’ politics is no longer fit for purpose – the last three General Elections have demonstrated this, failing to produce strong majorities. The voting system contributes directly to the political impasse witnessed at the national level: polarising our politics and encouraging a majoritarian mind-set – despite hung parliaments now becoming the norm.

“Recent polling shows 37% of voters no longer back the two main parties – more than twice the figure in 2017. That shows the real urgency of the need for political reform. The party system is fragmenting but the structures of Westminster remain locked in the 19th century.

“Now is the time to move to a truly representative, participatory politics, where every vote counts and people know their voice will be heard.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] 4:30pm, Westminster Hall https://www.theyworkforyou.com/calendar/

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/PR-Westminster-Hall-debate-ERS-Briefing-April-2019

The House of Commons Library has also produced a new briefing for the debate: https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2019-0094

[3] https://labourlist.org/2019/04/how-the-tories-have-been-handed-hundreds-of-council-seats-long-before-polling-day/

[4] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/local-elections-cancelled-across-england-as-hundreds-of-uncontested-seats-captured-by-parties-before-polling-day/ 

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