By Akash Thiara, a Placement Student with the Electoral Reform Society from the University of Nottingham.
A survey conducted by the House of Commons’ Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (PACAC) asked people what they thought the priorities should be for the Government’s proposed Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission.
The survey gathered 18,521 responses, of which 77.9% said that a priority for the Commission should be looking at ‘the electoral system’. It’s a staggering result, given that nowhere in the government’s plans is electoral reform mentioned. Perhaps it’s should be called the ‘Democracy Omission’.
The option with the second most backing as a priority, ‘access to justice for ordinary people’, garnered 43.9% support. Respondents were able to indicate preferences for more than one of the listed options to be a priority of the Commission.
While the survey is not representative, it suggests a dissatisfaction with the debate around the Democracy Commission so far. The Government has now indicated that there will not be one big Commission but a series of separate independent reviews looking at different aspects of the constitution. However, there has so far been no evidence that the electoral system used for Westminster elections will be one of the areas that will be considered.
It is a year since the 12th December 2019 election. The shortcomings of the Commons’ electoral system is in plain sight, when governments do not have to work across the aisle – even during a national pandemic.
Westminster’s voting system saw the Conservatives take 56% of seats on only 44% of the vote. Hundreds of seats have not changed hands for decades, and one in three people felt forced to cast their ballot ‘tactically’ – i.e. a party other than their first choice – under winner-takes-all voting.
A year on from the election, the Government should take note of the feelings of frustration with the debate around democracy in the UK.
By ignoring this clear call for a review of Westminster’s warped electoral system, the Government risks entrenching anger and distrust. Why not grab the mantle of reform, and lead the way to a stronger, fairer democracy in Britain?
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