The government accepts votes need to ‘count equally’. Now let’s get on with making it happen

Josiah Mortimer
Author:
Josiah Mortimer

Posted on the 9th June 2020

On Monday night, MPs held a brief debate on the need to reform Westminster’s one-party-takes-all voting system. 

It’s the first Commons debate on proportional representation since the General Election. The debate, hosted by Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain (NE Fife, pictured), saw some spirited calls for Westminster to move towards proportional representation.

Ms Chamberlain pointed to some startling statistics that show just how unfair the current set-up is:

“For every one vote it took to elect an SNP MP at the last election, it took 33 votes to elect a Green one [thankfully, both parties support PR!]. The Green party polled over 800,000 votes and ended up with only one Member of Parliament: the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas).

“The Brexit Party, polling over 600,000 votes, got no MP at all. Its biggest impact as a party was in standing down in seats, effectively preventing those who wish to vote for it in those seats from being able to do so.”

She pointed out just how isolated Britain was in depriving voters of fair representation:

“Across Europe, 40 out of 43 countries carry out elections using some form of proportional representation.

“The Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, and the Northern Ireland Assembly, use forms of proportional representation in their elections to those bodies. When we have the chance to start from scratch, first past the post is never anyone’s first choice.”

And the MP also highlighted how millions of people were left ignored every election under first past the post results:

“Our voting system results in the permanent disenfranchisement of millions of voters, creating persistent minorities, and a real and legitimate sense of anger alongside the harm to the regions and the devolved nations.

“How depressing is it that, for a great number of people in this country, being represented here in this place by someone they actually voted for feels like a treat?”

Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith MP responded, rejecting a fairer voting system but calling for MPs to back an equalisation of the number of voters per seat. Her argument for this was interesting:

“Every voter needs to know their vote carries equal weight, no matter where it is cast in the UK.”

She was absolutely right. But ensuring everyone’s ‘vote carries equal weight’ is impossible under Westminster’s warped voting system – one that sees elections fought and won in just a handful of swing seats, while other voters are sidelined and ignored.

It’s time for a genuinely democratic electoral system where everyone is heard. It’s time for proportional representation.

Find out more about the warped way MPs are elected. You can read the transcript of the debate here.

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