This week our colleagues at Unlock Democracy received the official government response to the 500,000-strong petitions for electoral reform, handed in to 10 Downing Street just a week after the General Election.
It seems that John Penrose, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office with responsibility for Electoral Reform, may need to do a little bit more research on electoral systems…
“Thank you for your letter and accompanying petition…I appreciate your point, but the difficulty would be that we had a referendum on [changing the electoral system to Proportional Representation] in 2011…it would be pretty difficult to argue that we should go ahead anyway!”
As you’ll probably know (and the government should too!), the Alternative Vote is not a proportional system. We supported it in 2011 because it was a small step in the right direction away from First Past the Post, but it’s by no means proportional. In fact, there was a ‘No to AV, Yes to PR’ campaign – although we disagreed with it – meaning many who voted against AV did so because they supported a fully proportional system, and not because they supported First Past the Post.
Indeed, our research suggests that if the 2015 election had been run under AV, the Conservative majority would have been even larger despite winning just 37% of the vote. So while it would have got rid of most tactical voting and ensured MPs had over 50% support in their constituencies, it would have produced a slightly more disproportionate result.
The British public have never had the chance to have their say on introducing any form of Proportional Representation, and only Proportional Representation will ensure that the seats in parliament match our votes.
Since 2011 our political culture has continued to change at breakneck speed. The SNP have moved from being underrepresented in Westminster to joining the Conservatives and Labour in being hugely over-represented. The Green Party and UKIP became even more under represented with over 5 million votes between them and just two seats. With our party system becoming more and more diverse through people ‘shopping around’, 60% of the public agree that the seats a party wins should match the proportion of votes they receive.
We’ve just had the most disproportionate election result in British political history, and we won’t stop campaigning until we get real electoral reform. ERS is looking forward to the chance to meet and talk about different electoral systems.
You can find out more information about different electoral systems on our website.