You did it: Parliament is going to debate adopting fair votes

Darren Hughes
Author:
Darren Hughes

Posted on the 14th September 2017

Earlier this year, the scale of public anger at our broken voting system was revealed.

Despite no General Election being on the horizon at the time – and starting from scratch – voters shattered expectations: over 100,000 signed the Parliamentary petition for proportional representation.

That meant it was in the running for a debate in Parliament – putting fair votes back on the agenda.

Then June’s unexpected election was called. With that, and the summer recess, the Petitions Committee was suspended for months – meaning we had no idea whether this huge public response would be given the attention it deserved in the Commons.

Now though, Parliament – and the Petitions Committee – is back. And they’ve just set a debate to discuss the petition: “To make votes matter, adopt Proportional Representation for UK General Elections”.

The debate is scheduled for 30 October 2017 – giving us the next month to build the momentum for fair votes.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be writing to every MP asking them to back the motion – and we need you to, too.

The arguments for PR are stronger than ever – and that’s saying something given the travesty for democracy that was the 2015 election (the most disproportionate in UK history).

Our report on June’s vote, The 2017 General Election: Volatile Voting, Random Results’, shows millions of those people’s votes are being thrown on the electoral scrapheap. 68% of votes had no impact on the result. That’s 22 million votes going to waste.

Amid that sea of wasted votes, it’s the tiny ripples that make the difference. Just 0.0016% of voters choosing differently would have given the Conservatives a majority, while the election saw rise in very marginal seats: eleven seats were won by fewer than 100 votes.

On top of that, this was the ‘hold your nose’ election: we estimate that 6.5 million people voted tactically, alongside surge in smaller parties standing aside.

It’s great news our MPs will be debating the need for fair votes, following the vote-wasting scandal that was June’s election.

Thank you for making this happen. Now let’s build the pressure to show that the desire for a more democratic, modern way of electing our representatives is even stronger than before.

Ask your MP to attend the debate
  • Mark Stephen Jones

    lets look at elections based on the popular vote

  • Simon Leather

    Although as the majority of MPs are only there because of the present system and have no real interest in democarcy I don’t see them votong to change the system 🙁

    • martinbarrdavid

      Send them money in brown paperbags.

      • AnthonyTuffin

        I assume you’re joking, but a lot of the personal opposition by MPs to PR is probably because they fear what would happen to them.
        Some would retire anyway as they always do; i.e. natural wastage.
        Although some Tory MPs in the south of England would lose their seats, there would be Conservative Associations in the north looking for experienced MPs to represent them in a reformed Parliament. Similarly, there would be Labour Parties in the south seeking experienced MPs from the north to represent them.
        I don’t think many existing MPs need lose their jobs when we change to PR but we should pragmatically help those who do.
        MPs already have generous severance packages when they lose their seats and I would be even more generous on the switch from FPTP to PR. It would be worth it in the end. There is a precedent from when slave owners were compensated at the time of abolition even though morally they shouldn’t have been compensated for losing what should never have been theirs.

    • AnthonyTuffin

      Male MPs were there, before women had the vote and could become MPs, only because of the system but it changed eventually.

  • Brian Oldford

    It’s obviously going to be Debated, Rejected and then it’s automatically buried for several years.

    • Chris Rumbold

      Alas I think you are right – but the only way to get this on the agenda is to keep plugging away at it and especially convince the young this is what is needed. I think we need to look to the Suffragette movement for inspiration on this (though I shan’t be throwing myself under the Queen’s horse) who plugged away over several decades.

      BTW you only need a hung parliament with Lib Dems holding the balance to get another referendum, hopefully this time with a sensible form of PR.

      • Neil Hickman

        No, not another referendum. Electoral reform as a pre-condition of any coalition deal. What have: The Reform Act 1832, Disraeli’s extension of the franchise to the working classes, the Parliament Act 1911, votes for women, votes at 18, the abolition of the university seats, the introduction of life peerages, the virtual elimination of hereditary peers from the lobbies of the House of Lords, and for that matter allegedly fixed-term parliaments, all got in common? None of them was the subject of a referendum.
        That said, I fear I shall be six foot under and probably have been joined by my children before the Liberal Democrats again find themselves in a position to dictate the terms of a coalition deal.
        What will bring about electoral reform is simply a strong Prime Minister determining that it is the right thing to do and making it happen. Tony Blair could easily have achieved that in 1997-2001, and the unpredictability of the X-voting system means that there will be future Prime Ministers with similarly large personal mandates.

        • Chris Rumbold

          You are very optimistic. Unless things change drastically we are in for a further series of Tory/Labour governments for the foreseeable future, I think the chance of a Lib Dem government is highly unlikely. Why because it runs in the favour of both major parties to keep First Past the Post, and there are no votes in doing anything else. Politicians rarely act like turkeys voting for Christmas even if it is the right thing to do. So its up to the general public to do it.

          The only other real possibility I fear is a new centre ground party with good folk from all three main parties + the Greens. However that looks a little unlikely.

          What ever your view is we shall all be in our graves by the time this happens. Most of the older folk in this country are very conservative, and the young seem mostly to not be bothered (although last election gives me ground for hope). If they were we would not be having the Brexit shambles and probably not a Tory government at the moment.

          • Donald Purves

            ERS’s StV model for the last election showed Labour winning so maybe we could use that angle with labour MPs. I intend to do so with mine.

          • AnthonyTuffin

            You are right about turkeys and Christmas. The Westminster turkeys didn’t mind voting in favour of a PR Christmas for the EU Parliament and the devolved legislatures, Our next priority should be local government in England and Wales and then the House of Commons would be the last domino standing. That was ERS policy about 6 years ago, but I don’t know what happened to it.

          • Chris Rumbold

            I would love to see PR both for local and central government – perhaps getting it for local first might be easier although there tends to be more independents in locals and I’m not quite sure how PR could add them in unless you called them all a ‘party’ in some way.

            I doubt if much will happen until we have a new coalition or a Lib Dem government which despite Vince Cable’s thoughts yesterday I still think is unlikely (I say that as an LD (I’m mostly a member because of PR)).

        • AnthonyTuffin

          Also, PR is partly about minority rights. We shouldn’t have to beg the majority to give us our rights in a referendum. We should demand the Government to give them to us.

    • AnthonyTuffin

      MPs may debate and reject it, but we must keep it unburied.

  • Martyn Marsh

    It will be interesting to see how the debate pans out & if those parties that want PR just remember that they were against the Referendum which gave the people a true voice & that their vote did really count.

    • AnthonyTuffin

      If you mean the 2016 EU referendum, referendums are democratic only superficially because the vast majority of us don’t have the time and resources to research complicated issues, like EU membership, thoroughly. That’s why we have a representative democracy and pay elected politicians to take these complicated decisions for us, except that our present system is neither representative nor democratic.

  • Richard Cecil

    Bearing in mind the catastrophic EU referendum campaign it would be well to aim for some sort of standard of veracity in campaigning.

    • rtj1211

      Your career is over if you stand up for honesty in any field. It is simply impossible in a corrupt world to confront power as a professional politician. Your sex life is more important than the principle being examined. So is everything you have ever said, done or considered doing. Just look at the Daily Mail and what it does every time. Ask who owns it (a tax avoiding non dom Viscount billionaire).

      Try standing up to the USA about global warmongering and see MI5, the CIA et al invade your life.

      Especially if you are media savvy and overcome the ignoring that normally accompanies being honest.

      Have a strategy to blow Simon Heffer, Charles Moore, James Delingpole and 500 other poison pen Presstitutes out of the water before you go down that road. They do not play fair, are paid not to play fair and behave like piranhas as soon as the editor tells them too.

      They do not like others standing up to them though. Obesity is for dole scroungers, not cricket loving journalists. Bacon butties only derails a labour politician, not a libertarian journalist.

      Know what you are up against before you start and have a zero tolerance policy for their behaviour.

      You may need to think about twenty five thousand people descending on a journalist’s home and scare the bejesus out of them. No violence, but an unmistakeable aura of menace……

      You certainly will not be fighting a fair fight through the UK media….

      • martinbarrdavid

        Al Gore is still alive & he’s fighting to stop manmade globalwarming.

  • Neil Hickman

    I think it is unfortunate that the discussion is in terms of “Proportional Representation” rather than “Electoral Reform” or “A Representative Voting System”. You can have a perfectly proportional system which is in fact exceedingly disempowering for the voter. An instance is the ghastly system of Closed Party List foisted upon us for elections to the European Parliament. It was no accident that when Europe forced the UK to adopt something other than X-voting for European elections, the responsible minister Jack Straw, a die-hard opponent of electoral reform, saw to it that we adopted one of the worst systems available.
    It is a matter of historical fact, of course, that the X-voting system has shafted both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party at crucial moments. When in 1951 the greatest reforming administration this country has ever seen obtained the largest share of the popular vote that any party has obtained since universal suffrage, the electoral system determined that the Conservative Party under Churchill should have an absolute majority of the seats in the House of Commons. And when in February 1974, Edward Heath called an election on the question “Who governs?” and his Conservative Party polled a quarter of a million votes more than Harold Wilson’s Labour Party, you might have expected that the answer would be “You do” – but the electoral system determined otherwise.
    The most crucial failure of the X-voting system is the fact that it denies the voter the opportunity to choose between candidates of the same party. When Edward Heath negotiated British entry to the EEC, he had said in terms that this would be with the “full-hearted consent of Parliament and people”. The European Communities Bill having scraped through Parliament (by a majority of eight on Second Reading on 17 February 1972) Heath declared that the consent of the people was represented by his party having fought a General Election on the issue.
    But in 1970, the elector had no option to choose between a pro-Market or anti-Market candidate from the same party. The official position of all three major parties was in favour of British entry.
    Similarly in 2017, the elector had no option to choose between pro-Leave and pro-Remain candidates from the same party, and we are left with the indefensible (but under the present broken system inevitable) argument that “a large majority of electors voted for pro-Brexit parties”.
    It was the failure of the electoral system to represent the electorate in 1970 and 1974 that led to the plebiscite, the weapon of choice of the unscrupulous demagogue throughout the last century, securing a toe-hold in our system, with consequences my grandchildren will still be regretting.

  • rtj1211

    Expect some polls to be commissioned which say the UK public rejects PR….

  • voting

    Proportional representation is just a principle, not a practical reform. Until electoral reformers sort that one out, at least the politicos have something real in place: A fatal flaw in this petition, by the way. Watch the honorable members weasel their way out with that escape clause. I signed the petition, because at least it offers the chance for more people to become informed of practical democratic elections. HG Wells repeatedly defined them, 100 years ago: proportional representation by the single transferable vote in large constituencies (the HG Wells formula).

  • Leicester Splash

    Is it not possible to combine this with a reform to the HoL Perhaps keep first past the post for MPs but replace the second chamber with an assembly of members placed in proportion to the votes cast in the election.
    This would give democratic legitimacy to the second chamber to properly examine and modify the actions of the commons.

  • Trefor Williams

    I have never voted Labour in my life having been brought up in a family business and I do not believe that Socialism and/or State ownership provides the goods and services that people want but don’t I really wish that for once BUT ONLY ONCE the Labour Party would be truly RADICAL in its manifesto and put Electoral Reform above jobs, education and health as most General Elections in recent times have resulted in a larger popular left of centre vote than a right of centre vote. Why in the name of God can’t the Labour party see this. Then with a BROAD left in power we might have a fairer society and a system of representation more responsive to the people. But no its 120 year history the Labour has NEVER been radical enough in constitutional matters.

    • AnthonyTuffin

      That’s not quite true. The Labour Party supported STV in 1917, when it was far from power, but changed its mind after it gained power by FPTP. It supported a referendum on PR in its 1997 manifesto, when it thought it would need Lib Dem support to take power from the Tories, but changed its mind when it won a large majority, albeit on a minority vote.

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  • Marc Noel

    No doubt the usual suspects, John Penrose ( Cons), Phiip Davies (Cons) and John Spellar ( Lab) who rather deludedly consider themselves to be parliamentary democrats will attempt to derstroy the debate with methods fair or foul.Thank heaven we have true democrats in the house such as Caroline Lucas who will bring some degree of integrity and honesty to the debate, unlike the self interest of the aforementioned democratic charlatans who are motivated by self preservation / self interest.

  • Linda Daniels

    It shows people count

  • Linda Daniels

    when we come together , believing whats right & fair , yes we do count !

  • John B Dick

    Betweem 1952/53 to 1955/56, A teenage school friend, Donald Dewer, later the first First Minister of Scotland, told me of the Labour party’s vision for a Home Rule parliament, The long, detailed and exhaustive exposition of the various forms of PR;. where they were used, for what, and the advantages and disadvantages of each was worthy of a tutotial for a higher degree,

    A Home Rule parliament for Scotland would be a model for the reform of Westminster he said.

    After four sessions and nearly 20 years, it is time for stage two of the plan. The first stage has been a success by any standards, including the Petitions system,

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