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Whatever the election result, we need electoral reform

17 May , 2017  

By  -  
Amit is the co-editor of Consented

The snap election has been the talk of British media since it was announced with the main focus being the Tories’ significant lead and Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to claw back some support for Labour (which is going better than most expected).

As such, many different organisations and groups have begun to calculate which seats are the most vulnerable for the Tories and likewise determine where your vote would be best cast if you are able to choose where to head to the ballot box.

Tactical voting aside, the problem is that within Britain’s First Past the Post voting system many votes are essentially wasted and thus many people are effectively disenfranchised.

This was made abundantly clear during the 2015 General Election when, regardless of their politics, UKIP got just under four million votes (12.7% of the total votes cast) yet were rewarded with just one MP whilst the Scottish National Party won 56 seats off of just 4.7%.

Our voting system makes wholescale political change more difficult and essentially serves to protect the status quo, by making the rise of new political parties very difficult. It also makes it harder for someone like Jeremy Corbyn to reform his own party, given the number of Labour MPs who oppose him in safe seats.

The very notion of a “safe seat” demonstrates the democratic deficit in Britain’s electoral system. In the build up to the 2015 election, for instance, the Electoral Reform Society listed 364 seats (out of 650) as safe, meaning that essentially only 286 seats were really up for grabs. Those living in the 364 “safe seats” who want to vote for an opposition candidate are essentially wasting their votes if the decide to do so.

Sadly, the number of effectively wasted votes are only likely to increase under the Tories who are looking to change the boundaries and reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. An investigation by The Times showed that Labour would lose 24 of the proposed 50 seats that are being cut because of the nature of the changes, whilst the Tories would have increased their current majority from 16 to 33.

In short, regardless of how well Corbyn does this time round, it’s clear that the current system is designed to halt the rise of politicians who operate outside of the traditional set-up (e.g. anyone who dares sway left of centre). As a result we need a long term campaign to democratise British politics.

The fact that so many seats are a foregone conclusion and that so many MPs can enjoy a comfortable job for life, seriously brings into question the viability of Britain’s democratic project. Thus, we need not just a move to Proportional Representation (PR) but also term limits on MPs to prevent people such as the late Sir Gerald Kaufman from holding their seats for 47 years.

A move to PR would shatter the two party system that has lurked over Britain for generations and make it possible for the many political voices currently alive in the country to rise to the national level and thus more accurately represent the British people.

Until that happens expect the same “strong and stable” governments to keep misrepresenting us.

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