MPs block voting reform in flagrant affront to democracy (VIDEOS)

It was described as the most disproportionate election result in history, with millions of votes disregarded from the final result. Yet, despite a widespread appetite for electoral reform following the 2015 general election, MPs have snubbed another chance to make British democracy fairer and more representative for everyone.

On 16 December, MPs were given their first opportunity in years to discuss how we reform the inherently undemocratic First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system. However, The Representation of the People (Proportional Representation) bill, put forward by Jonathan Reynolds MP, was resoundingly rejected.

The bill proposed the adoption of the Additional Member System (AMS), an electoral system whereby each voter selects a local MP – in the style of FPTP – but gives the overall result proportionality by topping up the seats won by each party from a list of regional candidates also chosen by the electorate.

Just 26 MPs from six parties voted in favour of the bill – a travesty, but hardly surprising.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in 2011 to call on government to reform the electoral system. Image via Flickr/Peter Spooner

Historically, both Labour and the Conservative party have reaped the rewards of an electoral system that most agree is disproportionately rigged in their favour. As votes cast for losing candidates are discarded, the majority of the votes under FPTP have no impact, creating a two-party system in which swing seats hold the balance of power.

The most pertinent example of FPTP’s disproportionality was UKIP, who won just one seat in parliament despite receiving more than 3.8 million votes – a whopping 12.6 percent share of the overall vote. Even those most vehemently opposed to UKIP’s toxic brand of free-market nationalism will agree that the vote resulted in a glaring injustice too jarring for the Westminster elite to simply ignore.

From tactical voting to wasted votes for losing candidates, the arguments against FPTP have been laid bare by the Electoral Reform Society and many MPs who believe there’s cross-party support for embracing a more proportional system.

Read on...

It is said that in 1830, the Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister declared himself opposed to any reform of parliament on the basis that the state of the representation of the people had been designed by providence,

said Jonathan Reynolds, who proposed the bill in the House of Commons on behalf of 6,000 people who wrote to their MPs, 500,000 people who signed petitions since May, and the millions whose voices were ignored under FPTP at this year’s general election.

Therefore, he said, it cannot be improved. And he was of course deeply wrong, because two years later, the great reform act 1832 was passed.

Electoral reform, as illustrated by this tub-thumbing anecdote, has been and can be enacted. But, as Reynolds argued in his ten-minute rule motion, the attitude that the means of representing the people at Westminster cannot be improved upon is one that has lived on and remains strong today.

As an authoritative poll from pollsters BMG found earlier this year, this widespread resistance to change goes against the will of the electorate. The scientifically weighted survey revealed that 57 percent of the public supports the idea of a proportional electoral system, while 51 per cent of the population said they were “unhappy with the current electoral system and want it to change”.

The mandate for change is unequivocal, but in rejecting Reynolds’ Proportional Representation bill, the will among MPs appears at odds with the groundswell of public support for reform.

Owen Winter, a teenager who launched a petition calling on David Cameron to make Britain’s voting system fair and representative, understands the consequences of this indifference better than most. Where the majority of Britain’s Generation Z feel disenfranchised from politics, Owen has made it his mission to put voting reform back on the agenda.

If we are to succeed in changing our system, we need to make sure that politicians know exactly what we want – reform!

he wrote in an update on his petition, which has more than 237,000 signatures at the time of writing.

Although the next general election is not until 2020, the stakes for failing to reform our narrow and unrepresentative electoral system before the next vote could not be higher. With the Tories looking to further entrench their hold on power by redrawing the constituency boundaries, an unrepresentative two-party system could soon become an unrepresentative one-party state. If – as is possible under FPTP – the party with the highest share of the vote doesn’t win the most seats, the result could spark a constitutional crisis, undermining the fundamental tenets on which our democracy was founded.

For the time being, David Cameron will do everything in his power to clutch onto his party’s loosely-held mandate, but FPTP is no longer fit for purpose in a modern democracy and, as the hand-wringing electorate are starting to realise, nor are the politicians who defend it.

Featured image via BBC Parliament (screen shot) and Paul Morris/Flickr

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed