Electoral Reform Now!

I try to show how unjust the First Past the Post system used to elect MPs in UK General Elections is.

In the 2017 UK General Election the Conservatives got just over 6 percent more of the votes than Labour, but got 21 percent more MPs (source). The Scottish Nationalist Party got fewer than half the votes of the Liberal Democrats—yet got nearly three times the MPs. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) got ten MPs, with a little more than half the Green Party's votes (1 MP)—and a little less than half of UKIP's (0—zero!—MPs).

This is not fair. This is not a good representation of the electorate. This is the result of the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system used in UK General Elections—and in many former British colonies. This needs to change. We need to improve our democratic process and ensure that every vote counts.

One way to redress this imbalance between vote ratio and MPs is to switch to a system of proportional representation (PR). In the table below I've calculated what the number of MPs would be for each party if we used PR. Note that I've rounded up to the nearest MP, as electing 76% of an MP could be deeply traumatic for those involved and could discourage people from standing. (You could just as well round down and get a slightly lower number of MPs.)

Table 1: Number of MPs for each party with First Past the Post in the UK 2017 General Election, vs hypothetical numbers with Proportional Representation
Party Votes % of the vote MPs currently MPs with PR Gain/Loss in MPs
Conservative 13667213 42.45 318 276 -42
Labour 12874985 39.99 262 260 -2
Scottish National Party 977569 3.04 35 20 -15
Liberal Democrat 2371772 7.37 12 48 36
Democratic Unionist Party 292316 0.91 10 6 -4
Sinn Fein 238915 0.74 7 5 -2
Plaid Cymru 164466 0.51 4 3 -1
Green Party 525371 1.63 1 11 10
UKIP 593852 1.84 0 12 12
Social Democratic & Labour Party 95419 0.30 0 2 2
Ulster Unionist Party 83280 0.26 0 2 2
Alliance Party 64553 0.20 0 1 1
The Yorkshire Party 20958 0.07 0 0 0
National Health Action 16119 0.05 0 0 0
Christian Peoples Alliance 5869 0.02 0 0 0
British National Party 4642 0.01 0 0 0
Monster Raving Loony Party 3890 0.01 0 0 0
Women's Equality Party 3580 0.01 0 0 0
Pirate Party 2321 0.01 0 0 0
English Democrats 1913 0.01 0 0 0
Workers Revolutionary Party 771 0.00 0 0 0
Social Democratic Party 469 0.00 0 0 0
Others 186675 0.58 1 4 3
Total 32196918 100 650 650 0

One challenge is to get a good balance of MPs with a local connection to the area they represent, and proportionate representation for the country as a whole. Another toughie—at least for me personally—is that under proportional representation UKIP would have 12 MPs. But this is the cost of democracy: we cannot simply silence the voices we don't like.

The Electoral Reform Society is the UK's leading voice for democratic reform. They have a list of voting systems on their website, several of which addresses this. The biggest challenge they face, however, is to get any proportional system through Parliament—given the incumbent party would lose out massively. Nevertheless, I think it's important to try.

Date: 10 June 2017

Author: Stig Brautaset

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