The results of the 2015 General Election were appalling – the most unbalanced in history – out of 650 winning candidates, 322 received fewer than 50% which amassed over many constituencies. Such an imbalance can be seen in UKIP’s vote share. They received fewer than 4 million votes but gained one MP. In Northern Ireland, the DUP got 8 seats at over 184,000 votes. Together the key minor parties - Greens, Lib Dems, and UKIP - got just 10 seats.
And now in 2017 snap election, despite Conservative Party getting the largest share of the vote of any one party, 52.5% of the nation voted for progressive parties who oppose the Conservatives. Yet the deal to keep the Conservatives in power is being made by parties just 43% of the electorate. Under the First Past the Post system tactical voting is a necessary evil. We’ve seen that with the disintegration of the UKIP vote, where FPTP encourages them to vote Conservative to secure Brexit. The same has occurred with my political party, the Green Party, who stood down and encouraged tactical voting in many places. Many votes that would naturally go to the Greens have rather gone to Labour to reject Tory control.
An example of First Past the Post's failure is in Southport where most of the voters rejected the Conservative gain.
Not only do a majority oppose the Conservatives, but FPTP also creates disproportional seats compared to votes. The Conservatives have a 2.4% lead over Labour yet a huge 56 seat (8.6%) difference. The Green Party, at 1.6%, retain Caroline Lucas as the one and only Green MP (under 0.1%) but UKIP, at 1.8% have no MPs. The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats got 3% and 7.3% respectively, yet the SNP have 35 seats whereas the Liberal Democrats control just 12.
There is likewise the issue of wasted votes, which have no influence on the election outcome. When canvassing for the Green Party in Leicester city, where all city constituencies are safe Labour, I could see that people were still overwhelming tactically voting Labour to prevent a Conservative government, even though they would prefer to vote according to their political views. When you must vote tactically, our voting system subverts democracy and becomes unrepresentative of the country’s point of view.
Even with extensive tactical voting to support the two major political parties, Parliament is once again unrepresentative of how people have voted.
Those against a new proportional voting system argue that PR creates unstable coalition governments but we’ve seen the Conservatives in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and now, the Democratic Unionists. They are the principal party against FPTP, but they keep finding themselves in coalitions. Coalitions are supposed to reflect the balance of power, but the Conservative/DUP coalition has only 43% of the vote and that is hardly representative of whole of the United Kingdom.
There are countless examples of Proportional Representation working; 80% of OECD countries use proportional representation! Denmark, who since the start of the 20th century, has ruled only through coalition governments. Typically, democracies that perform best - such as the Denmark and the rest of the Scandinavian countries - represent the country through coalition governments.
It is clear that tactical voting, encouraged by the First Past the Post system, is the problem at this election. Large numbers of voters go unheard as their vote shifts to the Conservatives and Labour, who they might not completely agree with. The 2015 General Election may have seen one of the slimmest majorities in history, but the 2017 Snap General Election has shown that tactical voting is one of the many serious issues within our democracy, and it needs to be rectified with a system of Proportional Representation.
I encourage everybody reading this, if you believe in a fair democracy, support Make Votes Matter in any way you can. Proportional Representation must be on the table post-election. Multi-party politics is here to stay, and the traditional parties need to accept that.
- Reece Stafferton