Radicals and extremists benefit from UK voting system, think tank report warns

  • First Past the Post driving UK towards “fragmented, unstable, and incoherent” politics, Constitution Society report says.

  • Publication comes as MPs prepare to debate changing the voting system to Proportional Representation this afternoon (4:30pm, Tuesday 23 April 2019).

The First Past the Post voting system is increasing polarization, weakening accountability, and perpetuating an increasingly dysfunctional two-party system, a report by the Constitution Society has warned.

Published on the day MPs are set to debate electoral reform, the report rubbishes claims that the UK’s voting system ensures stable government, offers voters a clear choice at general elections, or is a defence against extreme politics.

Instead of providing voters with a straight choice between two alternatives for government, the study found elections are increasingly muddled by many MPs and candidates opposing their own party’s leadership and policies.

Instead of First Past the Post keeping extreme voices out of Parliament, the report argues this relies on the parties themselves acting as gatekeepers to suppress extremism, and that this is “a role that Britain’s main parties are no longer willing or even able to play”.

Instead, the system is empowering the more extreme voices of the party memberships, the report says, citing Donald Trump’s ascendancy as “exactly the kind of result First Past the Post supposedly prevents” which “demonstrates that it is in truth no defence against the extremes”.

David Klemperer, Research Fellow at the Constitutional Society, said:

“Rather than ensuring stable, cohesive politics, First Past The Post simply prevents Parliament from reflecting the social and political divides of Britain today. Political debate now occurs as much within the main parties as between them, reducing their coherence, leading to unstable governments and depriving voters of a clear choice at general elections.”

Klina Jordan, co-founder of Make Votes Matter, the movement for Proportional Representation, said:

“The evenhandedness evident throughout the report make its conclusions all the more devastating. This is our voting system failing spectacularly to deliver its supposed selling points.

“More than ever, we need a Parliament that truly reflects the British people. For this, we need Proportional Representation. Make Votes Matter fully endorses this report’s call for a Citizens’ Assembly to decide upon a voting system fit for 21st Century Britain.”