How political votes are transferred into the election of MP’s has caused much controversy. The 2015 General Election saw UKIP gain just one seat – despite receiving almost four million votes. This has contributed to calls for Proportional Representation (PR) – an electoral system in which political parties are awarded seats in proportion to the number of votes cast.
Jon Stone of the Independent newspaper conducted research into the amount of seats parties would have gained at the 2017 General Election had the PR system been in place (see chart below).
Mr Winter, Co-Founder and Spokesperson of the cross-party committee Makes Votes Matter, is a firm believer in the system. He said: “The Conservatives’ share of the votes increased in comparison to the 2015 General Election, but their share of the votes in parliament decreased.
“More often that not in UK General Elections, under FPTP (First Past The Post) a party that has either experienced this (like in 2015 when the same happened to Labour) or the reverse: losing vote share but gaining seats (like the Conservatives in 1983 and Labour in February 1974). These anomalies won’t happen under PR.
“PR would result in a more collaborative, positive politics. It would mean voters being genuinely represented and political parties working together to solve problems. It would also mean politicians having to fight for every single vote, rather than concentrating on the small number of voters living in marginal constituencies.
“Research indicates that PR would have a positive impact on our society in a broad range of ways. PR countries generally have lower income inequality, better environmental protections, more long term policy making and (they are) less likely to go to war.”
Making Votes Matter, claim that 68% of votes at the last General Election were ‘wasted.’ Mr Winter comments: “We mean the sum of the number of votes for defeated candidates, and the number of votes cast for winning candidates above the number they needed to win.
“Wasted votes is a commonly used term in discussing the efficiency of electoral systems. The point being made is that the majority of votes made no practical difference to the electoral outcome.
“We encourage everyone to go out and vote, but unfortunately, we know that many millions of people are left unrepresented by the current system.”
As alluded to earlier despite receiving just under 4 million votes at the 2015 General Election, UKIP gained just one seat – a situation Mr Winter called “unacceptable.” He stated: “Democrats, whether or not they agree with UKIP, must intend that all voters are properly represented in parliament.
“It isn’t only UKIP that are underrepresented by FPTP either. Last month, and in 2015, the Green Party and Liberal Democrats were too.
“Most of all, this fact shows how FPTP stifles choice and harms democracy. The biggest losers from FPTP are voters who struggle to shoehorn their diverse opinions into a political system that cannot cope, leading to a dramatic rise in tactical voting and political disengagement.”
FPTP works by electing the candidate with the most votes in each constituency – all other votes are disregarded. Mr Winter adds on this much derided system: “It distorts elections and misrepresents how people vote. FPTP has always been undemocratic, but its performance in the UK general elections has been worsening over time and it’s increasingly clear that FPTP fails even on its own terms.
“One of the main selling points of FPTP is that is supposedly provides ‘stable’ government’s with huge majorities. In recent years this has clearly not been the case. At the 2017 General Election, no party won a majority of seats and the Conservatives have been forced to rely on the DUP – a party that won just 0.9% of votes. This means that it is possible for the Conservatives to form a government despite the parties combined receiving only 43% of the vote.
“Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats barely received more MP’s than the DUP, despite winning more than eight times as many votes; the Greens have only one MP, despite receiving twice as many votes as the DUP; and UKIP are excluded from the House of Commons entirely, despite receiving twice as many votes as the DUP.
“One of the biggest problems of FPTP is that if you vote for a losing candidate in your local constituency, your vote doesn’t influence the final election result. Additionally, if you vote for a candidate that has far more votes than any of their competitors, your vote doesn’t influence the result.
“In this way, millions of people have no say on the final result and are locked out of meaningful representation.”
Finally, Mr Winter revealed that only Labour and the Conservatives have not made PR official party policy. He said: “Labour is one of only two parties holding Westminster parliamentary seats in Great Britain that hasn’t made PR party policy. The other is the Conservative party.
“Despite support from some Conservatives and Conservative Action for Electoral Reform, Labour is much closer to making PR party policy. Whilst maintaining FPTP is official Conservative policy, this isn’t the case for Labour.
“If Labour were to back PR, it would almost completely isolate the Conservative party in its opposition to PR. For that reason, it is a top priority for our campaign.”
With thanks to Owen Winter
Permission to use any of the quotes in this interview, is granted subject to appropriate accreditation of the source.
Follow me on Twitter: @RyanHillback
Make Votes Matter is not affiliated to any political party.
For more information visit: https://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/
Follow them on Twitter: @MakeVotesMatter