Tuesday, 11 May 2010


I was asked to do an 'op ed' piece for the local newspaper on whether we need voting reform in 250 words. Well, 250 words is never going to cover what could be a PhD. thesis but this is what I submitted.

The simple answer is yes. 

The newly formed coalition government of Britain is an anomaly because it can claim the support of more than 50% of British voters.  Such an outcome does not normally happen under our electoral system.

In 2005 the Labour government took office with 37% of the votes cast, which is a pretty normal result for Britain.  What that meant in practice was that for the past five years the views of 63% of the population who voted were ignored as Labour ruled alone.  If you also remember that only 61% of people voted in 2005 that means that the Labour government had the support of fewer than a third of voters overall. Two thirds of British voters were simply not listened to.

Locally, the system means that in most constituencies, like Henley, the winner can be elected with just a third of votes, so that the views of two thirds of voters are ignored.

Such a result just isn't fair.  Our system should deliver a Parliament which reflects the range of views in our country.  If we had a fairer electoral system the numbers of MPs in the House of Commons would better match the votes cast for each party.  That would mean that we would have more Green MPs, some UKIP MPs - and yes, some BNP MPs.  A proportional system might deliver some unpleasant results like this but they could be addressed in the design of a new system.

A fairer voting system may lead to more power sharing but it is democratic. As the new Conservative Prime Minister has demonstrated, politicians adapt to new realities remarkably quickly. This year we have a majority government. Under a fairer voting system we could have a majority government every time.

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