Opinion
3 Jun 2019 02:30pm

Debate: will a PR model provide the desired political system?

A panel of experts, academics and public figures discuss if a proportional representation model will provide the political system people want

debate pr 630
Caption: Image: Getty Images

Peter Franklin

ConservativeHome blog

“If it’s wrong for a party with thirty-something% of the vote to get all of the power, why is it right for a party with thirty-something % of the vote to get none of the power?”

Lana Payne

Atlantic director for Canadian trade union Unifor, in her column for The Telegram

“This remains the sorry state of Canadian politics, enabled by a broken first past the post system. A system that encourages divisiveness and hyper-partisanship. Our political system is failing Canadians.

“When a political party with the minority of votes can govern with all the power, this leaves people feeling discouraged and not represented. Simply, their votes don’t count.

“The federal Liberals erred badly by breaking their electoral reform promise. Prime minister Justin Trudeau had said the 2015 election would be the last first past the post election. It won’t be and it could end up being his biggest regret.

“A proportional representation (PR) voting system as is in place in more than 90 countries around the world would be more democratic, not to mention fairer.”

UK Government

Response to the petition ‘Change the voting system to PR’

“In line with the result of the Parliamentary Voting System referendum in 2011, the government will not change the current first past the post voting system for elections to the House of Commons.”

Electoral Reform Society

On Twitter, in response to the above…

“The government have just rejected strong calls for proportional representation... on the basis of a 2011 vote on a non-proportional electoral system.”

Darren Hughes

Chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society

“Our continued reliance on the out-of-date first past the post system puts us at odds with other modern democracies. It’s a divisive voting system totally out of sync with how voters want to be represented. All too often voters feel powerless and distant from political decisions: updating parliament’s outdated electoral system would help to remedy this.

“The voting system contributes directly to the political impasse witnessed at the national level: polarising our politics and encouraging a majoritarian mindset – despite hung parliaments now becoming the norm.

“Recent polling shows 37% of voters no longer back the two main parties, showing the urgency of the need for real political reform: the party system is fragmenting but the structures of Westminster remain locked in the 19th century. Now is the time to move to a truly representative, participatory politics, where every vote counts.”

Suzanne Anton

Former attorney general, British Columbia

“When you vote for a political party you are giving over your authority to that political party to appoint people to the legislature. After the election they go into the backrooms and they figure out what the government should be and what policies that government has.”

Drew Penrose

Law and policy director, FairVote

“The United States Congress functions when members have enough independence from party leadership to form cross-party coalitions and make compromises. As partisanship has hardened, Congress has lost its ability to function effectively, ceding power to the presidency and the courts.

“In 2017, a bill was introduced that would adopt the single-transferable vote for all House elections. That approach would keep with our tradition of voting for candidates, not parties; it would retain local representation; and it would finally give Americans fair representation and competitive elections.

“The idea is still new to many Americans, but the need has become clear. Voters want a congress that functions in service of the voters, and a proportional system is the best way forward."

Stephen Kinnock

Labour MP for Aberavon, on Twitter

“Politicians of all stripes must now work to champion proportional representation – replacing our archaic system with a democratic system fit for the 21st century, where every vote counts."

Owen Winter

Co-founder, Make Votes Matter

“Millions feel unrepresented because first past the post (FPTP) distorts how people vote. In 2017 the DUP and Conservatives won a majority of seats with just 43% of the vote. The Greens, UKIP and Lib Dems got just 2% of MPs for 11% of the vote. Instead of all votes counting equally, FPTP privileges a small number of swing voters in an even smaller number of marginal seats.

“Most countries use some form of proportional representation (PR). Under PR, seats in parliament match how people have voted. There are various PR systems but they are well tested around the world. Evidence shows that PR countries have higher voter turnout and better representation of women and minorities. Voters in these systems tend to have higher levels of satisfaction with democracy.

“The democratic case for PR is undeniable, but PR systems have also been shown to improve social, environmental and economic outcomes. Political scientists have found that PR countries have better long-term decision making, take faster action on climate change, are more equal and less likely to go to war.”

David Klemperer

Research fellow at the Constitutional Society

“Britain’s first past the post voting system is preserving a dysfunctional two-party system. By ensuring the dominance of two main parties, FPTP is supposed to guarantee coherent, single-party government, and elections that offer voters a clear choice. But two-party politics no longer accurately expresses the full spectrum of divides within British society, and so the main parties are themselves internally split.

“The result is incoherent government, and a muddled choice for voters. Rather than ensuring stability, FPTP causes dysfunction, by preventing the party system from accurately reflecting the political conflicts of today.

“What we need is an electoral system that will allow the party system to change. The good options for a new electoral system are discussed in my recent Constitution Society report, The Electoral System and British Politics: they range from a Frenchstyle Two Round System, to Proportional Representation systems such as the Single Transferable Vote used in Ireland, or the Additional Member System used in Scotland.”


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