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Drew Payne



In this coming General Election, there is no point in me casting my vote because it will not change anything. I don’t mean that all politicians are the same, and all those simplistic arguments against voting. I mean that because I live in a safe Labour constituency, it doesn’t matter which party I vote for, my constituency will return a Labour MP (Member of Parliament).

In the 2019 election, my local MP kept her seat with a 32,000 majority. She received 70.1% of the constituency votes. The next candidate only got 16.3% of the vote. It doesn’t matter who I vote for, my local constituency will always return a Labour MP.

A “safe” constituency is where an MP/political party are guaranteed to be re-elected at whatever election, even if the old MP is retiring (such as is happening in my local constituency) the same political party is guaranteed to hold the seat. And this has been going on for decades. 192 parliamentary seats haven’t changed hands since 1945 or earlier (30% of MPs), while 65 seats haven’t changed hands since 1918 or earlier (10% of MPs). This means that nearly 14 million voters are living in constituencies that have not changed parties since the Second World War, and nearly 5 million voters haven’t seen their constituency change parties since the end of the First World War. How is this fair?

This has happened because we have the First Past The Post electoral system. Each voter gets one vote with which they elect their local MP. The candidate that gets the most votes, even if it is only by one vote, wins the seat. The voter only votes for their local MP, they don’t vote for the party they want to govern. In reality, most voters vote for the party they want to govern, but their votes don’t go towards that party because their vote is only for the local MP. Because of the nature of First Past The Post, the number of MPs elected to parliament does not reflect the percentage of the national votes their party received.

The 2019 election:

the Conservatives won 43.6% of the national vote but won 52.6% of the seats in Parliament,

Labour won 32.1% of the national vote, 12.5% less than the Conservatives, but they won 31.1% of the seats in Parliament, 21.5% less than the Conservatives,

the Libdems won 11.5% of the national vote but won only 1.7% of the seats in Parliament,

the Greens won 2.7% of the national vote but won only 0.2% of the seats in Parliament,

and The Brexit Party won 2% of the national vote but won 0% of the seats in Parliament.

How is any of this fair?

First Past The Post doesn’t mean that the candidate who won the majority of the votes wins the seat. The more candidates standing in a constituency means that the winning candidate doesn’t have to win the majority of votes, just more than the candidate who came second. In the 2015 general election, Claire Hanna won the seat of South Belfast with just 24.5% of the total votes – the lowest winning proportion in UK history. In the 2019 Election, Michelle Gildernew won the Fermanagh & South Tyrone seat by only 57 votes, out of a constituency of 72,848, a 0.07% majority. Again, how is many of this fair?

How can we say we have elected our government when the electoral system often, effectively, does not allow our vote to count?

Having so many safe seats also makes our politicians, in these seats, lazy, they don’t have to work to get re-elected. In the last two General Elections, my local MP barely telephoned in her campaign. She scarcely appeared in our constituency, only taking part in a few high profile hustings. She certainly didn’t do much door-to-door campaigning. The only door-to-door campaigning we received were election leaflets pushed through our front door. We didn’t even see many local activists. Why should they bother? She was guaranteed to be re-elected. And in-between elections, she has been a rare presence in our constituency, but again why does she need to bother? There’s no question she won’t be re-elected, or that the Labour candidate won’t be. This only makes for poor political representation for local communities, when they live in a safe seat, no matter which political party. When I lived in West London, in a marginal constituency, my MP actively campaigned during elections and she was seen very visibly in the local area between elections. She had to work to ensure she was re-elected.

Britain is the only country in Europe still using First Past The Post. 40 out of the 43 other European countries use some form of proportional representation to elect their governments (8). Why are we still clinging onto First Past The Post?

Proportional Representation or Single Transferable Vote systems will help remove safe seats and make our votes count more, it will also make politicians have to work for our votes. They would not be able to rely on being an MP in a safe seat. It would also mean that our government will better reflect the votes cast for them nationally. No longer will a political party win 43.6% of the national vote but win 52.6% of the parliamentary seats. It would also mean that there would be a higher chance of a hung parliament, were no one party has an overall majority of seats and could not form a government on their own. But this would mean that political parties would have to form coalitions and political packs, they would have to work closer with other parties, they would have to work harder. It would mean that small, fringe parties would also get parliamentary seats, though only a small number. If we’d had some form of proportional representation at the 2019 election, then The Brexit Party could have won 2% of the parliamentary seats and The Greens could have won 2.7% of MPs. This would still force all our political parties to work at their politics and work more closely together. With a coalition government, would we have had the chaos of this government, were we’ve had three different Prime Ministers in one parliament, and only one of them being elected by the British people?

Some form of Proportional Representation is the only way forward for our electoral system, otherwise millions of people will carry on seeing their votes just not count, the make-up of our parliament will not reflect the national votes cast and far too many MPs will see their re-elections green-light, without them needing to work for it.

Of course, all that said, I have no say on the make-up of the upper chamber of our government, the House of Lords. All their members have been appointed by different governments, and appointed for life. How is this fair?

This country is well overdue electoral and parliamentary reform, but when will it happen?


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