A personal view by Louise Baldry (Broadland Labour Party Womens’ Officer)

Why do we need to ask the Labour Party to look at Electoral reform? Look at this chart.

GE 2017 Results Chart
GE 2017 Results Chart

This chart shows how we voted during the general election in 2017. On the left is the number of seats each party got. On the right, the chart shows the proportion of the votes cast which went to each Party.

Clearly, most people didn’t vote for a conservative led government, only 42.4% did. Using First Past The Post doesn’t mean that the party who gets the most votes, gets the most seats. Proportional representation means that if a party gets 40% of the votes, they get 40% of the seats. It means that every vote counts, regardless of where you live or who you vote for.

Applying this formula to the 2017 result, allocating parliamentary seats on the basis of the proportion of votes cast for each Party, the result looks very different;

Conservatives – 275 seats (318)

Labour – 260 seats (262)

SNP – 19 seats (35)

Liberal Democrats – 48 seats (12)

DUP – 6 seats (10)

Sinn Fein – 4 seats (7)

Plaid Cymru – 3 seats (4)

Green Party – 10 seats (1)

UKIP – 12 seats (0)

SDLP – 2 (seats 0)

(figures in brackets is the number of seats actually achieved)

Why is PR important? Because at the moment only marginal votes matter.

Here in Broadland, our area has been Tory for forever, and so our votes haven’t mattered. As a result, our elected MP has ignored our area and has basically done very little as he was guaranteed the result he wanted. (The turn out was 72.55%?). I wonder whether because our area is seen as a forgone conclusion under FPTP, people don’t bother voting as their individual vote doesn’t count for anything.

Using FPTP candidates can be elected with a very small share of the vote when there are more than two candidates standing in a constituency. So this turns into tactical voting. Rather than being asked, “Who do I want to represent me?” it becomes “Who do I need to vote for to keep **** out.” Either of the previously mentioned reasons could be why Aylsham voted the way they did. What’s the point in voting or I’m going to vote Lib Dem so that the Tories don’t get in. If we had had a PR system, according to the Proportional Representsation and Labour in the 21st Century report (published in 2017) we would almost certainly now have a Labour-led Government rather than the Conservative-DUP coalition. Political scientists have also identified that countries with proportional democracies have outcomes such as:

  • Lower income inequality,
  • Greater likelihood of being welfare states,
  • 4.75% higher social expenditure on average
  • Fairer distribution of public goods
  • More effective action on climate change
  • Lower likelihood of armed conflict
  • Better long-term decision making

You should notice that these are also Labour outcomes too.

In summary, First Past The Post delivers Parliaments that do not reflect the voters. It follows that the Labour Party should initiate a consultation about views on proportional representation.

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