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IPPR on the Case for Electoral Reform

IPPR on the Case for Electoral Reform

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday January 04 2011

The Institute for Public Policy Research today publishes a report, titled “Worst of Both Worlds: Why First Past the Post no longer works”, which argues that the UK’s current ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP) voting system is “no longer fit for purpose.”

The report states:

“Not only does FPTP fail the ‘fairness’ test by generating major discrepancies between the number of votes secured and the proportion of seats won in the House of Commons but, as the outcome of the 2010 general election proves, FPTP can no longer claim to guarantee ‘strong single-party government’. This conclusion is significant, since this is the principal case promoted by those who champion FPTP. In other words, FPTP fails on its own terms.”

“Unless FPTP is reformed the UK will be left in the ‘worst of both worlds’: a voting system that neither delivers fair representation nor single-party majority government.”

“Not only is the principal case for FPTP being undermined by shifts in voting behaviour but these changes are also aggravating a wider set of deficiencies associated with FPTP. For instance, the rise in support for third parties makes it more difficult for individual MPs to secure a majority of support (50 per cent or more) among their local electorate, which raises serious questions about the legitimacy of MPs to represent their constituents. It also makes it much harder for governments to win an overall majority nationally, which again undermines the representativeness of governments formed under FPTP. This is compounded by the fact that the greater the number of parties competing under FPTP the more disproportional the result will become, and the more unrepresentative future parliaments will be.”

“In a time of greater political pluralism, British politics is no longer well served by a voting system that was designed for a two-party era. Nor are the interests of British democracy. Arguably the biggest democratic-deficit associated with FPTP is that election outcomes are effectively decided by a handful of voters who happen to live in all-important marginal seats. The overwhelming majority of us live in safe seats where we are increasingly neglected by the political parties both during and between elections –and where we have little chance of influencing the result of general elections.”

You can download the full report here.

A referendum is due to be held in May 2011 on electoral reform. In the proposed Alternative Vote (AV) system, voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate secures a majority of first preference votes, AV uses voting rounds to redistribute the second preferences of candidates who secure the least amount of first preference votes in the first round. The process continues with successive rounds until a candidate securing a majority of votes is elected thereby eliminating scenarios where an MP can come to power with a plurality of the votes but a minority share overall.

You can learn more about the Alternative Vote electoral system here.

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