Letter to Editor: Time to Sort The System with Proportional Representation

Politics / Mon 19th Jun 2023 at 09:54am

Dear Editor,

I AM writing to share my experience and highlight the significance of the recent Sort The System mass lobby of Parliament on 24 May 2023.

As one of the hundreds of people who attended the lobby from all corners of the UK, I saw the depth and breadth of support for changing the electoral system and implementing proportional representation (PR) voting for Westminster elections. I attended that event to personally inform Robert Halfon (MP Harlow) that we need to change the electoral system.

On that note:

Did you know that some of the most fairest, most stable democracies and economies in the world already use PR? Countries include: R of Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Did you know that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are UK regions that currently already use PR? So does the London Assembly. It’s just England that doesn’t use PR, nor the entire UK during general elections.

So, why does this matter?

  • First Past The Post ( FPTP ) , the current system in England, doesn’t give everyone an equal voice that counts given FPTP’s post code lottery where “safe seats” are prioritised.
  • Did you know that in 2005 Labour won 55% of the seats in Westminster’s Parliament with only 35% of the electorate who voted? The lowest ever on record! So in this case, 65% of the electorate have no say in parliament.
  • Did you know that in 2019 the Conservatives won 56.2% of the seats with only 43.6% of the electorate who voted? Here, just over 56% of the electorate had no say in parliament.
  • Many voters, if they can even be bothered or understand it, have to resort to “tactical” voting to hope they can block their most undesirable party out of governing the UK. I believe Russel Brand coined the term “voting for the least worst party” during a BBC R4 broadcast in October, 2014.
  • Many voters feel disenfranchised, frustrated, disempowered, and let down by FPTP and the short term party policies when effectively a minority of votes steer a majority of policies leaving many out of the equation.

We need this change because UK politics isn’t working for most of us: It doesn’t represent many of us, and our current modern diverse needs. Life is getting harder and Westminster is letting it happen.

I was joined by numerous other constituents from all over the UK who also back the need for change. People came from as far as Ceredigion to Carlisle; St Ives to Suffolk Coastal taking the long journey to London to make their voices heard. Many voters sought a meeting with their MP to make the case that to deliver real and lasting change for people in the UK, we need to first sort the system and embrace proportional representation voting.

During the lobby, some of us had the opportunity to meet with Harlow’s MP Robert Halfon and discuss the urgent need for electoral reform. It was encouraging to see their willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue and consider the demands of their constituents. However, it is crucial that others also raise this issue with their respective MPs to demonstrate that the demand for change is growing.

I was proud to be part of the Sort The System lobbying campaign on the 24 May that showcased the power of collective action and the shared belief that our democracy should be fair, inclusive, and representative of all voices. I urge anyone who supports changing the electoral system to let their MP know why – and demand they too support sorting the system.

Together, we can amplify our voices and push for the democratic reform that our country so desperately needs.

Yours sincerely,

Ernesto Johnson

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5 Comments for Letter to Editor: Time to Sort The System with Proportional Representation:

David Forman
2023-06-19 10:15:37

If one looks at the number of extremists, fascists in particular, in European nation state parliaments one should realise this is facilitated by proportional representation (PR). While I understand the desire for a more democratic means of electing governments, it should be borne in mind that it comes with downsides. If you're happy with fascists sitting in the House of Commons, please knock yourself out with PR.

2023-06-19 10:52:39

Is PR really a fairer system? Some things have been glossed over here to support a point rather than looking at what really happens. Do you get more representation? Yes absolutely but... 1) If you have a ballot where everyone numbers one to six with candidates, often the 2nd or 3rd best placed candidates wins. It works by taking all the second choice of the votes in 6th and redistributing and the process continues until you get to two candidates left and one gets over 50%. What can happen is then the person who originally won under FPTP with 35% say could end up with 48% of the overall vote. So the person most people voted for doesn't actually get in. This usually occurs in favour of Labour and the Lib Dems because the second favourite party for many is them, if you don't vote conservative first time round then you're not likely to put Labour as you're second choice so it weakens the vote somewhat. 2) If you end up with a load of 2nd and 3rd placers then you've gone too far the other way and the popular party actually ends up with nothing. So you can address this an AV Top up for example. This then takes all off the numbers of votes then distributes seats based on those numbers to give a fairer representation. The huge problem with this is that it goes against a core of British politics, you don't actually get to choose who gets the seat or vote for them, you suddenly nationalise all politics as these candidates are just chosen by the party and are posted to represent somewhere with no person in that area saying that is who they want. Do you want an MP who's got nothing to do with your area and you've had no say in electing them? How do you get your local issues raised? That's not very democratic. 3) it increases the risk of a hung parliament. While it was never good to have the large majority of what Blair or even Boris got as those parties can just get anything they like through, if we're constantly in deadlock, nothing will get through. Speak to people from the countries mentioned above and they will tell you legislation etc is very hard and few things other than the big ticket or obvious items will actually get made into new legislation. So while yes you can get more fairer representation through this voting system, there are some massive problems with it. We don't operate in a two party system, but we're just not set up like these other countries and really we only have 3 parties, 4 if you count Scotland. Our current system means yes someone winning the most votes in a turnout of say 50% means that only 30% of the people there actually voted and it is true that it doesn't matter if you win by 10 votes or 10,000 you still get that seat, but at least that is the most popular choice of those who voted. PR would muddy this system and we could end up with a government set up of mainly nobody's first choice which is almost even worse. We should have a debate on these things but we need a debate with all the facts, and while it's great to put these things forward, this proposal above is awfully bias and will influence people without going into the detail of what works and what doesn't. We need something to fix the number of people voting, whether that be reform or mandatory voting, i don't know, but we also need to be aware of the dangers of changing a system that works ok.

2023-06-19 13:31:08

Well, yes, the problem does exist and both idears are complicated for many people. The bigger problem is why people do not vote at all. I consider the public in general are (1) fed up with lies and (2) being ignored. If only we had more honest people in politics. People like Johnson in the UK and Trump in the States have done so much damage.

2023-06-29 16:51:32

You cannot get a bigger example of PR than the united nations. 193 member states and do you know what they achieve? The ability to spend 29.6 billion dollars a year and achieve absolutely nothing

Dave Hamilton
2023-10-06 07:48:00

Responding to some of the counterarguments from above. lost in the middle: analysis of the 2019 GE by the Electoral Reform society showed that 'across the UK, over 22 million votes (70.8%) were ignored because they went to non-elected candidates or were surplus to what the elected candidate needed. In total, 14.5 million people (45.3% of all voters) cast their vote for a non-elected candidate'. Granted PR systems of voting may not be 100% representative but, given the above evidence, wouldn't you agree they'd do a better job of returning a more representative parliament? Pauline: if the UK Parliament did change the voting system to some form of PR and then demonstrate to the voting public the difference that made - that their vote actually counted and returned a more representative Parliament - maybe voters in future elections would not feel so 'ignored'? David Forman: Sweden has had PR since the early 1970's and has returned predominantly Socialist led coalition governments ever since. It is now one of the most equal societies in the world. Granted, all countries have their extremists (fascists amongst them) who may even be voted for and called upon to form part of a coalition government. But fully functioning coalition governments require all partners to compromise and any extreme views would then be subjected to scrutiny, as they should be.

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