Multi-party system will put electoral reform back on the table

Houses of Parliament

The rise of the smaller parties in the UK will give a second chance to electoral reform.

First-past-the-post, the electoral system used in the UK to choose our parliaments, has been in place for decades. Back in the days of a two party system, first-past-the-post worked well, but no more is this the case.

For example, back in the 1959 election, the two main parties in the UK managed to get 93.2% of the vote between them. Our voting system worked well when there was a two party system.

However in 2005, the last election where one party achieved an overall majority, Tony Blair's Labour party only got 35% of the vote - yet they had over 50% of the seats.

Additionally, the latest YouGov poll puts both Labour and the Tories on 32% each. If those results are repeated in May, and say Labour gets a majority then that will be incredibly unfair. Less than two thirds of voters will end up with something they did not vote for. On the other hand, if neither party gets a majority then coalitions and deals will be needed, just like in a proportional system. If coalitions are going to be the new norm then let's have them formed in a parliament where the percentage of votes roughly equals the percentage of seats - for each party.

Proportional representation will soon make a comeback, and one major reason for this is the rise of the smaller parties.

Polls indicate that UKIP will do well in terms of their share of the vote, but this will barely translate into seats. The most UKIP can hope for is a handful of seats. Why? Because the first-past-the-post system is against them and other smaller parties?

Additionally, recent polls have suggested that the Green parties across the UK are doing considerably well. However, they will be lucky to increase their share of seats beyond their one in Brighton, even if they triple their vote share.

As for the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon's party is likely to do well in May. Some analysis has said they will get a large swathe of seats in Scotland. If they gain in vote share but not seats, then this will highlight the democratic deficit that comes with our current voting system. Or if they do extremely well and gain most of the seats in Scotland then their popularity could be overestimated as they could get perhaps 80% of the seats with 45% of the votes in Scotland.

The UK's political landscape has changed dramatically. Including UKIP in the TV debates, and calls for other parties to be included, clearly shows this shift in politics.

Surely a fairer system is needed to reflect our diverse political system. Of course the current system has its beneftis, one being that it results in stable majority governments. But with the possibility of no party getting over 35% of the vote and the possibility of coalitions becoming normal, why have this outdated system, when instead there could be one that represents people more fairly?

The current coalition may not be that popular, but parties will adapt and voters will get used to the change.

The UK now has a multi-party system. Proportional representation needs to make a comeback in the political debate.


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