The fight for fair votes: House of Commons to debate PR in October

Polling Station Sign

A Petitions Committee petition launched under the previous administration received the 100,000 signatures to be considered for debate.

An e-petition calling on the British parliament to debate changing the country's voting system from FPTP to a form of proportional representation reached 100,000 signatures – the amount required for consideration for debate – and is set to be debated in the chamber on 30th October.

Calling for change, the petition said that: “The vast majority wants PR. Our FPTP voting system makes Parliament unrepresentative. One party got 37% of the vote and 51% of seats, while 3 parties got 24% of the vote but share 1.5% of seats. FPTP violates the democratic principle of majority rule and causes problems like costly policy reversals."

Pro-PR groups were exceptionally pleased about the announcement of the debate.

Darren Hughes of the Electoral Reform Society said in a statement:

“In the next few weeks, we’ll be writing to every MP asking them to back the motion – and we need you to, too.

The arguments for PR are stronger than ever – and that’s saying something given the travesty for democracy that was the 2015 election (the most disproportionate in UK history).”

MakeVotesMatter, which was set up following the highly disproportionate 2015 election result, said in a Tweet that: “Great news that @HoCpetitions has scheduled a debate on PR. Read our blog from April about how we all made it happen”.

According to the MakeVotesMatter blog, one of the group's board members Tim Ivorson is behind the petition.

Petitions that reach 10,000 signatures get a response from the government. This petition got the response:

“First Past The Post (FPTP) is a robust method of electing MPs. A referendum on changing the voting system was held in 2011 and the public voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the FPTP system.”

That said, it is worth pointing out that AV, which was offered as an alternative in 2011, is not a proportional system so it cannot be said that the British people have had a clear opportunity to opt for fair change.

House of Commons Chamber: Speaker's table

Will the debate lead to immediate change?

The pro-reform optimists will say of course it will, but realistically, with almost all the Tory parliamentary party committed to FPTP and most of Labour in the same camp, such a change in the immediate future looks very unlikely.

That said, the debate will probably raise more awareness of the issue, and could be an important moment in the run up to a change in the future.

Don't rule out PR being achieved in the next twenty years.