The undeniable consensus that the current voting system is flawed and needs to change became ever more prevalent after the results of the 2015 General Election.
The UK General Election currently operates under the voting system known as First Past The Post (FPTP). In practice this means the UK is divided into 650 constituencies. Within these constituencies the electorate votes for candidates from their preferred party and the candidate with the most votes wins and thus gains a seat in the House of Commons. For a party to win and form a majority government, it must gain 326 seats; thus in 326 constituencies its MPs need to have the most votes.
This intrinsically disproportionate system’s flaws were highlighted this May. For example, UKIP received 13% of the vote and yet only received 0.2% of the seats (just 1 seat). How is it fair that 3.8 million people are currently being represented by one person? Contrastingly, the SNP received 1.4 million votes and yet is being represented by 56 seats. With the ever-changing cultural and social diversity of the UK, we simply cannot still be operating a primitive system that has been under such criticism. The fact that winners do not need to get a majority, but just need one more vote than anyone else has got, leads to situations where more people voted against the winner than for. Surely this is not democratic if more people are voting against rather than in favour of who should be governing their country. With more and more parties contesting elections, MPs will very often be elected with far less than majority support in their area. If an MP does not have the support of his/her constituency than how can decisions that they make have any legitimacy?
The UK has seen historically high levels of disproportionality in how votes are reflected in parliamentary seats. However, it is in the aftermath of the 2015 election that we saw increasing numbers of those who had previously not participated in politics (except via the act of voting) voicing their views. Many confused and irate voters took to social media to articulate their annoyance. Thousands of voters could not believe the unequal distribution of seats.
The 2015 turnout was at 66%, which is a slight increase from 2010 and 2005. However, the media’s coverage of the shockingly disproportionate results and the general disgruntlement from the electorate could result in a further participation crisis, in the sense that as soon as the electorate loses trust in the system, turnout will be directly impacted. Reform has to happen in order to prolong and enhance our democratic system and prevent further political apathy.
The UK is seen as a Western power leading the way for democracy. We are fortunate enough to have free and fair elections and an electoral format that is not prone to corruption. We should not be sticking to an ancient system that results in outcomes that are not favoured by the majority of people. We are fortunate enough to have a democratic system, which includes freedom of speech and expression, therefore we should be maximising and utilising our democratic privilege by implementing a system that is fundamentally proportionate and representative of society’s ever changing views and values.