will PR instead of FPTP even solve the problem?

  • Post last modified:July 5, 2024
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Around 20% of the electorate voted for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party in the general election. That’s because around 47 million people are eligible to vote and 9.7 million voted for Labour.

Despite such low support, Labour won a landslide of 412 out of 650 seats to govern for five years. And Starmer is now prime minister. He is well above the 326 seats needed for a majority with no coalition.

As prime minister, Starmer can now authorise military action without a vote from parliament. As the Institute for Government explains:

The power to commit troops in armed conflict is one of the remaining Royal Prerogatives – that is powers that are derived from the Crown rather than conferred on them by Parliament

Half of Labour’s supporters are voting tactically

UK democracy gets even more ludicrous when you check why people are voting Labour. A poll from YouGov conducted in the week before election day found 48% of people voting Labour were doing so potentially tactically to get the Tories out. That’s compared to 13% who voted for ‘change’, 5% for policies, 4% for the NHS and just 1% because of Starmer’s leadership.

So half the votes for Starmer’s Labour could actually have been a negative, anti-Tory vote, which is a product of the first past the post system. That means around just 10% of the electorate would vote for Starmer’s Labour in a proportional representation system.

No wonder then Starmer has changed his tune on bringing in proportional representation. While running for the Labour leadership, he said:

I… think on electoral reform we’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their vote doesn’t count and that’s got to be addressed. We will never get full participation in our electoral system until we address that

Only 60% of the electorate voted in the general election, which as Starmer points out is partly a product of our electoral system. But now that first past the post is benefiting Starmer, he said:

It’s the right system. It has given us strong government in this country and we are not making any changes to it

Supporters of first past the post also champion the local constituency connection. One issue with this is that the national government has the overall power on budget and policies. We do already have a local government system of elected councillors.

Indeed, under first past the post, people still mostly vote for the national party rather than the individual local MP. 70% of people don’t know who there MP is.

Starmer has won his landslide despite receiving over three million less votes than Corbyn in 2017, and 500,000 less votes than Corbyn in 2019 (where the Brexit referendum re-run policy sabotaged the vote).

Our democracy needs fine tuning

Introducing proportional representation doesn’t solve everything. Israel has full proportional representation and elected a far-right coalition of colonial, genocidal maniacs. One also needs to look at media structures and education.

Another way forward is looking at the internal democracy of political parties, especially the two main parties under first past the post. Party members should be able to vote to select who the candidates are for MPs and who the party leader is, based on open selection, rather than a top down selection process.

If we legally treat both the Conservative and Labour parties as public entities that must have the same level of open, democratic access, then that would be a welcome reform.

What’s clear is the current system is highly flawed and needs to change.

Featured image via Guardian News – YouTube

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