Does Britain need a new electoral system?

“On 26th June 2017, a full 17 days after the results of the general election were declared, a deal was finally agreed between the minority Conservative government and the Democratic Unionist Party to enable the government, on a case by case basis, to get its legislation through parliament.

The results of the 2017 general election, which saw the Conservatives reduced to 318 seats despite a 5.5 percent increase in their vote share, were realised under a system designed to deliver stable, single-party governments.

On 42.4 percent, the Conservatives had not only increased their vote share (up from 36.9 percent in 2015), they had achieved the same vote share as in 1983 – a year which saw a landslide 397 Conservative MPs elected.

And yet, the Prime Minister returned to parliament having lost her majority whilst the Labour opposition drafted an alternative Queen’s Speech. First Past the Post had delivered the country neither a decisive outcome nor a stable government.

The volatility of this supposedly ‘strong and stable’ electoral system has been exposed in the last three general elections. In 2010 First Past the Post delivered us a coalition government, the first since 1945, under a system designed to produce single-party majorities. In 2015, First Past the Post gave us the most disproportionate election to date with a majority government secured by under 37 percent of the vote share.

Now, in 2017, despite over 80 percent of votes going to just two parties (the highest combined vote share since 1970), First Past the Post could not deliver a majority government. The 2017 general election was the third strike for First Past the Post – it’s out.”

This is the opening of a study by the Electoral Reform Society of the 2017 General Election which offers projections for the result under three different electoral systems. It is a compelling case for change – but is anyone listening and how do we effect that change?


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