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Monday, Sep 20, 2021

Our democracy is broken – Britain needs electoral reform now

Our democracy is broken – Britain needs electoral reform now

Counting all votes equally is the absolute bare minimum for a democracy. We can take back control by changing the system
It’s already clear the UK doesn’t have real democracy. Forty-four per cent of the country voted Tory, with the majority voting for parties including Labour, the Greens, the SNP and the Lib Dems, and yet the Tories have 56 per cent of the MPs in parliament so the party can pass any law it likes.

That means the majority of voters have no actual say in our “democracy”. That’s because our first past the post (FPTP) voting system doesn’t include the millions of votes for the losing candidates across 650 constituencies. And now things are getting worse.

Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected as London mayor under the two-stage preferential system where you can put a second choice so everyone gets a say. Shortly after, the government announced plans to do mayoral elections under FPTP. It also announced plans to ban people without photo ID from voting, knowing that would exclude two million people from our “democracy”, and disproportionately affect those in poverty and people from ethnic minorities.

In the last election, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood justified the decision not to let 16-year-olds vote because they would vote Labour and that would stop Brexit. The majority then voted for second referendum parties but under FPTP, that gave the Tories an 80-seat majority.

The new Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, which lets police fine peaceful protesters up to £2,500 for being loud enough to put people at risk of feeling “serious unease” is deeply problematic. Let me rephrase that. If an MP is passing laws that hurt people and you shouting about it makes them feel uneasy about doing so, that MP can then tell the police, who can then, after a warning, fine you.

We all saw what happened at the Sarah Everard vigil. Now we’re meant to believe that a police force that is already able to tackle a woman to the ground for mourning the death of someone murdered by a police officer, needs more powers to suppress protest. And things will only get worse until we address the real problem.

Changing the voting system isn’t sexy. The campaign behind it will never have the money that “Take Back Control” had. But the irony is… that’s the only way the people of Britain will ever actually take control.

In all but three elections since the Second World War the majority of voters have chosen Labour, Lib Dems, SNP and the Greens, yet the Tories have been in power for two-thirds of that time. The interests of the majority of the UK haven’t been properly represented for most of the last 70 years.

Is it any surprise that the UK has such breathtaking inequality? Covid only helped expose it. Giving the best A-Level grades to rich schools, depriving the north of furlough support, until London needed it, seeking to let poor kids go hungry... these aren’t things the majority wanted.

That’s why proportional representation is so crucial to people’s lives, so that the needs of the whole country can be heard. So we must not let ourselves be silenced by those who don’t want us to talk about it.

We’ve all heard the MPs who say we already voted on electoral reform in 2011. The irony is that those are often the MPs who voted not to let people vote on proportional representation in that referendum, choosing instead to make it about a watered-down option similar to how we run mayoral elections.

Counting all votes equally is the absolute bare minimum for a democracy, and I intend to be loud about that. That’s why I’m supporting Make Votes Matter's Make Noise for PR event today (31 July).

This country is tired of being democratically silenced by our two-party system, and we’ll be using whatever we’ve got in the house to show that.

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