Monday, 26 June 2017

When winners are losers and losers win, it is time for a fair voting system

For some reason, at election times my desire to blog and tweet dries up, perhaps in the face of the barrage of material put out by all shades of opinion. For all I know another election may be round the corner to prolong my relative silence but an invitation to have my say is too good to refuse. So much has been written and said about so many aspects of recent politics that it is hard to grasp at any particular strand but reflection has singled one out which is of particular relevance to Labour, it seems to me.

The result of GE2017, surprising in so many ways, seemed to suggest a return to the 2-party model which had been challenged by the ascendency of the SNP, the substantial Green vote, Sinn Fein’s new strength and the happily short-lived threat to all things decent of UKIP. Both major parties will now claim that they provide such a broad church that there is no need for these parties but is this really the case or is the result really pragmatism on the part of the electorate wanting their votes to lead somewhere? I can sympathise with this, having lived in constituencies with MPs for whom I have not voted all my life.

A choice of parties offers every voter a real chance to express their values. Minor parties act as pressure groups on both major parties, not just one at a time. Their followers need to feel that their votes count not only during ballots but also via elected representatives. Parliament needs enriching with diversity of opinion. We only have to look across the Channel to see how complacency and over-familiarity with establish parties can lead to vacuums to be filled. So how come we have reverted to the 2-horse race?

I suggest that this has more to do with the system than with the lure of the manifestos. The only chance a vote has of impact is, in the current system, one for one of the 2 horses. But if the system were to be changed so that the race could have other potential winners, both in constituencies and in parliament, surely many would back the other runners again. In the period before the recent election campaign, when Corbyn’s Labour looked likely to shrink dramatically, there was a renewed enthusiasm in social media for fair voting/PR. Now that Labour looks electable again, this should not be allowed to drop away again because it is about fairness, a key Labour value.

Throughout the country there are voters like me, in millions, I suggest, whose vote does not count in the current system. How good would it be for us to have the chance of electing accountable representatives to councils and parliament, wherever we live; and for Labour AND Tory parties to have MPs in every part of the country, not just in “heartlands” plus the odd marginal? Democracy should give such voters a voice. Should UK not now actively espouse PR as the means to provide it not only via social media but via MPs of different parties for every part of the country?

Tom Serpell, East Sussex