Building A Better Democracy: The Case For Electoral Reform

The system is broken.

This current election handed the Conservatives a majority of 331 seats with a 36.9% of the vote. Labour 232 seats with a  30.4% of the vote. The SNP took 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland with a 4.7% of the vote. The Green Party are left with a single seat with 3.8 % of the vote, the Liberal Democrats with 8 and a 7.9% share of the vote and UKIP also leave with a single seat despite receiving 12.6% of the vote.

First past the post is not representative. It barely limps over the line towards being democratic. It is a system that favours two party politics exclusively, but the electorate have made it all too clear that since 2010 we have entered the era of multi-party politics.With a system running such an obvious democratic deficit, is it any wonder that so many people don’t feel compelled to vote?

We cannot expect those in power, who benefit enormously from first past the post, to seriously consider and offer a change to this system while it continues to benefit their electoral prospects. The tired nature of this two-party system is in no small way responsible for the self-interested nature of the professional political class.

In Scotland we’re lucky enough to have an Additional Members System (AMS) instead of First Past the Post. AMS is a form of proportional representation, which although not perfect, allows the parliament in Holyrood to better represent the genuine views of the Scottish electorate.

It’s this environment that has allowed the SNP to gather such momentum. Without AMS there’s little chance the SNP would have been given the opportunity to pursue their progressive agenda. The Scottish Green party, until recently regarded as a fringe group, are an increasingly loud voice in the Holyrood.

A key illustration of the advantage of this system will be seen in the Holyrood elections in 2016. The Westminster presence of the Labour party in Scotland was obliterated on May 7th 2015 due to years of neglect, complacency and the fact the party were totally out of touch with the concerns and desires of the Scottish electorate. But with that being said, the party still received over 700,000 votes. That is still a sizeable proportion of the Scottish population who are not represented by the SNP. But come the Holyrood 2016 elections Labour will pick up seats. The chances of them overtaking the SNP are minuscule, but those voters who exercised their franchise in support of the Labour party will be represented in parliament. That is fair, that is democratic. That is right.

It is unacceptable that the British parliament continues with the façade of representing the views of the diverse nations of the UK when they do not. Electoral reform is essential. It is the only chance this country has to truly become democratic.

At Rough Copy Media, we passionate believe that the campaign for electoral reform should be passionate, rigorous and engaging. The Electoral Reform Society already do incredible work for this cause, and it is our intention to do our bit by exploring the potential systems that Britain could adopt to replace first past the post and the implications they could have for the democratic process in Britain in the 21st century. It’s not all that much, but encouraging the debate and spreading awareness in even the smallest of ways is a start.

No matter what party you support, there is no real victory so long as we continue with electoral reform and stifle the voice of genuine representation beneath a gag of privilege and tradition.

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Voluntary sector digital comms guy, photographer & full time Henry Rollins wannabe. Often found in tartan suits. T: @CalumMcMillan2 / I: @abandonedhipster1

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