We Need Electoral Reform, But How Do We Go About It?

By: Reece Lingard, Student Voices writer

When it comes to political reform nothing seems quite as confusing as electoral reform. There are multiple different systems that could be implemented and all in many different categories. In this article I will try and break it down and show you what reform might look like.

Let’s start with looking at what we have now. First Past The Post (FPTP) is a majoritarian system. This basically means whoever wins the most votes in a constituency wins. FPTP often delivers majority governments (2010 General Election being a recent exception) and as it requires party’s to have concentrated support it keeps extremist parties like the English Democrats out of power. Despite this FPTP does not make the number of seats proportional to votes. For example at the 2015 General Election the SNP won 1,454,436 votes and 56 seats. UKIP won 3,881,099, however they won just one seat showing just how disproportional the system is.

A different system would be Party List. Party List is a proportional system (PR) meaning seats are proportional to the number of votes a party gets. This system is already in use in the UK, but only for EU Parliament elections. An example is let’s say there is a constituency with   100 000 people. The Lib Dems win 40% of the vote (I know just run with it), so they are allocated 4 representatives for that seat. The Greens also win 40%, so they also get 4 representatives. The Tories, however win just 20%, so they only get two representatives. As you can see this means seats become multi member constituencies and nationally will create a more proportional result. PR systems do throw up a number of problems. One is that having more than one representative will weaken an important MP constituent link. Also PR systems make it virtually impossible for a single party to win a majority creating Coalitions that may not be stable or keep the largest party out of power.  

However there is an alternative. As we can see both FPTP and PR have bonus points. So, why not put both together? The Additional Member System (AMS) uses both FPTP constituencies and PR constituencies, this means the electorate will place one vote in their constituency and another for a party list in their region. This system allows a more proportional result while not having some of the quirks of PR and gives mostly majority governments without the total unfairness of FPTP. There is also the advantage that we know this system works as it’s used to elect MSPs in the Scottish parliament.

It was good to see Chuka Umunna last year with Jonathan Reynolds press for AMS in the House of Commons. However with attention on Europe and little appetite with the Tory’s for electoral reform the next election will still be fought on FPTP. But if other parties stand on this issue and show what changes will mean 2020 could be the last disproportional election.  

Meet the author:

Reece Lingard
I'm a college student from Sheffield studying Politics, History and Sociology. I'm a keen member of Labour and Progress and intend on campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU. Tw: @LingardReece.
We Need Electoral Reform, But How Do We Go About It? We Need Electoral Reform, But How Do We Go About It? Reviewed by Admin on 13:02 Rating: 5


  1. Very much an A Level politics piece

  2. A great many European countries live under pretty well permanent Coalitions and seem none the worse for it. Not least among them is Germany, which is hardly a striking example of political instability. I'm not sure why we should be afraid of a PR system that led to our having to live with Coalitions.

    I'm also not sure why we have to preserve the role of the MP as a constituency representative particularly. I'd quite like parliament to be concerned with national and international questions, with a significantly reinforced form of local government to deal with local and individual matters.

    A far great problem with PR, for me, is that UKIP would end up with a substantial number of MPs. But that may just be the price we have to pay for a more democratic arrangement. If a fairer representation is what we need, we have to accept it even when it plays against us.


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