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Should the UK adopt proportional representation? Show more Show less
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The UK currently uses the first-past-the-post voting method. In 2011, the UK held an 'Alternative Vote' Referendum. Although the proposal was rejected by 67.9% of voters, the referendum stoked debate about what voting method was best suited to the United Kingdom. Some people have touted proportional representation as the solution, which is different to the Alternative Vote because it directly mirrors public support for a specific party. Countries that use some form of proportional representation include Belgium, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The UK should adopt Proportional Representation Show more Show less

Proportional Representation is more democratic. It gives a greater voice to candidates and parties that have long been eclipsed in first-past-the-post voting. It also ensures that fewer votes are wasted and means that everyone's votes go toward electing a government that is more representative of the national political opinion.
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Proportional Representation most accurately reflects national political opinion

Proportional Representation encourages a more accurate image of the political tendencies of the voters. Under this system, the number of votes cast is directly reflected in the number of seats each political party is allocated in parliament.

Context

Proportional Representation is a voting system whereby the number of popular votes determines the number of seats held by a political party in parliament. Currently, the UK uses the first-past-the-post system of voting, where voters must vote for one MP in their area. This can result in people strategically voting not for their favourite candidate, but for the candidate they believe is most likely to win in their area. In 2011, the UK held a referendum on the 'Alternative Vote.' Although it was defeated by nearly 68%, it stoked a discussion about what kind of electoral system was best for the United Kingdom. One of the solutions repeatedly proposed is a form of Proportional Representation. Some argue that it most accurately reflects the voting inclinations of the population and therefore results in policy-making that reflects the wishes of the people.

The Argument

Proportional Representation would provide a more accurate reflection of the UK's national political opinion. As the percentage of votes cast would be directly reflected in the number of seats allocated in Parliament, the political wishes of each voter would be vital in ensuring their political party's representation. The current first-past-the-post system also means that the amount of votes needed to elect an MP from each party is wildly variable depending on the size of the party. For larger parties such as the Conservatives and Labour, they required 38,000 and 50,000 votes to elect an MP respectively in the 2019 election. In stark contrast, it took 800,000 votes to elect one Green MP. Furthermore, the Brexit party received 600,000 votes but they received no MP. This stifles political diversity in parliament, resulting in the exclusion of parties who promote politics that a significant proportion of the population may support. In the 2015 election, for example, UKIP won 3.8m votes and yet sent only one MP to Parliament. Clearly, a large number of voters were supportive of UKIP's main policy to leave the EU, and indeed this was witnessed in the 2016 UK EU Referendum where nearly 52% voted to leave the EU. Moreover, first-past-the-post has seen the political leanings of the UK arguably misrepresented. As Joe Sousek has argued, “In 19 out of the last 20 general elections, most people have voted for parties to the left of the Conservatives. Yet the Tories have been in power for 63 percent of this time''.[1] Although a hung parliament traditionally has very negative connotations, in a country where political opinion is increasingly divided (such as in the UK, where especially over the issue of Brexit heated debate remains), it is perhaps the most accurate and fair way of representing the nations political views. Adopting Proportional Representation would mean that the national political opinion of the UK would be more accurately represented in the parliamentary make up and therefore the laws that follow.

Counter arguments

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Proportional Representation means the share of votes is directly reflected in the number of MPs sent to Parliament. [P2] Therefore every voters vote 'counts' and is instrumental in having their first choice party elected to Parliament. [P3] As a result minority parties will gain in the number of seats. [P4] Due to the political diversity in parliament, the wishes of the voters will be more accurately represented in the political diversity in parliament, and therefore policy making will more accurately reflect this.

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-party-proportional-representation-corbyn-leader-polls-a9249196.html

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This page was last edited on Saturday, 22 Aug 2020 at 20:30 UTC

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