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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 prevents wasted votes

In the first-past-the-post system, votes can be wasted predominantly in areas known as 'safe seats'. In these instances, people supporting Labour in a traditionally Conservative stronghold may be viewed as 'wasting their vote.' Proportional Representation prevents such situations.

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.

The Argument

Proportional Representation would reduce the number of votes wasted nationally, and therefore result in a parliament which more accurately reflects the political will of the people. The current system of first-past-the-post means that in many areas known as 'safe seats' (ie they are a Conservative of Labour stronghold), many votes go wasted. They are wasted as many voters have little chance of having their first choice political party elected if it does not correspond to the traditional political party in that area. This is often a large problem for smaller parties such as the Greens or Liberal Democrats, who do not have 'safe seats' in the same way as the main two parties, and therefore many of their voters' votes are often viewed as 'wasted'. This can be seen most clearly in data from the recent 2019 UK election. It took 0ver 800,000 votes to elect one Green MP, but only 38,000 votes to elect one Conservative MP. The Brexit Party gained 600,000 votes but not one single MP.[1] This phenomenon of 'wasted votes' is also continually tied to voter apathy. Many voters think there is no point in bothering to vote if they live in a safe seat, and therefore don't even turn up to the polls. Proportional Representation could see a reduction in voter apathy as voters would now be incentivized to vote knowing that their vote would go directly to their first choice party gaining representation in parliament.

Counter arguments

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Currently, many votes are wasted in the UK's first-past-the-post system. [P2] This is due to the fact if a constituency is a 'safe seat', supporters of other political parties face little hope in having their candidate elected. [P3] This also increases voter apathy as they believe their vote makes no difference. [P4] In proportional representation the number of parliamentary seats is proportional to the percentage of the votes cast. [P5] This prevents wasted votes in first-past-the-post constituencies as every voter directly counts towards electing a candidate from the voter's preferred party.

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/westminsters-voting-system-is-bankrupt-its-time-for-proportional-representation/

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This page was last edited on Saturday, 22 Aug 2020 at 20:37 UTC

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