The ‘first past the post’ voting system has had its day. It is unfair. Back in the day when Britain was essentially a two party system it was very much less unfair than it is now, with at least seven parties. The current Tory government has a clear parliamentary majority yet only got 37% of the vote. There is currently a petition to bring in a system of Proportional Representation, which right now has 102,440 signatures and so has passed the magical 100,000 needed to be considered for a parliamentary debate. Do please sign it. The more signatures the greater the moral pressure for change. Make Votes Matter have issued a press release which puts the case very clearly, and shows that there is at least some support from all the parties, even a few Tories.
There is much wrong with British and American politics. George Monbiot shows how both systems have been corrupted by the undue influence of money, and the lobbyists of the most polluting industries. Even the weak laws about election expenses that Britain does have are being flouted as Michael Crick shows, with twelve police forces currently investigating the overspending of 20 MP’s. Getting Proportional Representation is an absolutely necessary first step in the process to making Britain a more democratic country. Tightening up rules on party funding is a necessary second step.
This week the Dutch had their election to choose the 150 members of their House of Representatives, of course under a proportional system. Twenty-eight parties put up candidates, with thirteen getting enough votes to get MP’s elected. As only about 1.6 % of the vote is needed to get a single MP elected this encourages lots of small parties, which then have to form coalitions. This to my mind is no bad thing. The UK and global media focused on Geert Wilders Freedom Party and their racist agenda. They did increase their number of MP’s from 15 to 20. However three other parties increased their representation by more. The Christian Democrats and the D66 Progressive Liberals gained six and seven MP’s respectively yet were hardly mentioned in the UK media. The biggest gains, from four to fourteen MP’s, were made by the Green Left led by the charismatic Jesse Klaver. Their pro refugee, pro-EU, socially progressive and ecologically pioneering agenda proved popular, especially with the young in cities like Amsterdam where they became the biggest party.
Right wing racist popularism remains a potent force in Britain, Holland and in many countries. It may be better to have these horrible views expressed within parliaments by people like Geert Wilders in Holland than outside by people like Nigel Farage in the UK. The Dutch system allows new ideas and new parties to enter the parliamentary mainstream, for good and for ill. The British system remains dominated by parties that have their roots in Nineteenth Century ideas and traditions. We desperately need a system that better reflects society as it is now and is better equipped to discuss and deal with the real challenges that lie ahead. Let us bring in Proportional Representation now. It is not a universal panacea, but it is a necessary first step toward a more democratic way of governing this country.