Updated: Jul 3
In the UK, the current First-Past-the-Post electoral system leads to 68% of votes being discarded – that is 21,769,594 votes wasted in the last General Election.
Elections do not have to be like this. Those 21.7m votes being discarded are not the ‘way things are’, they’re designed to eliminate the votes of people who vote for third parties.
If in the last election, you decided to vote for the Liberal Democrats, Green Party or Brexit Party, your votes will have done little more than to limit the number of votes the incumbent MP gets. There is very little chance, if you live in a safe seat, your third-party vote will make much difference.
So, why? Well, Britain’s FPTP system works on 650 electoral districts, known as ‘Constituencies’. Each constituency elects an MP in a winner-takes-all race. Hence the name First-Past-the-Post.
Take my home constituency, North-East Bedfordshire. The Tories won it in a landslide. This seat is one of the few seats in the UK that the Conservative Party consistently win with more than 50% of the votes. As a Labour Party supporter, come election day, I understand that the likelihood is that my vote is going to be discarded. Therefore, my vote, whether I cast it or not, won’t count for much (assuming, with relative certainty, that the Tories win again).
Similarly, this same argument can be transposed onto the Blyth Valley constituency, which turned blue for the first time in its history.
You see that the Brexit Party are the standout change in this specific case. Also, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party have picked off voters from Labour. However, despite the Conservatives only growing 5.4%, they took the seat, instead of the Brexit Party, whose growth dwarfs that of their competitors.
How does MMPR fix this?
MMPR, or Mixed-Member Proportional Representation, breaks down the constituency barriers that restrict British FPTP voters’ ability to influence the wider national election.
In my view, British politics and the British people’s relationship with politics is local. That is, the British people feel that local representation is vital to their relationship with politics.
There can be little doubt that this is key to voters because, in the 2011 Referendum on switching to a PR system, it was soundly rejected, with many voters citing local representation as their primary concern.
Proportionality of representation, as well as locally based members of parliament, are two big issues for Brits when discussing electoral reform. Given that, it is simple to conclude that MMPR would be perfect for Britain.
In short, MMPR gives voters the two important tenants of British democracy. You keep your local MP, but you’re better represented in parliament with the use of a proportional representation system.
MMPR is best known for its use in Germany. In Germany, voters are given two ballot papers. One to elect their local MP & another to elect their preferred party on a national level.
On the left, you’ll see a list in black – denoting a series of names and parties for local representation. These are similar to the UK FPTP system, with a winner-takes-all race for the electoral system.
However, where MMPR & FPTP differ, is the second ballot paper (in blue). This ballot paper is a region-wide PR vote – in which voters can vote for their preferred party.
The second ballot serves third party voters more so than it does for primary party voters. For instance, in the UK, the main beneficiaries of this new system would be the Lib Dems, the Greens and the Brexit Party. Their supporters would likely support Labour or the Conservatives in most constituencies in England, yet they could vote for the Brexit Party in the second ballot, winning the party seats in parliament. This same tactic worked for the AfD in Germany in 2017’s election.
Britain’s electoral system, in my estimation, is ridiculous and to an extent, anti-democratic. I thought this before the 2019 General Election, but the results have confirmed my belief.
Take the votes-to-seats returned for the Liberal Democrats and contrast them with the SNP:
Liberal Democrats: 3.6m votes / 11 seats
SNP: 1.2m votes / 48 seats
Because the SNP’s seats are all concentrated in Scotland, whereas the Liberal Democrats have sparse support across the country, the SNP’s reduced vote share returns them more than four times the seats – simply due to geographic fortune.
Ultimately, the UK can continue to look at changing its electoral system, to grant voters greater utility in their ballots. Otherwise, it will be stuck in the two-party state it’s been slipping into for the past fifty years. Electoral reform is a hot topic in the UK and its gaining traction – it isn’t long until Farage changes the Brexit Party to the Reform Party and my hope is that MMPR becomes the electoral system of choice for Brits across the country.
If you're interested in learning more about how a Mixed-Member Proportional Representation system would work, watch the video below, which easily explains how these abstract ideas are implemented in real life: