Comment: Is it fair the Greens have one seat when proportionally they deserve 24?

There is no reason not to use a fairer electoral system other than the self-interest of big parties


It’s a sad day for democracy when a party’s vote increases fourfold and yet they are left in exactly the same position as they were five years before. But that’s exactly what happened to the Greens on the 7 May. From just under 300,000 votes five years ago to over 1.1 million this election, the Green Party have won over more people than many thought possible and have only just fallen short of the numbers predicted in the polls.

Despite this good news for the Greens, Brighton Pavilion remains their only seat, with Caroline Lucas receiving 42 per cent of the vote there.

Speaking moments after her victory, Lucas rightly said that this had been “the Greens’ most successful election campaign ever”. But her speech, though impassioned, seemed fruitless; how can progressives hope for change when four times the number of votes results in the same number of seats? Amid cheers, Lucas went on to call for electoral reform, specifically proportional representation.

Lucas has spoken about proportional representation before; the issue arose in the interview Russell Brand held with her and Natalie Bennett. Bennett’s idea that civil activism is the only way to get ‘the turkeys to vote for Christmas’, as she put it, seems to be reflected throughout society – grassroots activism has really taken off in recent years, from websites like (which is, incidentally, is hosting a petition calling for proportional representation) to the Occupy Movement and beyond.

Proportional representation is anathema to the big parties. Labour and Conservative would lose their safe seats, and for this reason it makes sense for them to retain the first-past-the-post system. But for minority parties like Greens and UKIP, what would be branded a ‘protest vote’ in a FPTP system is a meaningful vote under a PR system.

Some institutions in the UK already use it; other than the obvious European Elections, the Welsh Assembly uses a form of proportional representation, along with the Scottish Parliament Elections, the Greater London Assembly and all of Northern Ireland’s elections. PR is already in widespread use – there is no reason to not use a fairer system in the General Election other than opposition from the big parties.

The Green Party aren’t only calling for a new system of voting. Their belief in the participation of the people stretches further than civil activism and a representative electoral system. In the same interview with Brand, Bennett speaks of their plans for a people’s constitution convention, an idea which would place people at the heart of political issues. This has been championed in Bennett’s open letter to the heads of the three then-largest political parties, and in the Green Party’s manifesto.

In the same manifesto they lay down, in simple terms, genuinely progressive policies – an elected House of Lords, state funding for parties, and referendums on local decisions, to name a few. These policies, the aim of which is to make government the truly representative body it purports to be, are needed in a system which gives a party like the Greens one seat when, proportionally, they deserved 24.

Only with real electoral reform can this system become properly democratic – reform which gives power back to the electoral body for decisions big and small, which gives the electorate both fair representation and responsibility for their choices, and allows smaller parties, whether that be the Greens or UKIP, real say in political decisions. These ideas aren’t radical – they are necessary.

James Alston studies History at Cardiff University. Read his blog here

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59 Responses to “Comment: Is it fair the Greens have one seat when proportionally they deserve 24?”

  1. Leon Wolfeson

    “UR MAD, JEW”

    Before what? You send thugs round to beat me up, in approved far right style?

    Keep spouting off your view that Jews are all mentally ill, that your rabid hatreds, Tory, make you better than the peons and especially all those other inferior religions.

    The hysteria is yours – your hysterical fear of the other. Your attempts to discredit the Greens by smearing them with your views rolls on, of course, they’re not your sort of Anti-Semites, get over it.

  2. AlanGiles

    I’m sorry but how many more of this moronic idiots rantings is LFF going to allow?. You witter on about being Jewish so much, you begin to wonder if it’s true, but IF it is, your religion has nothing to do with your hysterical delusions.

    Your hideous nonsense would look better on a lavatory wall

  3. Leon Wolfeson


    Same old, same old, as you deny I’m Jewish because you’re a blatent Anti-Semite, determined to get your censorship, as you throw insults at me 100% because I’m Jewish, making excuses.

    You are indeed sorry – you’re a standard right wing thug, here to troll and show your hate. I have perfectly sensible conversations with actual left wingers here all the time, while you – Lord Blagger – and your few cronies come here to mock and chant insults.

  4. Gerschwin

    Didn’t in fact read your post, saw the mix of upper and lower case and drew the relevant conclusions. I’ve read it now. What a beauty. Do you really, really think I care? Do you actually suppose for one nano-second your opinion of me or the fabulous, wonderful Tory Party is of any consequence to me whatsoever? Whilst you’ve been tugging off to the revolution and going on losers’ demos in Whitehall I’ve been quaffing the fine stuff in life and looking forward to 5 years (and undoubtedly many more) not just lording it over the likes of you, but being so oblivious to your existence, finding your presence on this planet so inconsequential that I’m not even aware I’m lording it over you – now there’s a definition of superiority if ever I gave one. Fabulous.

  5. Kryten2k35

    Ideologically, they’re worlds apart. Of course they’re people too.

  6. Leif Harmsen

    Ugh, First-Past-The-Post is just as horrible here in Canada.
    Dictator-for-the-decade is no way to run a country. Why even bother
    with an “assembly” if the unpopular Prime Minister runs the whole show
    anyway? Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our Constitution
    and it says that I have the right to fair elections. So where is my
    equally effective ballot?! No wonder people don’t bother to vote, with
    the current Disproportional Misrepresentation most votes don’t count!
    Any discourse threatens to hold those in power more accountable or
    to change the way their power is got, will be taboo. It is up to the
    rest of us, we the people, to demand PR – it’s safer than dying on the
    battlefield for democracy, and more effective. And this isn’t a
    lefty-righty thing, it’s just the elephant in the room. Puerile
    lefty-righty politics is for equally brain dead two party systems, we
    can do better.

  7. damon

    I think that Ukip voters in some town like Boston in Lincolnshire that has been wide open to eastern European worker migrants aren’t so different to SNP voters in the Isle of Skye, who also might have such reservations about EU migrants if Skye was to gain a population like Boston has.
    Even more so if places in Scotland were going to become like our most diverse areas in English cities, where ethnic minorities can be a majority.
    You could try to convince people that Dundee would be so much better if only it was more like east London, but I don’t think those lefty socialists would all be so keen on it if they thought it would actually change their city quite markedly.

  8. Kryten2k35

    You’re a moron.

  9. damon

    Ha, yes maybe. I don’t think you’ve done any thing to counter what I’ve said though.
    Ask people on the Isle of Skye (population 10,000) whether they’d like to take in a couple of thousand of the Mediterranean boat migrants and we’ll see how left wing they are.

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