It’s no longer good enough to offer voters the illusion of choice

Fewer than one in four voters will see any of the policies they voted for implemented over this parliament

 

This week saw an unlikely gathering form on the steps of 10 Downing Street. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and I stood alongside representatives from UKIP, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats not for another fiery debate, but united behind one cause. We were handing in a petition signed by over 120,000 people demanding that our voters be heard.

The Green Party won over 1.1 million votes on 7 May, yet just one MP was elected to represent them all. UKIP took more than 4 million votes, but they too find themselves with a single seat. The majority Conservative government now in office won the support of just 24 per cent of the electorate.

So fewer than one in four eligible voters will see any of the policies they support implemented over the next five years.

The figures are baffling, but behind them are people who have had their hopes dashed, and their concerns ignored. This election was unique in opening the floor to parties that wouldn’t usually be granted a fair voice. Every party that handed in that petition today took part in the leaders’ debates, giving them an unprecedented opportunity to challenge parties of government on a national stage.

Every party fought hard to win people over, and millions took the bold decision to vote for something different – for a party they believed in, rather than one they thought was the lesser of two evils.

In return for trying to send a message to the establishment parties that change is needed, those people have been silenced. Represented by MPs whose views they do not share, they are left voiceless. Most concerning, they may have been convinced that change simply isn’t possible – that there really is no point in voting.

Those who voted for change, those who voted for more of the same, and those who weren’t persuaded to vote at all deserve to be heard, because that is what democracy is supposed to be about.

If we want to live in a fair democracy, where all votes are equal and everyone is represented, we need proportional representation.

Under a proportional system, Green voters would have 24 MPs fighting their corner. Those who voted UKIP would have 83 MPs on their side.

I disagree with UKIP on virtually everything, but that does not mean I think their voters should go unrepresented. If we want to kick UKIP out of parliament, we should do it by building strong arguments against their policies, not by using an out-of-date voting system against them.

In the leaders’ debates, Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru, Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP and the Greens’ Natalie Bennett proved that, though we have our differences, there are areas where different parties can work together to achieve common goals. In government, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats proved that coalitions can last – whether we agree with their policies or not.

If this year’s election proved anything, it’s that the three party stitch-up in British politics is over. Voters are no longer satisfied with a system that keeps the powerful in power and prevents new ideas from being heard.

It is no longer good enough to offer people the illusion of choice.

If we are to continue in the spirit of the leaders’ debates, and embrace our new multi-party politics, we need a voting system that is fair. We need a proportional system to create a parliament where every voice is heard.

Amelia Womack is deputy leader of the Green Party. Follow her on Twitter

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