What do your candidates think of proportional representation?
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece suggested that Jeremy Corbyn had rejected PR in a statement. This was incorrect and we’re happy to put the record straight.
Nearly third of election candidates have pledged to overhaul the voting system and back proportional representation (PR) if elected.
Of the 3,320 candidates standing, 1,002 have so far committed to backing a ‘fairer’ voting system, according to campaign group Make Votes Matter.
Only 252 candidates say they are opposed, 86 are undecided and 1,886 are currently unknown. Make Votes Matter say the findings show significant support for PR.
The SNP – who benefit from First Past the Post in Scotland – have the highest rate of public support for changing the voting system (78% confirmed as committed), followed by the Greens (73%). 28 percent of Labour candidates back reform, with 7 percent opposed and most candidates’ views unknown.
The Conservatives are – perhaps unsurprisingly – mostly opposed, while the Brexit Party in large part failed to respond.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said:
“We now have, in effect, an elected dictatorship trying to drive through cuts with a very narrow majority and no real mandate as most people didn’t vote for them. We need to put the campaign [for PR] at the heart of Labour and the trade union movement.”
And Cat Smith, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement said:
“If elected, I will do everything I can to change the voting system to Proportional Representation, so everyone has a vote that counts equally and seats match votes.”
Labour would launch a ‘Constitutional Convention’ if elected to look at democratic reform, though it is not clear if changing the voting system would form part of this.
The group have also received responses from the PM. Boris Johnson said: “The tragedy of PR is that it would take that power [to remove the Prime Minister] away from the electorate themselves. …PR will always tend to erode the people’s sovereign right to kick the rascals from power.”
And former Conservative Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt today said: “I don’t support it because countries that have PR tend to have permanent coalitions. This means less accountability because it is more difficult to fire an unpopular government (they just form a different coalition) and no one has to honour their manifesto.”
Klina Jordan, Co-Chief Executive at Make Votes Matter, said: “The UK goes to the polls on Thursday, but because of our First Past the Post voting system many people’s views will simply be ignored.
“First Past the Post means millions of votes have no impact on the election result, millions more are forced to vote tactically, and the results don’t reflect how people vote in any case. The UK desperately needs Proportional Representation – so seats match votes and all votes count equally.”
The group have made a searchable map of constituencies to publish candidates’ views on PR.
This election has seen a surge in tactical voting and parties ‘standing aside’ for each other under Westminster’s winner-takes-all voting system.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. (He also works with the Electoral Reform Society).
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