To many people, the term “proportional representation” means very little. In fact, “PR” most likely means something else entirely. Still, most are aware that our political system is broken.
At election time, it becomes increasingly clear that many seats and politicians are “safe”, and a vote for another party in those areas won’t count towards a final result.
How bizarre that in one constituency, a voter might be approached by three different parties vying for their support, while down the road in a “safer” seat, a voter may not be approached at all. The difference in opportunities to engage and campaign material received is stark.
How strange too, that some MPs have to campaign every day for every vote in the hope of getting over the line, while others can campaign as much or as little as they like and expect to be returned to parliament regardless.
The results are also skewed and unrepresentative of the country’s intent. At the last election, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party received 16 per cent (5.2 million) of overall votes between them, yet they share just 2 per cent of seats. The Lib Dems lost a seat despite increasing our vote by 4 per cent since 2017.
Our current electoral system is built to favour a two-party system. Because of this, it leaves many smaller parties and voters feeling short-changed. Nothing frustrates me more than hearing anyone say that their vote is wasted.
That is why I’m publicly committing to championing the call for electoral reform and the introduction of PR.
If I’m elected leader of the Liberal Democrats on Thursday, I will write to all other opposition leaders, including Keir Starmer, and ask them to join forces on this. I’d do this in my first 100 days – because there is no time to lose.
We must establish a coherent cross-party commitment to implement PR ahead of the next general election. Together, we must pledge to bring electoral reform legislation forward, and put PR at the front and centre of the agenda.
This is how we’ll raise awareness of the current unfair system, and of what PR means in practice. It’s how we’ll start to build momentum and make a case for another, better way.
Faced with a right-wing and 80-seat strong majority Conservative government, opposition cross-party working is vital.
It’s clear that the prime minister has favoured “yes people” over competent ministers, at a cost to our country and our coronavirus response.
Just look at the education secretary’s botched handling of the exam results last week. Then consider the home secretary’s blunderous reference to our ally, France, as a “racist country”. And, let’s reflect on the fact that after months of other countries showing us the blueprint, the health secretary still has not implemented a functioning, nationwide test and trace system.
This government is hurtling us towards a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year, piling job losses, border uncertainties and medicine shortages on top of our current worries and a potential winter peak.
In the short term, we must work together where necessary to oppose and hold this government to account, issue by issue.
For instance, just yesterday I joined forces with Green MP Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams and the Good Law Project to launch legal action against the government for its failure to disclose details of billions of Covid-related spending.
I’m also co-chairing the cross-party inquiry into coronavirus. We have taken evidence from frontline workers, scientists and bereaved families and proposed recommendations to the government ahead of a second wave. They will now have to respond to our zero-Covid strategy suggestion.
In the longer term, it is incumbent on opposition parties to work together to raise awareness of PR and make the positive case for it. This is a movement I would attempt to galvanise in my first 100 days as Lib Dem leader.
If successful, we will ensure that all votes matter, that all politicians are held to account and that we do not see the likes of this incompetent and regressive Conservative government again.
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