Today, those who support our first-past-the-post disproportional electoral system are facing some harsh realities.
They have argued that outdated system should be supported because it gives us strong government; clear government; decisive government. Strangely, they have never argued that first-past-the-post gives us good government.
What are their arguments to support that unfair system now?
Once again we have seen an election about the power of the marginals. It is estimated that Lord Ashcroft’s thousands have given a 2% shift in the vote in many of those seats. It may not sound much, but it can really make a difference.
In this Election, we have seen people fight to give value to their votes – trying to work out which Party to support to give the outcome closest to what they wanted.
We heard a lot in this Election from David Cameron about his idea of the “Big Society”. He was willing to talk about citizens’ involvement in many ways; willing to contemplate cuts in the number of MPs; speaking about radical reform of Parliament and so on. But the one thing Cameron was not willing to discuss in his concept of “Big Society” was the value of people’s votes. He was not willing to find a way of giving each person’s vote an equal power in electing our Members of Parliament. There can be no “Big Society” based on such unfairness.
Look at the results of this Election and of previous elections. It is clear that there is no level playing field for voters when it comes to the power of our vote.
There is now a heavy burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the Lib Dems in their discussions with the Conservatives as to whether David Cameron will be our next Prime Minister. (Let us just take a moment to consider that possibility and try to come to terms with it!)
The Lib Dems have been strong supporters of proportional representation over the years. In these negotiations they must cast off any idea of being “nice” and become as ruthless as we know they can be! PR must be part of any deal if there is to be a new politics.
During the Election campaign, we heard many slogans based on ideas of “fairness” and “change”. Electoral reform – votes of equal value, equal power – would signal both fairness and change. That would be an electoral result worth having.