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Would British Political Parties Benefit From A Different Electoral System?

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Introduction

Would British Political Parties Benefit From A Different Electoral System? In Britain, elections to the House of Commons are decided through a simple majority system, commonly referred to as 'first-past-the-post' or FPTP. The system has its benefits, as it usually produces quick and clear results and a strong majority government. Moreover, it provides constituents with a strong link to their MP, enabling them to bring forward and discuss the interests of their community. However, there are strong arguments against FPTP. Firstly, it frequently produces disproportionate results between actual support for the party and the seats they win in parliament. Secondly, the nature of the system makes it difficult for smaller parties with dispersed support to gain high levels of representation, rendering it virtually impossible for them to participate in government. These deficiencies have led to the question of how democratic the system really is, which has resulted in electoral reform becoming a debatable political issue. There are many different alternatives to FPTP, most of which are far more proportionally representative. ...read more.

Middle

Furthermore, tactical voting would no longer be needed and wasted votes would be reduced. As for the problem of extremist parties, CAER suggests that raising the percentage of the minimum votes required would manage to regulate the minorities. After the past eleven years in office it could be said that the Labour party has done well under FPTP. Before the 1997 election, however, possibly due to doubts over whether they would win under FPTP, Labour promised a referendum on electoral reform and established an independent body - the Jenkins Commission - to look for a PR based alternative (. The commission considered STV but later scrapped the idea, on the basis that constituencies would be excessively large, the electorate would have too wide a choice of candidates and that counting the results would be a complex and slow process. Instead, the commission suggested AV+, a combination of the Alternative Vote and a form of open Party List. AV+ would provide much greater proportionality without requiring major changes in the system. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, it would appear that none of the discussed systems can guarantee all of these elements; the choice of any given system is always less than perfect. For parties such as the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Greens and others smaller still, the main concern is to gain greater political representation. Some of the systems they advocate do provide some of these elements. For parties who do well under FPTP, such as Labour and the Conservatives, the issue is understandably of less immediate importance. Since 1997 there has been major electoral reform in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the European Parliament and the London Mayoral electoral systems. The introduction of alternative systems in these places has yielded positive, democratic results which have already modified the political landscape. In part thanks to these results and in part owing to pressure from the minor parties and various interest groups, perhaps electoral reform will be considered more seriously by the dominating parties in the near future. ...read more.

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