Outline a case for and against electoral reform in the UK.

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Outline a case for and against electoral reform in the UK

   The debate over electoral reform is nothing new, it has been around for decades and in real terms is a debate as to whether or not we should scrap the current first past the post system for a new one. To most the issue is of minor concern and most of the electorate will be unaware of it significance even though it is them that will decide the outcome of the debate. The political parties, however, consider it to be a priority in particular parties such as the Lib Dems and the Greens who feel that they are being hard done by the current system.

   What is important to realise is the legitimacy of the calls for electoral reform. First past the post undoubtedly has unfair elements to it. The fact that a Conservative government can have 18 years of uninterrupted rule without at any stage getting more than 43% of the vote. Or in 1951 and1974, when one party can come into government when the other actually got more votes demonstrates this. Changing our system has difficulties too; it is a bit of a catch 22 situation though. Why would a government propose a bill which would change the very system that has put them into power? This is currently Tony Blair’s concern, in his 2001 manifesto he promised to review the current system and even a referendum to decide an alternative, however once he wins by a landslide the review is no longer a priority. There are of course arguments both for and against reform.

Firstly a proportional system would create a House of Commons that is more proportional to the votes cast which is obviously better for democracy. It is unfair, for example, that in 1992 the Liberal Democrats polled 17.8% of the votes nationally and got just 3.1% of parliamentary seats. However change could result in a non majority government. The first past the post system prides itself on its ability to produce a strong government with a majority which leads to powerful leadership. A coalition government would arguably end this. The argument against first past the post is that it results in the dictatorship of a minority but it is possible that a coalition government may result in the dictatorship of an even smaller minority.

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   Secondly, most see the current way that votes can be ‘wasted’ within a constituency. In the given example of Richmond you can see that the Conservatives won thoroughly, however all the votes for Labour and Lib Dems have been ‘wasted’ because no matter how they vote they still won’t affect the outcome. If a more proportionally representative system was used, these votes may not be so useless and you may get a higher turnout since the electorate may feel that their vote finally counts.

The affect of the wasted votes is probably made less obvious by the phenomenon of tactical ...

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