Recent election results show the need for electoral reform. Discuss.

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Robyn Ashton

“Recent election results show the need for electoral reform.” Discuss. (25 marks)

Electoral reform is the change in an electoral system in an endeavour to improve the reflection of the votes to seats and to create a stronger, more stable government in the future. Currently, the United Kingdom adopts the plurality system first-past-the-post. The winning candidate in each constituency needs to obtain more votes than the candidate in second place; however, it is not necessary that they gain the absolute majority to win. Principally, parties propose a reform because the current electoral system has the tendency to produce unfair results, however, supporters of first-past-the-post argue its strength and why it should not be reformed. The alternative to first-past-the-post proposed is usually proportional representation. PR is an electoral system whereby the percentage of votes cast in an election equals the percentage of seats won in the legislature.

Firstly, MPs can be elected on a minority vote with fewer than fifty per cent of the votes meaning more people voted against the candidate than they did for them. For example, in the 1997 General Election the Conservatives won the majority vote in Aldershot wit 42.7% winning percentage. This is because a candidate only needs one more vote than the second placed candidate so any more votes cast for the winning candidate are adding to the majority and are wasted. All other votes for the losing candidates are entirely wasted and are not counted towards gaining a seat in the House of Commons.

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No government since 1945 has gained more than half the votes cast in a General Election, never gaining the absolute majority although some have come very close. For example, in 1955 the Conservatives gained 49.7% of the votes. This means that a government forms that more than half of the people voted did not want. Furthermore, the fact that most people are voting against the winning candidate weakens the theory of the mandate. The theory of the mandate gives the government in power a moral right to pass into law any policy that was in its manifesto on the basis ...

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