Naturally, any argument for the validity of a new political system, in any age or any circumstance must lay its foundations in the invalidity of the incumbent system. The old adage ‘don’t fix it if it isn’t broken’ springs to mind, and it is glaringly obvious that the system is broken; this last General Election has proved that beyond any doubt. This is an Argument against FPTP.
We’ve already talked about First Past The Post in Canada, and it is with this clear and ringing condemnation of First Past the Post (FPTP) that the pressing issue of electoral reform in our country must be brought to the fore. This must be done by ordinary people, by the media, and by the politicians. Furthermore, it is within this national discourse over the failings of FPTP there must be argued the advantages of Proportional Representation.
FPTP vs. PR
With the statistics now clearly in support of proportional representation (PR), both sides of this pending debate are left with only the inherent morality and practical democratic value of each system with which to argue. Advocates of FPTP will be relying on an argument resting on its perceived historical and continued relevance; an argument almost as old and worn as FPTP itself.
Those of us wishing to engage in a debate against this school of thought must begin then by robbing the argument of its historical validity today. Of course, FPTP did at one point in our nation’s history enable the beginnings of a democratic process, this cannot be denied. However, we must bear in mind that it has shared this history with systems that restricted voting to various stages of limited franchise. Why then, we must ask ourselves has it not been abandoned as these aspects of our ‘democratic’ past have.
Validity of FPTP
The issue of the present validity is inherently tied up with FPTP’s origins. In a time when the franchise was small and voters supported individuals whom they knew and whom they knew would represent them in Parliament then the system could indeed be termed as somewhat democratic. As time moves on this aspect of government has become increasingly diluted, with MPs forced to toe the party line, and in many ways serving themselves and their political superiors before their constituents.
I could cite the abundance of career politicians or the use of the party whips, the clearest case of this to me, however, is the landslide victory of the SNP who were clearly voted in as a party, not as individuals. Ultimately I refuse to believe that the likes of Mhari Black have been voted in on their merits and individual strengths at the expense of those with years of dedicated service to their constituents such as Alastair Campbell or the hugely respected late Charles Kennedy. If this isn’t a good enough retort to those who claim that we still have personal parliamentary representation then I don’t know what is.
No More Wasted Votes
It is upon these chronic moral failings of FPTP that the champion of PR must initially be able to combat the absurd claim that it has any modern relevance. This must be done while simultaneously confirming that our political history has no use outside of history. Once the present system is theoretically pulled down from its pedestal then the case for Proportional Representation can theoretically be put forward.
This is the case for no more wasted votes in safe seats, for one person one vote, for true democracy. It is the case for smaller parties who have won increasingly vast swathes of the electorate, with small political voice to show for it. It is also in the benefit of the larger parties who need not lose their brightest and best with the sway of seats from vote to vote while also allowing for more respected government with valid authority. I for one would rather a government with the theoretical support of as much of the electorate as possible even if that meant compromise on certain policies.
The statistics speak for themselves, to be taken on or ignored as they have been by large swathes of our political elite for generations. In all reality there remains only one serious channel open to debate; what, if any moral value does our current First Past the Post system still hold?
The answer to this question is now more critical than ever. The overwhelming statistics of the recent weeks mean that it is invariably at this point that any real debate upon the future of our electoral system must fall. The democratic validity of our current system is a legend, and like any legend, it must show for what it is; outdated, irrelevant and fundamentally damaging to modern Britain.
Surely the government should be proportional and representative. Now wouldn’t that be democratic?