For decades, the archaic system of First Past the Post has resulted in disproportionate election outcomes. To at least try and spark change, hundreds of people are going on a 24-hour hunger strike, organised by ‘MakeVotesMatter’, to demand a fair voting system: Proportional Representation.” Taking place on Tuesday 6th February, this event aims to focus attention on the successes of the Suffragette Movement and highlight that, whilst women won the right to vote, many of our votes today do not count.
First Past The Post: Inherent disproportionality
On 6th February 1918, the Representation of the People Act was enshrined into law, extending the right to vote to some women and all men over the age of 21 for the first time in electoral history. Until that time, nearly 70% of the ‘adult’ population were unable to vote. Whilst today, all adults are allowed to vote- thanks to First Past the Post (FPTP)- most of the population do not have a vote that truly counts or is an influence in the composition of Parliament. Most recently, in the 2017 general election, 68% of the votes cast had no impact on the result, either going to losing candidates or simply bolstering ‘safe seats’.
First Past the Post ultimately fails to establish a reliable and fair link between a proportion of votes won by parties and the seats gained. This occurs because the system is concerned mainly with the election of individual political candidates rather than the representation of political parties as a whole. In recent decades, our electoral system has often resulted in ‘systematic biases’. Indeed, the disproportionality of FPTP is not random. Certain parties (namely the Conservatives and Labour Party) achieve well in elections, while other small parties frequently suffer.
Often, large parties benefit at the complete expense of smaller parties. The ‘winner takes all’ effect means that 100 percent of representation is gained in each constituency by a single candidate, and therefore a single party. Winning candidates tend to come from large parties, as these are the parties whose candidates are most likely to be ‘first past the post’ in the sense of winning plurality support.
Voters are discouraged from supporting small parties because they know that they are unlikely to win seats, and even more unlikely to win the overall elections. This is the problem of so-called ‘wasted votes’. A proportion of voters are therefore inclined to vote for large parties on the ground that they are the ‘least bad’ of the two because rather they are their first preference party.
If you are tired of your vote not counting, the choice is simple. Join the MakeVotesMatter movement.