Phelim Mac Cafferty: It’s time to think again about our voting system

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the Green candidate for Hove SUS-170405-101701001
Phelim Mac Cafferty is the Green candidate for Hove SUS-170405-101701001

In two weeks we will vote in the general election. But the way in which our votes are counted in that election desperately needs changing.

The voting system- first past the post- is hardwired to suit the establishment. It preserves an artificial two party state despite the fact that politics in this country is much more diverse than that.

In the 2015 general election, the unfair voting system magnified the difference between what people voted for what they got. The Green Party won over a million votes nationwide but returned only one MP. The Conservative Party became the Government despite only securing 24 per cent of the overall eligible vote. Hardly a mandate, yet with it the Conservative government has set turbo-powered austerity cuts to our public services, threatened the NHS with wholesale privatisation and pushed for ‘hard Brexit.’ Polling from Make Votes Matter indicates 67 per cent of people feel that a party’s share of seats should closely match the votes it receives. So it is hardly surprising that so many people feel a sense of powerlessness about the meaning of their vote.

It has been drearily predictable that Labour has refused to endorse a fairer voting system. They and the Conservatives deny the range of diverse voices in politics. Significantly, countries such as Sweden and Iceland that use Proportional Representation (PR) have much higher gender representation. It was the London Assembly, a body elected through proportional voting, that first set the precedent for equal marriage. All too predictable then that in their manifesto the Conservatives want the London Assembly to return to First Past the Post.

The Green Party stands for a much fairer voting system. We also want to extend the right to vote to over 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds, who can marry, serve in the army, direct a company yet not vote.

It’s time for Labour and the Conservatives to face up to the fact that this country has evolved beyond a time when the binary voting system reflected two parties. Beyond the 8th June, I’ll be campaigning to overhaul our broken voting system: a stronger democracy awaits.

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Greens on Brighton and Hove City Council.