DEBATE: Now the Brexit Party has joined the campaign, is it time to switch to proportional representation?
Now the Brexit Party has joined the campaign, is it time to switch to proportional representation?
Professor Tim Bale, co-author of Footsoldiers, a forthcoming book on Britain’s party members, says YES.
It may come as a surprise to some that Nigel Farage is a fan of electoral system reform. After all, he’s not normally keen on European norms, and the issue has always been seen as a cause closer to the heart of “the chattering classes” than of much interest to “the people”.
But Farage’s pro-proportional representation stance makes perfect sense. Without its use in European parliament elections, Ukip might never have got off the ground – or stuck around as long as it did. And don’t forget that it was first-past-the-post that, in 2015, ensured that his former party’s four million votes delivered it just one measly seat at Westminster.
But just because Britain’s most polarising politician has thrown his controversial new party’s weight behind the latest campaign doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be supported.
The UK is already multi-party democracy – and it is about time that our parliament properly reflected that variety instead of trying, increasingly unsuccessfully, to pretend otherwise.
John Oxley, a Conservative commentator, says NO.
Constitutional changes should take the long view. In 2017, two-party politics was back. Now it isn’t. By 2022, things could be different again.
If we are to change our electoral system, it should come after long and considered debate. Hurried changes inspired by immediate events come home to roost, like the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which secured the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition but became an obstacle to resolving the Brexit impasse.
First-past-the-post (FPTP) encourages broad-based, consensus-building parties aiming to win almost anywhere. Other systems could mean more chaotic coalitions of single-issue groups, giving disproportionate powers to king-making niche parties.
We need someone to unite the country and to bring an answer on Brexit. FPTP facilitates this; most other systems would frustrate it. The parties would be more likely to be pulled in extreme positions by coalition partners, rather than to the middle.
The main parties are struggling to do this now, but blame the players not the game.
Main image credit: Getty