In the News

GE24: what would happen under a PR based system?

Mike McCartney

5th July 2024

Great intro for understanding electoral systems

First of all, an overview of the outcome of the 2024 vote. Some are calling this the most skewed election result in history. And I have to say I was quite shocked when I looked at the result this morning and could see that Labour had won nearly double the share of seats compared to votes - an even greater distortion of the transferral of votes into seats than that achieved by the Blair government in 1997. See the video below for an overview of what happen in GE24.

Whether or not we should replace first-past-the-post, which is technically a single member simple plurality system with an electoral system that is more proportionally based is an old chestnut and the arguments are well worn. See previous blog postings on this, such as this one here. But the results of the 2024 poll provide, as far as campaigners are concerned, even stonier arguments for reform.

Channel 4 News produced a nice little feature on it, and this would make an excellent intro on the topic. Or, if the topic has already been covered, a great source for updating those revision notes...

Some general questions based on the video
1. Why does the UK's House of Commons not reflect votes cast in elections?
2. What is the main difference between first-past-the-post and proportional representation voting systems?
3. How do supporters of first-past-the-post defend the system, and what are the criticisms against it?
4. What impact does a proportional representation system have on party behavior and policy-making?
5. How does the single transferable vote (STV) model work, and why is it considered more representative?
6. What are the potential downsides of having coalition governments under a proportional representation system?
7. Why do some argue that a proportional representation system is more democratic than first-past-the-post?

Correct answers

1. The UK uses a first-past-the-post voting system where the winner takes all, leading to discrepancies between votes cast and seats won.
2. First-past-the-post allows a candidate to win with just one more vote than others, while proportional representation ensures that seats align more closely with the popular vote.
3. Supporters claim first-past-the-post produces stable governments, but critics argue it can lead to disproportionate representation and disenfranchise voters.
4. Under a proportional representation system, parties collaborate more, treat every voter equally, and tend to adopt progressive policies due to the need for broader support.
5. The STV model allows voters to rank candidates by preference, ensuring that even if their top choice doesn't win, their other preferences are considered.
6. Coalition governments may lead to fragmentation of society and difficulty forming stable governing coalitions over time.
7. Advocates believe proportional representation is more democratic as it ensures every vote counts equally and encourages parties to appeal to a broader cross-section of the public.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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