The Trouble With First Past the Post

The Trouble With First Past the Post (FPTP) is that it isn’t democracy.

Who in their right mind decided that , in most constituencies, the majority of votes should not count? And who then decided it was wise to take all of these skewed results and form one big, skewed government out of them? What is democratic about ignoring most people’s votes? It’s just not democracy, however you look at it. One seat for 4 million votes is a travesty, as is one seat for a few thousand votes in the case of the SNP. Fair’s fair. FPTP is a democratic crime.

First Past the Post

Over the years we have been sold a bad batch of “democracy”. Our brave soldiers fought for “democracy”; Prime Ministers defended our proud “democracy”. We’ve killed off populations in far off lands that they might too experience our “democracy”. Politicians stood by the Cenotaph silently thanking dead soldiers for our “democracy”. Actually, this isn’t democracy’s arse. This is the same system that easily enabled successive governments to give our sovereignty away to a dictatorship, and along with it our “democracy”. Who voted for that? Noone! The biggest deception in our history happened under FPTP without anyone voting for it. And we call ourselves the mother of modern democracy.

Constituency Link

Perhaps FPTP’s only positive argument is that of the constituency link. The argument goes that voters would lose an intimate link with their local MP if we didn’t have FPTP. So damned what!  The constituency link benefit is a myth.

Firstly, MPs cannot represent the interests of all of their constituents unless they obtain 100% of the vote, which is unprecedented. The assumption that there is some divine relationship here is just ludicrous. Your MP will not side with you if they do not share your values  – end of story. Ask me – I’ve tried numerous times.

Secondly and most importantly, if your party doesn’t win in that constituency, your vote is gone forever . Poof!

That’s why we have local councillors to represent our local interests. Admittedly, they do not have the ear of national government. But that’s where the House of Lords comes in. Get rid of it, and replace it with locally elected representatives in each constituency. These could be business leaders, religious leaders or respected community members – even disenfranchised lords if they fancy their chances in the real world. They should all run as independents and not be affiliated with any party. That way we would have to read about them instead of just voting for their party. Constituency holy grail problem and HoL problem solved in one.

Stability

FPTP is said to bring stability and to prevent lurches in political direction. Why would you want to prevent that? It’s exactly what we needed after Tony Blair ran amok in the Middle East.

Two party system

There is nothing good about a two party system. For decades, two parties have each sucked their thumbs to come up with a manifesto and we have chosen from the lesser of two evils. These parties cannot possibly know what we actually want. We hardly ever have referendums, so how can they know? Must be that mysterious constituency link that keeps them so well-informed.

Safe Seats

Safe seats are a curse. More than half of parliamentary seats are “safe”. That means that a good proportion of votes in those constituencies perpetually count for nothing. It makes MPs apathetic. My safe Tory MP has been in that seat for 20 years! Noone is that popular. Only Mugabe has been elected more times than that. Our MP doesn’t even bother to campaign unless it’s in other, less-certain constituencies. Non Tories stopped bothering to vote decades ago. To top it all he’s a remainer, who begrudgingly agreed to vote for Article 50, only because he’d have to get off his arse and campaign otherwise. But the real tragedy is that not even 17.4 million voters could not get rid of him.

Deadlock Prevention

It’s said that FPTP keeps the government ticking over and prevents deadlocks. This is hokum. There is only a deadlock if every party votes against every other party in equal proportions. That never happens and even if it did, that would actually necessitate inaction. Deadlock is certainly no reason to steamroller ahead. But even under FPTP in majority governments, parties side with others on certain issues. If they represent their voters, they represent the will of the people.

In PR there is almost always a winner, even if it is by a small margin. This is not sufficient under FPTP because there is this wrangling by losers because they know they are not represented accurately. But people will respect democracy more if they are represented fairly. Currently we don’t respect democracy because we don’t have democracy. When people are represented fairly, you cannot argue about accurate democratic mandates. The public will soon see through Lib Dem claims of otherwise.

Proportional Representation

Proportional Representation (PR), on the other hand, is the very definition of democracy – the decisions  of the whole being undertaken by the majority. I am a firm believer in the wisdom of the masses. I don’t care what you say, 35 million people are infinitely more wise than 650 MPs, a bunch of unscrupulous lords and a handful of narcissistic academics. To say otherwise is tantamount to the arguments men had against women getting the vote. You can’t determine what that collective wisdom is if you don’t calibrate it accurately.

Perverted Versions

In my view, every version other than true PR is perverted, by virtue of the fact that they are all attempts to skew public opinion. As stated earlier, the coveted constituency link need not pose a problem. AV is nothing more than an attempt to steal votes from people that didn’t win.

Successful Versions

The EU referendum – classic unadulterated PR. It gave us a clear decision on Brexit when FPTP was leading us up the garden path. It even gave us an indication of how clear we are on it – not unanimous, but much more in favour than we thought. We asked the question and we got an answer. Imagine if elections were that simple. We would never had gotten into that dastardly political union if we weren’t faced with a choice of “In” or “In” all these years.

The Netherlands – Some say it’s cumbersome and ineffective, but proponents of two-party systems would say that. The fact is that when public opinion swayed, so did represented opinion. That is what democracy is supposed to do. And it will continue to sway as long as public opinion is ignored. This is the problem, politicians no longer care about public opinion. It should be their raison d’etre. We need to remind them it is their raison d’etre.

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