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Should the electoral system change?

07:45 UK time, Monday, 26 April 2010

The Liberal Democrats have insisted any support from them in a hung parliament will require a commitment to electoral reform. Are you happy with the current system?

Changing to a system of proportional representation (PR) would mean a closer match between the percentage of votes candidates receive and the percentage of seats they receive. The current first-past-the-post system means the election is determined by the highest polling candidate in the constituency.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg says the current system "could throw up the preposterous prospect that a party that comes third in terms of votes could continue to govern from Number 10". Conservative leader David Cameron said the great 'con' of PR was that it put power in the hands of politicians not the people. Labour have said they would hold a referendum on electoral reform.

Do you think we should have a debate on proportional representation? Which voting system is better? Is electoral reform essential after the election?


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  • Comment number 1.

    It is an absolute disgrace that David Cameron supports the current system.

    He talks about change in politics, and then defends the indefensible, I really don't understand how he can be so openly hypocritical.

    Not only would a new system allow everyone's vote to count, but it would also go a long way to reducing the corruption in politics.....shame on you and your party David Cameron.

  • Comment number 2.

    Clegg should take care not to assume the result of the election before the votes have been cast or counted. He could make himself look even more foolish than he has done already.
    If it happens that Labour can't govern without the Liberals, it's even more true that the Liberals can't 'govern' without one or other of the other two so he'd better watch his lip.
    As Miliband said over the weekend, it's one thing to punish Labour for the Iraq war but quite another for voters to punish themselves by allowing the Tories back in via the Liberals.
    This is no time, and government is no place, for amateurs.

  • Comment number 3.

    Yes it should change. Replace it with the system proposed by Roy Jenkins. That kept some constituency MP's but ensured that the number of MPs in Parliament for each party reflected the votes cast for them. I'm tired of living in a so called democratic country where 100,000 voters across 100 constituencies decide who governs whilst the other 40million don't count.

  • Comment number 4.

    The Lib Dems don't stand a chance of being a majority Government under the present voting system, but their popularity will hopefully be enough to implement a change. The Labour idea of the alternative vote system will most likely give us Labour Governments forever & ever. We badly need Proportional Representation now. Everyone deserves to have an equal vote - something sadly lacking in the current system.

  • Comment number 5.

    nope not happy until theres a 'none of the above' option, only then will we have a democracy

  • Comment number 6.

    Am I happy with the current system?
    Should the electoral system change?
    Yes. We should try having some sort of democracy for a change.

  • Comment number 7.

    The only reason the Lib Dems want PR is the same as every political party - they see it as a way to gain power. Do they really think we are so stupid that we cannot see this?

    Just look at the shambles we have in Scotland where we have MSPs from parties that won no seats and worse still, who have no mandate to be there.

    So I just wonder if the system changes, will the Lib Dems still support it when UKIP and the BNP have more MPs than they do or will they start whining about changing the system back......

  • Comment number 8.

    For lots of reasons electoral reform is long overdue, proportional representation is the way to go.

  • Comment number 9.

    I completely agree with forwardpasser in post number 1, they should be ashamed of themselves for wanting the gravy train to continue and if the public cannot see what a backward step for this country the conservatives would be then god help us all.

  • Comment number 10.

    No system is perfect but FPTP allows us to get rid of a government completely and means necessary things get done. If we switch to PR we will get a lot of hung parliaments and be stuck with the party leaders for a very long time, serving in each other's cabinets and arguing about who does what.

    The voter will be even more disconnected, not knowing what the result of an election will be until weeks after the vote. The parties will have more power to allocate seats according to party lists. The smaller extreme parties like the BNP will certainly get seats and potentially have an influence on policy.

    Moreover, there will be no decisive actions. The Lib Dems who have most to gain (beware of vested interests) are trying to reassure the electorate that hung parliaments should not be feared but note these comments on the Scottish Assembly in their own manifesto (P92):-

    “Tensions between Labour and the SNP have undermined the devolved
    settlement in Scotland. This has led to unjustified and unnecessary financial disputes which have locked up money due to Scotland”

    So in a hung parliament elected by a combination of FPTP and AMS, a form of proportional representation they themselves admit that disputes arise and delay decision making. This is just what must be avoided for the Westminster Parliament and why we need a majority government

  • Comment number 11.

    I read an interesting statistic at the weekend (Observer business section, I believe).

    There are 16 AAA-rated economies in the world. Ten of these currently have coalition governments, twelve use proportional representation.

    The Tory argument that PR and coalition governments will destroy our economic credibility isn't just fear-mongering; it is a straight lie.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes we need a change. FptP works reasonably well if 90% of the population vote for one of two parties. But even then there can be problems and it has been known even under these conditions for the party that came second in the popular vote to come first in the number of seats.

    But today, with at the last election only 70% favouring one of the two old parties, and the winning party getting only just over a third of the popular vote, it is indefencible.

    We need a change, and one that gives power back to the electorate. I've always lived in safe seats, which means that the power to choose who represents me is not in my hand, but the hands of a few dozen party activists who choose the candidate, So for me there are only two choices

    AV+ with open primaries to select the candidates
    STV where we get to rank the candidates of our preferred party.

  • Comment number 13.

    Every vote should count so yes the proportional representation is necessary and is more democratic.

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes, the electoral system must be changed. There are now too many differing parties and views that cannot be heard because of the old first past the post system. The old excuse is that you vote for your local MP. However, who believes that their local MP still listens to the views of their constituents? We all know that they almost always vote on the party line on any issue. Since I live in a safe seat, anyone of the other five candidates are deemed a wasted vote. That means that approximately 65% of the voters are not being listened too. I am sure that this is repeated up and down the land. FPP only suits the two top parties who always end up Governing. That is why they do not want to change it. Until the voting system is changed more and more people will become disaffected. Change means more than just changing the colour of the tie from red to blue and back again.

  • Comment number 15.

    "7. At 11:21am on 26 Apr 2010, pzero wrote:

    The only reason the Lib Dems want PR is the same as every political party - they see it as a way to gain power. Do they really think we are so stupid that we cannot see this?

    Just look at the shambles we have in Scotland where we have MSPs from parties that won no seats and worse still, who have no mandate to be there.

    So I just wonder if the system changes, will the Lib Dems still support it when UKIP and the BNP have more MPs than they do or will they start whining about changing the system back......"

    So you think that any member of the public who doesn't vote Labour or Conservative doesn't deserve to have their vote represented? So long as people vote Lib Dem, BNP, Monster Raving Looney etc. wouldn't it be fairer if their vote actually counted in an equal manner to those who voted Labour/Conservative? You're basically advocating a 2-party dictatorship.

  • Comment number 16.

    The only acceptable change is for MPs to be removed completely and replaced by a system of voting on issues. I suggest you don't vote at the next election to register your anger and determination to see change. The British people have become battery animals, working hard for no good reason, host the all the world's needy without the resources and caned by law after law after law. Tell them what you think! NO X.

  • Comment number 17.

    Anything that rids us of the rotten boroughs, safe seats and wasted votes we have with the current system would be a good thing.

    I don't buy the argument that you need a constituency connection with your MP, few of us ever meet our MP and none of us have any power to influence their votes in parliament so in reality there's no constituency connection anyway.

    Give us a system of proportional representation so that every vote counts and while we're at it;
    Get rid of the party whips and make all votes free votes
    Bring in fixed term elections every 4 years
    Have a maximum term limit of 8 years for all MPs
    Give us the ability to recall an MP

  • Comment number 18.

    We cannot call ourselves a democracy when the minority end up in power. And we should also have the option for 'none of the above' as well. As for it being a hung parliament, well, that's what the population is, and we should try and cooperate and make something of ourselves.

  • Comment number 19.

    Every vote should count. The present system is a disgrace. I have voted every year since I was eligible (that's quite a lot) and I have never had the government of my choice or anything approaching it.

  • Comment number 20.

    While there were only two important parties, which both accepted that those were the rules, the flaws in the system did not much matter; now they are quite capable of prodcing an absurd result. Proportional representation need not break the link between MP and constituency, nor produce weak government floundering in a plethora of minor parties; Ireland and Australia are sufficient examples to the contrary. They also prove that PR can be entirely comprehensible to the ordinary voter, unless of course Britons are simply thicker.

  • Comment number 21.

    Even at the expense of a brief period of political parties having to adjust (and if they can't they shouldn't be in the running in the first place) British electoral system needs to change from the first-past-the-post to a fully proportional. It may acceptable to go through a period of half-way solutions, but a clear (in the sense of target date) goal needs to be set for a full switch to proportional system.

  • Comment number 22.

    Democracy is government of the people by the people for the people. To do this the Executive formed from the members of that or those political parties who alone or collectively can hold a majority in Parliament must reflect the will of the people.
    Currently only the will of some 40% of the electorate are represented in the Commons and then only of a first past the post system, so that even a "landslide" majority in the Commons can be achieved with only 20%+ of the votes of the electorate.
    By no definition of democracy that I know have we be governed democratically for the best part of 30 years.
    Those who are elected claim that those who do not vote have voted for the victorious party(s), what absolute nonsense. Each single absention is a vote of no confidence in all political parties in general and in particular the government of the day; who must govern modestly with that fact at the forefront of their mind. But do they? Please would turkeys vote for Christmas?
    Of course the electoral system must be reformed. If at any time one politcal party can catch the imagination of the populace it would still be possible even with proportional representation for one political party to have a landslide majority of MP's but in the interim there may be more chance of pigs discovering how to fly!
    We may still be in the mess we are in today if we had had proportional representation (after all the electorate still cannot choose their candidates - political parties do that for them) but at least the whims of one or other of the Execuitive will have to be balanced by consideration of the "alliance": whichin fact should be the purpose of Parliament which has been woefully incompetent (MP's concentrating on creatively claiming expenses perhaps?) in the days of large majorities for both Tories and new Tori - sorry New Labour.
    If all the silent majority voted for the Lib Dems then would reform be forthcoming? I do wonder because the Lib Dems would have their own landslide. I am not concerned in the slightest about a balanced Parliament but with the smaller party having sufficient seats to make them realy influential over the Executive.
    So I look forward to a week on Friday when we may be see a radical decision by the electorate and politicians forced to do "the right thing" for once!!!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    If the UK adopts PR then we can forget the idea of having Constituency representation as election will no depend on the 'local' preference but the 'national' preference where parties will be elected dependent upon the number of votes cast for their party 'nationally'.

    The result will be parliamentary representatives who wont give a fig about local issues but simply vote for whatever program their political party promulgates ..... often seen in countries like Israel and Germany, to be policies agreed in post-election bartering that occurs after every PR Election to determine which group of parties will form the Government and which group of parties will form the Opposition - all decided regardless of one's individual vote which can be cast on local issues and yet not get considered of importance after the election in a PR system and regardless of which party actullay gets the biggest share of the popular vote.

  • Comment number 24.

    Clearly, whatever the outcome of this election, any political system where a party can win whilst getting a low share of the votes, cannot be called democracy and needs to be changed. It's a no brainer.

  • Comment number 25.

    The duopoly of Conservative/Labour has stitched the voters choice for over 65 years. In addition to having a parliament more accurately representative of the people, I do not understand why we have a boundaries commission which produces constituency populations so wide as they do...between about 40,000 to over 80,000!

  • Comment number 26.

    Be very careful what you wish for is what I say.

    You may not like First Past the Post but Proportional Representation is not all that it is cracked up to be and will producea worse situation for democratic choice in the UK where currently, every 5 years, 'local' voters can still choose to get rid of their 'local MP'.

    Under PR (or even AV or AV+) local votive power would diminish and could even lead to small minority parties achieving seats in Parliament - just like the BNP did x2 in the European Parliamentary Elections last year.

  • Comment number 27.

    I've mostly lived in ultra safe seats and don't feel that my vote counts. The concerns of constituents in more marginal constituencies get more attention. The BNP has doen as well as it has because the problems of constituents in safe Labour seats have not been addressed. New Labour is more interested in looking after the interests of those in marginal seats that their core voters so those of us wanting a fairer society have nobody to vote for. These days I only drag myself down to the polling station to keep the BNP out. PR, yes please!

  • Comment number 28.

    No change - PR is dangerous

  • Comment number 29.

    There is no point in changing the system if less than 40% bother to vote.

    I am not wholly convinced on PR. There are a number of countries who have PR and cannot decide anything, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

  • Comment number 30.

    Get the constituency boundaries right thats all that is required

  • Comment number 31.

    The problems with first-passed-the-post (FPTP) are many, and include the following:

    Because party support is not distributed uniformly across the country, we have the absurd prospect of a party receiving the largest share of the national vote and receiving only a fraction of the seats in parliament.

    FPTP ensures that the power to affect the outcome of an election is handed to a small number of swing voters in marginal constituencies.

    So-called "minority" parties are permanently excluded from the political process because their support will hardly ever be sufficiently concentrated in one place to win a parliamentary seat.

    Someone who is unfortunate to live in a safe seat and whose political views run contrary to those of the encumbent MP are effectively disenfrenchised by not having anyone locally to represent their views in Westminster.

    FPTP reduces all political discussion to black and white, yes-no, for or against, and engenders a culture of political tribalism which is divisive and discourages sensible discussion of issues.

    ... really, how many reasons do you need?

    Proportional representation is not a perfect system, but is infinitely preferable in that it addresses most of the problems of FPTP.

  • Comment number 32.

    If you want electoral reform then be prepared to accept BNP and UKIP MP's. Under the First Past the Post system they have slim chance of gaining an MP but their cumulative total of votes would merit a seat under a PR system.

    Just a fact we have to accept but I'm sure there will be a lot of hysteria over the prospect of a single BNP MP.

  • Comment number 33.

    We are long overdue for electoral reform, it's the main reason I voted Lib Dem and the main reason I’m aiming for a hung parliament.

    The current system is very flawed and doesn't reflect true democracy.

  • Comment number 34.

    Proportional representation increases party power and the parachuting in the party lap dog reducing direct accountability. Italy has had proportional representation and has many failed governments after losing the support of small parties. Why not have half MPs selected by strict % vote and the other half by FPTP as now. Two votes each one for party one for candidate. Compromise - its what PR creates.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yes, I want PR.

    I loathe the mockery of democracy we have in this country. We have a dictator in this country, the only difference between this and somewhere like Iraq, is that we choose our dictator every 5 years.

    If the majority of the population vote against a party, how can that party have absolute power for 5 years?

    If the population vote is split between more than one party, so a coalition party is needed, exactly how is that bad?

    As far as I can see, rather than one man controlling the country for 5 years at his whim, then we have a situation where MPs can actually say what they mean, and support their constituencies, and policies have to be beaten out so they are most suitable for the country, rather than most suitable for one man's pride. It would lead to compromises, and consideration of all view points, rather than 'I'm going to do it this way and there's nothing you can do to stop me'.

    Yes, less might get done, but I believe that would be better for the country than the current system where one man's opinion rules (even when it is extremely flawed).

  • Comment number 36.

    Without doubt it should! The Liberal's would have had the balance of power for the past 50 years with a fair election system, this is the real reason that Labour & The Tories do not want it.

    It has nothing to do with helping the country get better or helping it's people become more prosperous, it is about POWER, and they do not like sharing it!

    The time is coming, and it is coming FAST!

  • Comment number 37.

    Yes absolutely. All other concerns, even the economy, are currently secondary next to the need for constitutional reform, in my opinion.

    I really, really like the idea of the Single Transferable Vote as practiced in Ireland and Australia - proportionality is gained, but strong governments are still a regular occurrence, and the least popular parties can't win. It minimises wasted votes more than any other system can. The Electoral Reform Society's website has a good page on it.

    It is a travesty that the Liberal Democrats accrued 22% of the vote at the last general election but only 10% of Parliamentary seats, that the Greens and UKIP have hundreds of thousands of voters who go unnoticed in our national parliament, that in some constituencies more than 60% of the vote is wasted, and that in the current general election Labour could come third in vote share and still win. The system is broken, we need D'Hondt PR or STV to be implemented now.

  • Comment number 38.

    It's hard to see how anyone can defend the current system as it stands. Even the Conservatives have taken to saying that the boundaries have been drawn wrongly - as even they can't really justify Labour getting most seats on third place.
    Where I struggle is with the details of what goes in its place. As there is clearly no perfect solution, the ideal would be to take the time to establish some common principles we can all agree on and then work out which is the least bad solution. (This is what the Jenkins commission were supposed to do, though how they ended up with the wholly unproportional AV is anyone's guess.)
    Unfortunately, I don't see much chance of that kind of measured process in a hung parliament in the middle of an economic crisis - especially if the lead party in any coalition (be it Labour or Conservative) retains the right to cut and run for a new election the moment the polls swing in the right direction. (Having a press capable of reasoned debate would be helpful too - but that's another matter).
    This all makes me very unhappy. I've long been a supporter of electoral reform, and my own vote would probably go on a sensible version of PR (not AV!). Whether I'm right or wrong about that, however, I can see there's a real danger that what we get instead is the kind of half-completed constitutional reform that's left us with unanswered Mid Lothian questions.
    I hope that everyone on this discussion forum will agree that how we vote is a decision too important to get wrong. As a voter, I want to create the circumstances for that decision to get taken in a calm and rational fashion. Right now, I don't see how to do that.
    Hence, as a committed electoral reformist, I find myself worrying that maybe we'd do better to stick to what we've got....
    I'll vote with my principles, of course. But I'd be interested to hear if anyone has any sensible ideas for how to get what is now a live debate resolved sensibly.

  • Comment number 39.

    I feel that we should change the voting system we use to elect our representatives in to government. The old system in my view is antiquated, and does not give all the parties a fair chance of governing our country. The fact that David Cameron wont support this change says it all the conservatives cant be trusted with the votes of the everyday people of this country, he is only interested in the wealthy, despite what he say to the contrary

  • Comment number 40.

    Its a bit late to start on about changing the Electoral system .. 2 weeks before the Election.

    Lib Dems have always wanted change

    Labour said they would change it .. then didn't ( erm .. isnt't hat what they always do .. say one thing .. do another ... )

    Now Labour says it will change the system ... why ? Because
    1) It would help persuade Lib Dems to join them if there was a Hung Parliament and
    2) Labours results might be so bad that next time around they might be better off themselves with PR but
    3) Have not changed the system this time as the boundaries still favour them ... yes, they could come third in the popular vote and still get most seats in parliament ...

    Its the boundaries that need changing .. its the boundary commission that needs investigating clearly.

  • Comment number 41.

    #7. At 11:21am on 26 Apr 2010, pzero wrote:
    “The only reason the Lib Dems want PR is the same as every political party - they see it as a way to gain power. Do they really think we are so stupid that we cannot see this?”

    You could equally say that the only reason the Conservatives want to keep First Past the Post is because it keeps them in power, Proportional Representation wouldn’t work well for their ambitions of absolute power!

  • Comment number 42.

    Rufus - You're basically advocating a 2-party dictatorship.

    We already live in a dictatorship. Or do you really believe that the policies of the Labour Government have been supported by the majority of the people of this country?

    Better a two party dictatorship than parties with policies that are not supported getting them in via the back door.

  • Comment number 43.

    Yes Yes and thrice YES Nick Clegg is right, how is it right for a party to get the lowest percentage of votes yet still manage a majority of seats.
    No wonder the Tories and Labour are fighting tooth and nail to stop electoral change, i would hazard a guess, if the LibDems won the election with a majority, the attitude would soon change from both the other parties.
    This whole system is more corrupt than the expenses scandal and has a much more detrimental effect on the country as a whole. In My opinion of course.

  • Comment number 44.

    #29. At 11:43am on 26 Apr 2010, Fiona wrote:
    "There is no point in changing the system if less than 40% bother to vote. "

    And how come 60% can't be bothered? In the main it's because their vote is worthless under FPTP.

  • Comment number 45.

    This is a difficult question to answer. The first-past-the-post system we currently have usually results in relatively stable government, at least when only two parties are major players at a national level.

    Proportional representation would allow minority parties to have some voice in parliament, but how would this be implemented? At present an MP is elected by a constituency so if they underperform the people in that constituency can ensure that person is not returned to parliament at the following election by voting for someone else. How would PR work in this regard? As I understand it with true PR it's up to the party to appoint the MPs in accordance with the ratio of votes they have recieved - so for example the party with 30% of the vote could appoint 210 MPs. Would that mean that they could still appoint the same old senior faces despite public opinion swinging against them?

    Would we ever see another Portillo moment again?

  • Comment number 46.

    Yes - when the voting system was designed it is very unlikely that its intention was to let a party which attracts fewer votes form a government when the majority of people voted for a different party. It it totally illogical. Trust the British to come up with an idea like that!!

  • Comment number 47.

    It has to change for the simple reason that it is unfair: the electoral boundaries already favour one party or the other & the popular vote is not taken into account.

  • Comment number 48.

    I'd welcome a debate on PR any time with open arms. I'm just not convinced it would save democracy.

  • Comment number 49.

    we have seen what pr does in other countries. the minority rules the balance of power. so what is clegg on about as this would suit his party as he would be the minority party.

  • Comment number 50.

    Over centuries the parliament at Westminster has evolved to allow true representation of the people. Since WWII there has been a shift from a two party system to a genuine three party system. However the FPTP system effectively disenfranchises the vast majority of the electorate. We are almost back to the same state we were in before the 1832 Reform Act when there were rotten boroughs owned by landowner grandees.

    This needs to change.

    David Cameron has promised (see news conference of Monday 26/04) that he will do no more than change boundaries so that each constituency has the same number of voters and reduce the number of MPs. He is not interested in cooperating with any other party (except presumably the Ulster Unionists).

    If, say, we were to vote on a 30%/30%/30% split (10% others) and thus SHOW DC that WE wanted change, would he still refuse to listen to the electorate? I suspect the answer is yes, because the current system significantly favours the Conservative Party.

    I believe we are at a moment of change in British political history - Cameron keeps going on about change. But the change voters want is a system where our views are represented in Parliament; where no vote is a "wasted" vote; where each of us has the same possibility of influencing the make up of the next government, not just the fortunate 220,000 who live in the marginal constituencies.

    The only way to achieve this is some form of PR. The link between constituency and MP can be maintained with an appropriate system. Yes, it may well mean having MPs from parties I might disapprove of, but that is the price of true democracy.

    Scaremongering about a hung parliament is not the way to go. As has been pointed out by other posters, many other successful economies are run by coalition governments - it simply needs our politicians to show the will and maturity to do as the voters wish.

  • Comment number 51.

    2. At 11:16am on 26 Apr 2010, Trevor Habeshaw wrote:

    "This is no time, and government is no place, for amateurs."

    Quite right! Get rid of Labour NOW!

  • Comment number 52.

    It is not so much the voting system that needs to change, but the whole approach to representative democracy.

    I want to hire someone to represent ME (and of course everyone else in this constituency) - someone who is not putting himself or a 'party' first, but who listens to what we electors want and stands up in the House to say it on our behalf. No more of this voting a party line, or ignoring what we tell him because he thinks some idea of his own is better even...

    Perhaps we need a form of local referendum, binding on whoever's been elected, for each key issue. Registered voters can give their instructions, maybe via the web, but the majority decision is what the representative is required to support - by speech and in votes - in Parliament.

    The quibble over FPTP versus STV pales into insignificance beside this kind of direct control of the representative chosen. Most voters are at the moment trying to figure out which party's offerings are the 'least worst' fit to their own opinions, the day of the party faithful has passed and the average voter is more interested in specific issues.

  • Comment number 53.

    #23 Menedemus
    re PR
    'The result will be parliamentary representatives who wont give a fig about local issues but simply vote for whatever program their political party promulgates...'
    My local (Labour) MP, whilst paying lip service to 'local issues', votes for the government's line every time!

  • Comment number 54.

    All this talk of percentages totally misses the point that only a relatively small number of people able to vote do so (disgracefully compared to Iraq for example) and these politically active voters affect the lives of the whole population for years to come. Until voting is mandatory , as in Australia, we will not have anything close to a democracy. you can then talk about true PR.

  • Comment number 55.

    Yes it needs to change but it wont, like changing the clocks forward and back each year we will continue to vote this way because no one is brave enough to say we are going to stop. All the while the system benefits someone it wont change. As a democracy we are our own worst enemies because of the level of quango ism and bureaucracy it takes to get anything done.
    It needs to change but who is brave enough to do it?

  • Comment number 56.

    Any electoral system which permits a party to rule with absolute power when less than a quarter of the electorate have voted for it is clearly wrong, and unjust.
    Also, it ought to be a capital offence for the prime minister in such a parliament to ever refer to his party as "having a mandate". That is both patronising, and insulting to the voters.
    Roll on a hung parliament so that the Lib Dems can force the issue. And let's hope that if PR is decided upon, that a fresh general election follows immediately.

  • Comment number 57.

    It has seemed to me for a while that the current system of voting is in need of reform. Any system that allows a party in 3rd place in the popular vote to still gain the most seats because of electoral boundaries is clearly unfair.

    I do have a number of problems with a strict PR system however. I am resident in an area where after years of broken promises by the main parties we voted for an independent. This would not have been possible under strict PR.

    I want to elect a PERSON to represent me. Under strict PR we would get those MP's the parties placed highest on their list. This not only defeats a protest vote against a specific MP (Neil Hamilton et al) but places even more power in the hands of the party managers.

    If we look around the world at PR based governments where the main parties are evenly matched we see that small parties wield an influence totally disproportionate to their actual share of the vote.

    I think therefore that we should retain the constituency based system we have but do a number of things.

    1. Redraw the boundaries to equalise voter numbers. Force this to be revied annually.

    2. Bring in a transferrable vote system to allow 2nd preference this mean that at least for any constituecy the winner would have the support of over 50% of the voters.

    3. Make parliaments fixed term.

    4. Bring in a recall system to allow voters to recall their MP and force a by election.

    5. Allow local petitions to be made whereby a defined proportion of the local electorate say 10% could force a local referendum on any issue the result of which would be binding on the local MP.

    6. Stop MP's from Scotland, Wales and NI voting within Westminster on issues which have been devolved. This so called West Lothian issue is nothing short of a scandal.

    Quite what the effects of this would be in terms of who would win, I am uncertain, however MP's would be much more accountable to the people that they purport to represent.

  • Comment number 58.

    Over the past 40 years we have had:
    Ted heath prime minister with a little more than 1/3rd of the popular vote.
    Harold Wilson prime minister with a little more than 1/3rd of the popular vote.
    Mrs Thatcher prime minister with a little more than 1/3rd of the popular vote.
    John Major prime minister with a little more than 1/3rd of the popular vote.
    Tony Blair prime minister with a little more than 1/3rd of the popular vote.
    We are told by David Cammeron that if we vote in a hung parliament (by we I mean the few hundred thousand who live in marginal seats, the rest of us are wasting our time) we will end up with a govenment the majority don't want! Aparently, following his logic, 1/3rd of the population represents a majority. In which case the question has to be asked, do we want someone whose grasp of basic statistics is so bad?
    The only reason the Tories want the status quo is becasue if it changed they would have to work to get support rather than take it for granted.
    For example, I live in a safe torie seat and may as well eat my ballot paper for all the good it will do me voting for someone other than conservative canididate. The said candidate has been paracuted in by conservative central office, has no local knowledge and can't be bothered to canvas for support. So presumably he is earmarked to be a minister if David cammeron does win.

  • Comment number 59.

    In the constituency where I've been voting for the past thirty years, we might just as well have had a system where only one person is registered to vote - the Conservative candidate. It would have saved a lot of wasted time, effort and money. Yes, I would like an electoral system where my vote will count for a change. The current system is a joke - and a bad one.

  • Comment number 60.

    I wonder if the LibDems will still want PR if they are the Opposition after May 6th, having the second largest number of seats and votes.

  • Comment number 61.

    This is long overdue.

    If implemented we would probably see parties other than the main three do a lot better! I still find it hard to believe that the main debates are based upon the three main parties and yet UKIP came second in the European elections!

  • Comment number 62.

    It is time to change the system. But it also important we get a real change in the voting system. Not all PR options are the same.

    From what I have read so far, the Singe Transferable Vote is the only system that would provide true reform, however I would welcome a debate on the options.

    The sooner we make the change and move on from the old ways, the better.

  • Comment number 63.

    It is a ridiculous system where only a few luckily people born into a marginal seat decide whether or not we 'throw out' an 'unpopular' Goverment. Isn't the idea of Democracy to vote for who you feel is best placed to run the country? The current system ensures that we merely change whether we pander to Unions or Big Business every 10-15 years, and that the leader of the Opposition merely just has to say 'i'm better than the current guy, vote for me' to get into power. I'd rather have a coalition where nothing gets done than a majority formed through negative campaigning and The Sun deciding to change sides.

  • Comment number 64.

    We really do need to have a change to a system which produces Governments which claim a legitimate mandate from as little as 22% of the voting public. I have always supported a preferential voting system such as AV over a proportional system (like STV). I was surprised that Labour woke up to this before the Conservatives because the existing system benefits Labour more. The Liberal Democrats have always wanted to go further, and espouse STV. Cameron could completely wrong foot the Lib Dems and Labour on May 7th if the Conservatives find themselves without an overall majority by agreeing to a referendum on the AV system - Labour's manifesto policy which Labour could not oppose, and which the Lib Dems would have to "take it or leave it"

  • Comment number 65.

    Changing the system could also prevent the outrageous jerrymandering which majority Governments are able to indulge in. The current status is that the Conservatives have to get around 10 percentage points more than NuLiebour just to match their number of seats. We live close to one of the proposed new "eco-town" sites - how illuminating that out of the 15 proposed sites, not a single one is in a NueLiebour constituency. The cynicism is breathtaking.

  • Comment number 66.

    PR sounds much fairer to me!
    I don't have a problem with BNP or even the Monster Ravers getting a seat...if the parties get and equal share of the popular vote then they should get equal numbers of seats

    ...I suspect not a difficult concept to grasp unless you rely on an unfair system to get elected

  • Comment number 67.

    Yes, it absolutely must be changed. We don't have rule by the majority in this country, we have rule by the largest minority, which is quite a different thing. It produces totally the opposite of what Mr. Cameron calls "strong" government - the governments we have are WEAK governments because they do not have popular support. Why we have put up with this for so long is beyond me.

    For all the scaremongers who shout about coalition governments causing indecision and unstable government, look at ANY other nation with a proportional system of representation and a coalition government, and see how they are doing economically compared to us - yes, even places like Italy. Or perhaps Germany is a clearer case. Coalitions produce stability instead of see-sawing between opposing vested interests every ten years or so, and are actually STRONG governments because they are supported by the majority of the population, so they carry the people with them.

    And if PR would let in minority parties you don't like... yes it would. Either you believe in democracy or you don't, you can't have it both ways. Any party that gets a percentage of the vote larger than that represented by one MP deserves a seat in parliament, whatever the party is.

    It's also a nonsense that people vote 'for their MP' - it's true that some do, but in General Elections the vast majority vote for whichever candidate belongs to the government party they want.

    The best thing this election campaign has seen was that very first poll after the first leader's debate which finally showed to the British people just how corrupt and unjust our electoral system is, by clearly showing that a party which loses the election and comes third in numbers of voters can still be the largest party in parliament. How can David Cameron honestly defend this?

  • Comment number 68.

    PR can be many things, to many people. Assuming we have STV, would that be county, regional, national or fixed size constituency. Also what percentage is needed as a quality threshold?

    However I suspect it will by hijacked by the political class, resulting in party lists and backroom deals.

  • Comment number 69.

    Our first past the post system tends not to be that democratic. A political party could win power by a very large margin with a minority percentage of the vote. A political party with the most votes could, in theory, not win a single seat.

    However, what will happen if we go down the PR route?

    Consider those countries that operate a PR system. Nothing ever happens or gets done. Everything is a compromise and real issues that need a strong leadership to push through never get done. EU counties that operate this system tend to have all kinds of problems - even more than we do in our system!

    Our first past the post system does have its faults but no system is perfect.

    We do need a strong government with total control. This applies to this election in particular as we all need to be dragged kicking and screaming from the mire with some very toiugh and unpopular decisions needed to be taken. The electorate will get their chance to tell the government what they think at each subsequent General Election.

    The first past the post system has, on balance, fewer downsides.

    What I would like to see are fewer MPs representing much larger constituencies - say 301 - with the MPs being full time and paid double the current MP salary.

    In addition, perhaps we should carry out a two term general election experiment where there is an additional 100 HoC seats offered on a proportion of the total UK vote basis. Political parties must fight a minimum o 250 constituencies and get more than 5% of the vote to qualify for the limited number of PR seats.

    Just some thoughts.

    But remember - no political system is perfect with all systems not only having downsides, ALL political systems have more downsides than upsides. It is a case of deciding what is best for the country to live with in the long term (many decades) as well as the short term (the period from one General Election to the next).

  • Comment number 70.

    I live in an ultra-safe labour stronghold. Regardless of how I vote, the labour candidate will win by a landslide. My vote is worthless so I don't use it.

  • Comment number 71.

    We need a 'none of the above' option immediately.

    We also need a secret ballot, not the 'pretend' secret ballot that we have now. When I go into a polling station I get tracked through a couple of people ticking off forms with the last one giving me a voting form with a unique number on it that can be tracked back to me.

    All in the name of anti fraud. But it's still not secret. I don't care whether they say a judge has to give a court order to find out. It's still not secret.

    But of course, none of the above matters, if politicians remain to be the lying toerags they are now. I don't trust any of them as they all make promises they don't keep. Change their minds whenever they want and there's nothing we can do about it.

    This ISN'T a democracy, if it was the digital bill wouldn't have been passed against cross party opposition, petitions by the general public. They just decide they want to do something and ignore the people.

    Politicians don't care out serving the people. All they care about is POWER!!!

  • Comment number 72.


  • Comment number 73.

    Simply don't buy the 'argument' of David Cameron that PR is a 'con'. Apparently George Galloway became an MP under our existing system with only 18.4% of the votes? Nothing personal Mr Galloway - you are very articulate and charismatic. Simply an example from 'fptp' Source:

    The whole political system in Britain now is SO 19th century?

    Proportional representation is not perfect - but it will ensure accountability to the electorate of our Representatives (?) in Parliament.

    Currently the 'first past the post' system has failed British voters by extremes of ideology and ultimate power? Lab/con/lab/con ad nausea?

    ANY politician who is 'afraid', 'against' or derides Proportional Representation - is missing the point of - GENUINE AND REAL REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE. OTHERWISE, WHY DO WE HAVE ELECTIONS?

  • Comment number 74.

    Discussions of PR ignore the fact that the major parties are effectively coalitions that have come together because of our FPTP system. Under PR they will break up into a number of smaller parties that will each run for election, so talk of PR elections with the current parties are nonsense. These new parties will then do all the negotiations to form coalitions, on our time, at our expense, after the election, instead of doing so in their time before hand. Belgium has just had a coalition government fall, which took 192 days of negotiation to form.

  • Comment number 75.

    How about only allowing taxpayers to vote?

  • Comment number 76.

    Not just the electoral system but also the entire mechanism of governance.

    The “world” has change immeasurably over the past fifty years or so yet we still cling to the old institutions expecting them to cope with the complexities of modern life ABSURD.

  • Comment number 77.

    For me, electoral reform must include:

    1) Letting local constituents choose their candidates. They send enough paper around so it won't hurt to give locals a chance to choose candidates against their CVs. And NO MORE of this positive discrimination!

    2) More direct democracy by way of referenda on social issues such as: should capital punishment be reinstated? Should corporal punishment be reintroduced into schools? Should we taxpayers fund fripperies like the Olympic Games? Should we bail out banks in future? Should a "workfare" system be introduced? And things like that.

    Otherwise I'm not interested.

  • Comment number 78.

    Should the electoral system change?

    Yes. Democracy as it stands does not work, it doesn't bring the best to the country. The problem is, people tend to vote for the party that would bring them the biggest immediate benefit, rather than what would be best for the country as a whole.

    Voters are too selfish for democracy to work, we just end up electing the party that looks after the group with the biggest number of selfish people, rather than having a party in power that will bring fairness to all.

  • Comment number 79.

    The current system is wrong and needs to change. No government should claim a mandate with less than 50% of voters support.

    A new system needs to better represent the votes cast but still retain a local constituency link. It also needs to encourage people to vote.

    One way to do this is to have fewer constituencies but with two MP's elected by single transferable vote.

    The maths would work out that each MP would need to get over a third of the votes cast, and fewer than 1/3rd of votes would not count. This is a big improvement on first past the post where up to 80% of votes do not get represented.

    Up to two parties would be represented from each area, giving a fairer balance in parliament.

    On turn out we could do worse than make the votes of those who don't turn out count as a vote for the party of the sitting candidate - if you want change you have to then go out and vote for it.

    It's not perfect but it would be better.

  • Comment number 80.

    Simple really.

    One party with somewhere between 25/35% of the popular vote ends up with 100% of the power.

    Other parties (including ones with somewhere between 25/35% of the popular vote, and possibly even more votes than the the party with 100% power) end up with 0% of the power.

    Go ahead, knock yourself out trying to make a case for that being "Fair".

    Tories want to retain the existing system (where the majority are in effect disenfranchised) to protect their own vested interests. Far from being a real objective, "Power To The People" is a COMPLETE ANATHEMA to these people.

    Labour want to retain the existing system, but tweak it so that a "second preference" is taken into account if a candidate gets less than 50% of votes cast. Again, this is pure self-interest, as more "safe" Labour seats are protected than "safe" Tory ones.

    The LibDems want meaningful PR as a matter of principle. Exactly which form of PR, and how it would work in the UK is not clear, and would no doubt not be perfect - but it has to be better than the mass disenfranchisement we effectively have at the moment.

    The "potty" voting system is IMHO the main reason people have (rightly) become so disillusioned with Politics and "Democracy" in this country.

    Why vote if your vote won't affect which candidate is elected?

    Why vote for a view not endorsed by the two old dinosaur parties if your vote won't affect who gains power?

    Why vote for parties who have demonstrated over a long period of time that they don't give a monkeys what they said or promised once they're elected?

    I'm not saying PR won't have it's issues - of course it will. But in both principle and practice, it would at least achieve some level of representation for people who didn't vote for the party which takes power (and therefore incentive for people, not just to actually vote, but to vote positively FOR something, rather than the current system of "choose the one you dislike the least").

    Right now, The LibDems are the only vote which (if made in sufficient quantity) will bring pressure to change the system - A system which is self-evidently anti-democratic....

  • Comment number 81.

    Should the electoral system change?

    Definitely not.

    The first-past-the-post system is clearly superior in (usually) delivering a clear result and the ability to change direction.

    There are huge problems with proportional representation. You end up with the same government for ever in slightly different proportions, decision paralysis, and smaller parties exercising influence disproportionate to their share of the vote.

    I would definitely support keeping the present system if there was ever a referendum. The only people who strongly support PR tend to be representatives of the LibDems, who support it for their own self-interest.

  • Comment number 82.

    The electoral system should be changed. Coalition government could be good government - each party might keep the others honest. Although all I expect will happen is that one lot will bribe the other.

    What is really needed is a new system of government, not a new system of election. We need a system where the representatives (not parties) are INSTANTLY responsible to the electorate. We need a way of recalling them if they start behaving badly, for example, by thievery or reneging on election promises. Waiting five years is not acceptable any more. Every expenses-found-out MP should have resigned and gone to a bye-bye election, and we need a way for forcing that on the little [expletive deleted].

    In short we need a system of government that is Democratic, not just democratically elected. And we don't need the current elected dictatorship, no matter how photogenic the leader of the party is.

    Personally I would limit the franchise to those over 25 and who have over 10,000 pounds of taxable-assets or three years military service, but then I'm not a Liberal, Tory, NuLaber, BNPer, UKipper or anything else politically recognisable.

  • Comment number 83.

    Given that we are stuck with a political system based on parties, then proportional representation is a must. It's the only fair system. However, I personally think we should do away with parties and all MPs should be responsible to their own constituents only.

  • Comment number 84.

    i think the very idea of a 'safe seat' kind of sums up the inadequacies of the present system.(producing voter apathy) There would probably be a bigger 'turnout' if people knew that their vote would actually count! In an ideal world maybe a party and also the Prime Minister should need, say, at least sixty percent of the vote to be in power. It shouldn't be just a three horse race or eight maybe!

  • Comment number 85.

    Proportional representation is a complete misnomer. We know that Labour and Conservative will oppose each other on every issue so, if they have roughly equal numbers of MPs, it means that every decision will effectively be made by the minority parties. Imagine a country where policy is decided by the BNP, that is what PR really means.

  • Comment number 86.

    Yes, this system must absolutely change. The current two-party system of unfair seat advantages is little better than China's one-party system. Am I supposed to be happy that I get to decide between the frying pan and the fire? No! Introduce real competition into the system. Make the parties earn our support!

  • Comment number 87.

    yes - the voting system should change. You can find evidence for whatever view you hold on PR (weak government in Italy & Belgium but the strongest economy in Europe in Germany). In the end it all depends on the how it is managed and the goodwill of the politicians.

    However, to set against that, having minority governments for more years than I can remember and, now, the risk of a govenment by a party that is not second but third in the popular vote is completely indefensable.

    This not a comment in favour (or against) LibDem policies but a desire for more moderate, concensus politics.

  • Comment number 88.

    We need:

    1) A 'none of the above' vote and/or for deliberately spoiled votes to count as 'none of the above' and trigger a new local election if there are enough of them.

    2) The right to vote out an MP as well as vote them in.

    3) Proportional representation. Ignore the scare mongering about coalitions- they represent more people than parliament ever will. Frankly, even if a hung parliament does result in less laws being passed, fewer laws is fine by me, we have far too many already.

    4) As proportional representation would have to lead to a separation in national and local politics, I would like the right to vote differently on a national and local level. Locally, my MP is excellent, nationally he just votes with the whip.

  • Comment number 89.

    If anyone in their right mind believes the voting system in this country is fair then they need there heads examined. Regardless of who you support, which ever party you like, or even detest politians because they can not be trusted. (expenses scandal was a joke). In my honest opinion I feel the only way I would trust the system to work is as follows...

    1. Hold elections every four years at a specific time of the year. None of this rubbish about calling snap elections or waiting five years.

    2. If there is a change of leader which represents a change of prime minister this should be put to the entire public vote not the party faithful.

    3. No leader can be prime minister more than 8 years.

    4. Local elections to be also held every four years in between government elections.

    5. House of lords to be elected as to how this is done maybe inconjunction with local elections.

    6. I like the idea of proportional representation this way every vote really counts however I really can't see it working till all the above is in place.

    Its striaght forward the above would allow the public to gain faith in the politicans. They would work harder foryou know that they do not have years to drag things out. Or in some cases resign after the next election as a result of a scandal, and every two years there will be elections and the parties can see where they are. Improving policies for the better of the UK. Maybe its too simple but maybe one of these days we will have a system the genuinely works for the people and the politicans.

  • Comment number 90.

    Our "first past the post" method of electing representatives hypothetically goes something like this...

    Constituency A - Labour win
    Lab 10 votes
    Con 5 votes
    Lib 8 votes

    Constituency B - Conservative win
    Lab 1 votes
    Con 10 votes
    Lib 8 votes

    Constituency C - Labour win
    Lab 10 votes
    Con 7 votes
    Lib 8 votes

    Total votes
    Lab = 21
    Con = 22
    Lib = 24

    Labour are declared the winners of the election as they have 2 seats, Conservatives have 1 and Liberal Democrats have none.

    However, proportional representation would favour the Liberal Democrats and, while not having proportional representation seems unfair, how do you resolve the problem? Do you tell the people in Constituency A that we acknowledge that you voted for a Labour representative but, for proportional representation to work, we are going to ignore your votes and give the seat to the Liberal Democrats? There is no easy solution.

  • Comment number 91.

    Whichever party gains the largest number of seats in Parliament from this election will do so with around 40% of the votes cast. Under what passes for our 'constitution' that party will take power. you would think that any politician would think twice about a situation were they are in government when 60% of the popular vote was against them.
    If people want a government which has the consent of the majority of the popular vote then some form of PR has to be introduced.
    Cameron has said that if he in in power, his government will pass a law saying 'Parliament is Sovereign'. Again what our 'constitution' does not recognise is the principle that 'The People are Sovereign'.
    All Cameron's Bill will show is that our political class are soley concerned with taking power not serving the people.
    PR may lead to a re-configuration of our political landscape, a number of left, right, centre-left and centre-right parties probably reflect the voting preferences of the British anyway. It would stop the major parties pandering to the extremes, which legitimises the extremists, if people want to vote for the BNP, UKIP, Socialist Party,Sharia Law etc, let them. Set the voting threshold at a reasonable level, in most cases more than 5% seems to work and let the people decide.
    That's what democracy means, it works best when everyone in involved.

  • Comment number 92.

    PR is long overdue but constitutes only a start. I'm fed up with parties being voted in and then doing whatever they want for 5 years. I want to vote on individual government proposals. Only then will we have anything close to real democracy.

  • Comment number 93.

    Who pays the Boundary Commissioners? Have they been CRB checked? Are they above reproach? How do we find out? When were they elected? By whom? Who are they, and where do they live? Clearly they are the problem.

    Never mind Electoral Reform, what we need is Boundary Commission Reform!

  • Comment number 94.

    Yes, absolutely and at the earliest possible moment. We all know how important this is by the way Gordon and Call me Dave are reacting. They are terrified their grip on National Politics will slip with PR. It may well be that PR is not the panacea of our troubles in Politics but at least it truly represents what the electorate really want. The present lot, and, from what I have seen during the campaign NOTHING is going to change in Parliament. Sleaze will arise within the first year. They cannot help it - it is their culture. I cannot see any reason to vote for the so called main parties. Cannot trust any of them.

  • Comment number 95.

    The first past the post system is not perfect, the only perfect system is a one party state. But we certainly don't want that.

    Proportional representation means perpetual coalition government, or coalition government, minority government followed by coaltion etc etc. The coalition option means the parties have to give concessions over what they believe in to get their legislation through. Coalition is a weak form of government in peace time and never take the country forward because they are riven by self interest. Under PR, you never have a strong government. Its why the Liberated Dimwits believe in it, because PR produces governments that don't really believe in anything. And the Liberated Dimwits epitimise this believing in nothing.

    Belgium is paralysed politically, becasue its a series of weak coalition governments that collapse. Is this what Britain needs?

    Nick Clegg loves to talk about the two old parties and what he actually means is his party and the Conservatives. The Liberal element of his party has been around since the mid 19th century and they ended up in the electoral wilderness because of the emergence of Labour against their core vote. The major reason the Liberated Dimwits believe in PR has nothing to do with fairness, but power.

    With constituancies, at least you vote for a person who represents you. Under PR you vote for a list and what happens if the person in your area does not get in? You are effectively marginalised as a voter.

    The Westminster system allows you to kick our governments. It happened in 1945 with Churchill, 1979 when Labour destroyed this country the first time and again in 1997 when the Tories were riven by differences and probably did not deserve to win.

  • Comment number 96.

    YES. PR is the way forward. Under the current system Labour will still govern the country if they come last in the election. Ridiculous!

  • Comment number 97.

    Some people are saying they would not like Proportional Representation because it would allow the BNP to get seats in parliament. I am strongly against the BNP but I think it's fair that they're represented in parliament if enough people vote for them, as for all other minority parties.

    PR is the only truly democratic voting system available, with everyone's vote having equal power. It would finally allow us each to vote positively for what we really believe in rather than having to vote negatively (tactically) to keep a certain party out.

  • Comment number 98.

    I have just filled in my ballot paper, & I would like to see an option for a "lucky dip" likwe the lottery.

  • Comment number 99.

    this election has been shown to be a farce
    I feel that my human rights have been abused by tv and papers
    they should be charged with manipulating a 3 horse race
    they have not given equal oppertunities to all other parties,
    the tv and papers watchdog should step in

  • Comment number 100.

    I would like to see a system where you are voting for your local representative to champion your local issues in Parliament.

    Isn't that what we have at the moment?

    No in most cases people are voting for a party not the candidate, a candidate who may never have lived in the constituency, and if it is a by election will probably be one of the party big wigs who lost there seat at the last general election.

    And what will proportional representation do for me. Well it means that there is a possibility that I will end up with an MP of a party that polled the lowest votes in my constituency and quite possibly will not be the person I voted for or the party that won in my constituency.

    That is not local democracy.

    I want my member of parliament to be local, fighting for local issues in national parliament, I want him/her to have local knowledge gained by living in the constituency for a period of time before the election and I want someone with life and commerce experience, I do not want someone who has a degree in political science and who has no experience in the real world i.e. the career politician. If you want a career in politics join the civil service.


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