Unrepresentative democracy

I just knew it was going to happen. People are backing up on their previous support of proportional representation on the basis that if we had PR, there would be a lot more Reform MPs. The strongest expression of that I’ve seen today is, in talking of Reform “demanding PR so they can bring more nazis in”.

They are, of course, right. And that is absolutely no reason not to have PR: we are a representative democracy, and parliament should therefore represent the views of the UK electorate – and it doesn’t.

Even some supporters of my old party, the Liberal Democrats, have been saying “But look, under PR, there would be a load more Reform MPs than LibDem MPs”. Probably yes. But we are a representative democracy. OK, the party has the highest number of MPs since 1923, with 71.

I’ve been seeing comments like “this is a sweeping mandate for Labour”. No, it isn’t. They got 34% of the votes. 34%, and a 174 majority – they have nearly two thirds of the House of Commons. And that is just wrong.

For the benefit of the LibDems, under an accurate PR, they would have 78 MPs, so they’re still underrepresented. Reform would have 91. But the Greens would have 45, not 4, and few LibDem supporters I know would be upset with that. OK, the Conservatives would have 156, so they’re now slightly underrepresented as well (a novelty for them!). Labour, of course, would have around 221 rather than the 412 they currently sport.

Nervous left-leaning people should rather easily be able to work out that the right-leaning parties (Con and Ref) wouldn’t remotely have a majority, but Labour plus LibDem plus Greens definitely would have, and that is a very conceivable coalition. And if 14% of the country favours Reform, they should have 14% of the MPs (they already have had a disproportionate amount of air time, at least with the BBC…)

Now, this election (as the by-election we had here last year) I voted Labour. Mostly I voted that way tactically, as I really dislike the Tories these days; OK, I quite like Keir Mather (who got elected both times, this time with a doubled majority) but while I respect Starmer’s abilities and character, so far as I can know those, he has positioned the party somewhere right of where the Conservative Party of my youth used to be. It isn’t a Socialist party any more, so far as I can see – the LibDems are probably still more socialist than they are, even though they have also moved rightwards. The most socialist party with MPs (if you exclude Jeremy Corbyn, who hasn’t formed his own party but is back as an independent) is probably the Greens.

I would like to be able to vote for the party which most closely represents my views. I would like to be able to cast a positive vote for a party I like, rather than a negative one against a party I dislike, and I think my view is shared by a massive number of people. Indeed, thinking back to my days of knocking on people’s doors soliciting their votes, more than half of those I talked to were voting the way they did because they disliked either Labour of Conservative, not because they actually liked the other one of that pair.

And that would also free the parties from the need to try to move their policies to capture a slice of the electorate which concerns them, which has fuelled Labour’s great leap rightward under Blair and ongoing and is currently fuelling Conservative hand-wringing discussions of whether they can be more like Reform. Or, as the commenter I started with would put it, more Nazi. This is also, I fear, why despite the fact that around two-thirds of the country would vote to rejoin the EU, given the chance, none of the three major parties were prepared to commit to it in their manifestoes (and, of course, Reform don’t think Brexit has gone far enough!).

Please can this be the last national election where I’m forced to vote negatively…