Electoral Reform is Urgent – the Dangers of Brexit and ‘Missing Marginals’

Electoral Reform is Urgent – the Dangers of Brexit and Missing Marginals

There are three points in this post. Two are about a need for urgency on electoral reform and the third concerns this website.

Let us first deal with the two matters that call for Urgency on Electoral Reform.

Brexit: surprisingly to us, no case was ever brought before an EU jurisdiction to get First-past-the-post declared unfit for purpose in a 21C democracy. Our January item showed how we are the last country in Europe to use it while the others all have one or other system of proportional representation. With Brexit almost certainly going through, any scrutiny by the EU we might have called on will be out of reach for good.

We will be on our own to wonder whether the power-holding segment of our homogenised political class might like to move to an even less democratic electoral system. Citizens should be capable of recognising this possibility when they look at an institution that prides itself for carrying over into the digital age attitudes and practices rooted in the 18C or earlier. If when MPs enter Westminster world, there’s a pompous, antiquated mindset that enough find it hard to stay out of, we are entitled to worry.

Particularly those who think Brexit is a short-sighted error – a regression for our democracy – need a way of getting some balance back. In the short term, an effective answer is electoral reform. Proportional representation broadly reflects the will of the electorate and takes away the ability of any single party to govern us outright without a genuine majority mandate. Let’s get a campaign underway. URGENT!

Diminishing Number of Marginal Seats: we recommend this link to the London School of Economics website which published ‘The Case of the Missing Marginals.’ It is indicating how their numbers are in decline. There are already about 425 safe seats where your vote for a party that’s not the incumbent is about as meaningful as casting it into the nearest drain outside the voting station. Only in the marginals does any serious contest take place, mostly between Tory and Labour but not exclusively. The parties funnel the lion’s share of their campaign budgets into the marginals.

So from a practical point of view, fewer marginals and more safe seats is no bad thing for them. But if the number of marginals keeps diminishing ad absurdum, in theory only one party might be able to win general elections in perpetuity. It will not take much more to push us over the line to full-on ‘electoral dictatorship’.

Whether in safe seats or marginals, winning and most non-winning votes cast under proportional representation are both of value. They are meaningfully counted and will have a say in the final allocation of seats in parliament. So the worst effects of this disturbing ‘missing marginals’ trend can only be protected against in the short term by moving to proportional representation. This looks like high-octane campaign fuel to us! URGENT!

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