After dragging myself reluctantly towards the television every Thursday night to watch the torturous sixty minutes that is Question Time, it has begun to dawn on me how much Britain resents two-party politics, and a voting system which teaches a passive acceptance for dated, disproportionate and predictable results. The source of my misery comes with the repeated story line that I have ultimately learnt off by-heart, “Labour, file the divorce bill!”, “Single Market?”, “A weak and wobbly government.” I am bored. As you have probably guessed, British politics is currently a fine example of a point-scoring system, and it will always remain this way unless a radical change can save our political souls.
By ditching two-party politics, Peter Mandelson and Jeremy Corbyn would not be seen on the same soil let alone in the same party, and cries amongst the public for our politicians to unite would cease to exist. Yet the two-party system has forced our leading figures to be both dishonest and divisive. Although we have witnessed a rise in smaller parties, most notably UKIP in 2015 after receiving 3.9million votes, it is still a struggle for those outside the mainstream to gain any political influence. Not only did UKIP receive just one seat in 2015, but was part of the single-issue party trend which has brought attention to the SNP and the Greens, meaning that it is only through radical objectives that a minor party can hope to gain any form of recognition.
Not only does this cause politics to be dry, but it has subsequently lead to increased rates of apathy and political disillusion from the public. If the people aren’t happy, then why can’t the voting system be reformed? In Germany, for example, coalitions are regarded as the norm and a greater number of views are thus accounted for in power, preventing the threat of control being concentrated into the hands of a tiny minority. Yet we have reached a brick wall, as those who gain influence under our current system are the ones who will have the opportunity to, yet shall resist, reforming it. There is no way out.
In the UK, devolved governments are elected under systems far more proportional than that of first-past-the-post. Such proportionality has worked wonders despite critics’ predictions for disaster, with the Additional Members System being introduced in Scotland and Wales in 1999. It would seem obvious therefore that UK Parliament elections should adapt a similar system, especially as the SNP have stated their support for such a measure even after winning 56 out of 59 seats Scottish Westminster seats through first-past-the-post in 2015.
There is no better time to reform our voting system than now, particularly in the light of issues which have vastly divided politics. Touchy topics such as Brexit could be managed by a government formed of a variety of opinions, thus causing the outcome to be largely representative of the public consensus, putting to rest the endless array of alternative possibilities for a final Brexit deal. This would mean that calls for a second referendum and a reversal of the vote would be muted, and politics could return to a place of peace and prosperity.
But first the public must learn to embrace the concept of a reformed system, as politicians have taken advantage of our ignorance for far too long. Although most seem highly content with the prospect of ticking a single box once every five years, alternative means of voting must be brought to attention. We understandably fear the unknown, which is what makes the 2011 referendum, part of the coalition deal offering the chance for Britain to adapt the Alternative Vote system, all the more heart-wrenching. The turnout was just over 40%, and even more shockingly, over 60% of those who did vote rejected the proposal. The lack of understanding regarding the mechanics of British politics became clear, as the vote appeared to be against the Liberal Democrats, then in coalition, as opposed to the issue they advocated.
Whether it be the controversy around the biased redrawing of constituency boundaries, or the discouragement of an ideal pluralist democracy, it is fair to conclude that our voting system has brought about more misery than joy. You don’t need to be a savant to know that neither Labour nor the Conservatives will win power in the next election. Britain must learn to challenge the outdated nature of the first-past-the-post system, and embrace hope for a time in which voting for a minority party is no longer a ‘wasted vote’, but a ‘fair vote’.