Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 4 June 2015


I have had a few e-mails since the election suggesting that the outcome makes a compelling case for the reform of our voting system.

They cite the fact that the SNP got 4.7% of the UK national vote but ended up with 56 seats at Westminster, nearly 10%. UKIP with a 12.6% vote share only got one seat. They claim that this means it is time for us to move to a proportional representation system. This would mean if you get 5% of the national vote share you get 5% of the seats in parliament, 10% of the vote, you get 10% and so on.

On the face of it this is an attractive argument – it does seem fairer, and plenty of people will be pressing the case for PR over the next 5 years.  However, there are strong arguments against it.

Our first-past-the-post system tends to produce one party with a majority of seats leading to a strong government that can implement its manifesto promises. Not so with PR where no one party would ever win outright and would have to form a coalition government every time and negotiate with the other party or parties as to its programme. If the 2015 election had produced a second stalemate in a row, the voice for change would be almost unstoppable. But it did not. The British people looked over the edge of the abyss and drew back and knew exactly what to do to get the result the majority of them wanted. It worked.

Secondly, and this is something I would die in a ditch for, all PR systems necessarily disrupt the vital link between the MP and the constituency. I think this relationship is the greatest strength of our system. Most of us live in and love our constituency and will do whatever it takes to represent it well. Most people know who their MP is and how to make contact when help is needed. Compare that to the PR system for the European Parliament where people simply vote for a party and most do not even know the names of the candidates.

Finally, you may recall that the great British public had a chance to move to a more proportional voting system (AV) early in the last Parliament. The turnout for the referendum was low and the proposal was defeated.

Our system is not perfect, but it works well. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

posted by Gary @ 09:27