Co-operation for a better electoral system- and a better country. Part 2

In Part 1 I noted how the political atmosphere is changing in favour of Proportional Representation (PR) and cross party co-operation – but what about the potential benefits?

The Make Votes Matter website is a great resource, including details of the ways in which PR often leads to a reduction in inequality, better minority representation, greater political engagement and voter turnout and swifter and stronger action against climate change.  In short, -how PR leads to better government.

However, there are some recent and (perhaps) less well known studies which also highlight the value of PR.

In January 2020 the Cambridge University Centre for Future Democracy published its’ ‘Global Satisfaction with Democracy’ Report based on four million respondents from 3,500 country surveys. This covers a period of almost 50 years for Western Europe, and 25 years elsewhere. Whilst dissatisfaction has grown to an all time high globally since the mid 1990’s, the UK and the US (both still use FPTP) have registered extremely dramatic rises. By the end of 2019, dissatisfaction in the UK stood at over 55%, and at 50% in the US. When dissatisfaction is this high, it surely raises concerns that the polarising effects of FPTP make effective government unsustainable – witness armed militias on the streets in US cities.

The authors contrast this situation with another so-called Anglo-Saxon democracy, New Zealand, where dissatisfaction has decreased to just over 25% from an already relatively low level and make the point that this may well be linked to the switch from FPTP to PR in 1993. Other countries (e.g. Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany) using PR have high and increasing levels of contentment with their democracies. The evidence seems to point to a consensual balm that PR imposes on governments to make them more responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens.

More recently, the outperformance of female leaders, compared to ‘strong men’ leaders, in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic has been noted by many observers. As far back as April, Forbes Magazine highlighted the effectiveness of measures imposed by the female Prime Ministers of New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Taiwan, Germany, Finland and Denmark. All of these women were elected under PR systems. Two more points flow from this:

  • PR systems result in greater gender equality (all countries with over 40% women MPs use PR), so it is no surprise to see female leaders emerge from these countries.
  • As Joel Selway (Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University) wrote in the Washington Post in May, countries with PR tend to have broader coalitions that design more efficient, less centralised (administratively and geographically) health systems. This resulted in significantly fewer deaths in percentage terms of Covid-19 cases, -just over 4% for PR countries as opposed to 6.6% for majoritarian (incl. FPTP) systems.

So, in summary, now must be the time for all progressive parties to work together to rid the country of this substandard band of democracy deniers currently masquerading as a government. Only then can we change to an honest voting system and prevent further damage by extremist parties working in the interests of a powerful minority.  The benefits of consensual government elected by Proportional Representation are becoming more and more apparent, and have been thrown into greater focus by the pandemic.


Let us Liberal Democrats lead the way on this, -so please look at ways you can throw your weight behind this vital movement;-

  • Get involved with your local Make Votes Matter group
  • Why not volunteer to join their new Speaker Programme?
  • Join Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform
  • Use the Electoral Reform Society and Make Votes Matter websites to better understand the benefits of and myths surrounding PR.
  • I particularly like the two short videos on Additional Member System (Scotland and Wales) and Single Transferable Vote (Irish System) on the MVM website;-



* Tim Trimble rejoined the party in 2016. He is an active LibDem campaigner, and 2021 Wiltshire County Council and Town Council candidate for Bradford on Avon. In 2019 he was Election Agent for Helen Belcher in Chippenham. He is also an active member of Make Votes Matter in Bath and Chippenham.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • John Marriott 13th Sep '20 - 12:10pm

    Nearly 24 hours and no reply, until now. What does that say about the topic? Your attempt at fact laden argument, à la Mr J Bourke, has clearly failed to move the more cerebral (so far). We used to be taught how to précis at school. Perhaps that ability would have stood yet in better stead here.

  • Peter Martin 13th Sep '20 - 3:02pm

    “……..he clearly said bring in proportional representation.”

    Which country currently has closest to the system you would choose?

  • @Peter
    Well, being a kiwi, I know a bit about MMP (mixed member). Most MPs are constituency so it maintains that from fptp with top up based on party vote. NZ has 5% threshold. When NZ introduced PR they gave voters the option (via referendum) to revert back to fptp after the following 3 GEs. Germany uses the same system

  • Denis Mollison 13th Sep '20 - 11:12pm

    @Peter, @Russell
    Liberal Democrats have long advocated STV (see MMP was introduced by a Labour government for Scotland and Wales, but commissions in both countries have since recommended changing to STV. Most recently the McAllister commission in Wales considered the relative merits of STV, MMP and party-PR (similar to what we used for EU elections), and came down in favour of STV; this was backed up by the Senedd (Welsh Parliament)’s Committee on Electoral Reform, which published a report recommending changing from MMP to STV last week.

    Make Votes Matter are keen not to press for one particular form of Proportional Representation because they are trying to assemble the widest possible coalition to get a majority agreeing that FPTP needs to be replaced.

    All at conference will be welcome to the LDER fringe at 6.45 p.m. on the Saturday (26th Sept.), with speakers including Wendy Chamberlain MP and representatives from MVM, the Electoral Reform Society and Unite to Reform.

  • Tim Trimble 14th Sep '20 - 9:11am

    John M;
    Here is a precis;
    1) The country is in a terrible hole largely because of FPTP
    2) There’s not a lot we (or anyone else) can do about in the short term.
    3) Labour are coming round to PR, so let us, along with all other progressive parties, work to get them fully onboard.
    4) Then we can have more enlightened government and stop extremists like Johnson/Cummings ever getting us into a mess like this again.
    5) Get out and DO something about it.

  • John Marriott 14th Sep '20 - 9:41am

    Yes, Tim, I LIKE IT!
    Be careful how you interpret the 5% threshold. As far as I understand it, an MP elected directly (‘direkte Mandate’) does not have to overcome the 5% threshold of popular votes. It’s the other half of the Bundestag chosen by PR from Regional Lists that does.

    The FDP, for example, rarely gets any MPs, who are directly elected and nearly always relies on the lists to get any representation. On at least one occasion in the past it has failed to make it.

    Finally, I agree with Dennis Mollison. Stop stressing about the kind of PR you want. As long as a party gets roughly the same percentage of seats (over 5%, of course) for its percentage of the popular vote, that’s fine by me!

  • We need to focus on removing FPTP from our electoral system. What comes next is open to debate. We all know what went wrong with reforming The Lords Our elected representatives could not agree what should replace it. By abolishing FPTP, we create a vacuum that ideally the people can debate and decide at a fairly leisurely pace in a Citizens’ Assembly, all this being confirmed by votes in Westminster and a referendum.

  • @ peter
    Although other countries have successfully utilised referendums I believe the 2016 vote has poisoned their use in the UK for a generation. A better way would be for Labour/Greens/PC/LD to have in their manifesto a similar PR policy. If there’s a hung parliament in 2024 and an anti Conservative collation is possible it’s probable that ove 50% would have “voted for PR). The Tories are about to deliver hard Brexit or no deal with 43% of votes. Labour gives way (has candidate but minimal effort) in about 60 seats they have less chance of winning than LD/Greens/PC. Job done!

  • Peter Martin 17th Sep '20 - 7:41am

    “The be(a)uty of MMP is that it is like fptp BUT 100% proportional!” ??

    It can’t be 100% proportional, or even as close to it as arithmetically possible, if there is a 5% threshold for qualification.

    What you really mean is that the you’d like a voting system which is more proportional than the one we have but doesn’t take the concept too far. I can say exactly the same thing as an advocate of AV. It’s just a matter of degree.

    The obvious place to start with some form of (psedo) PR is for the Upper House. There’s no voting at all presently involved that so the introduction of any form would have to be better than what we have now.

  • Peter Martin 17th Sep '20 - 7:55am

    @ Russell,

    ‘it’s probable that over 50% would have “voted for PR””

    As explained in my previous comment they’d only be voting for a system which is more proportional than the one we have. There would be no natural majority for any particular degree of increased increased proportionality, or the voting system used to obtain it, unless all the opposition parties agreed on what they proposed to do in advance.

  • @Peter
    as you say, “unless …” Indeed. Which is why I said “similar PR manifesto policy”.

    re 5% threshold. You could have no threshold! Or 10% or 11.25% threshold. Doesn’t change the fact that MMP is 100% PR

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