Why we need UKIP in the fight for Electoral Reform


Pursuit of electoral reform was once a defining policy of the Lib Dems, and it remains one of the key reasons why I am a member of the party. But the disastrous AV referendum in 2011 seems to have kicked the issue into the long grass. I have the same hangups about that referendum as many other Lib Dems do. Labour’s support was non-existent; the Murdoch press spread lies; and the vote was used as a way of punishing Nick Clegg. In short – the establishment pulled rank.

One popular observation about electoral reform is that no party in Government would ever support changing a voting system which had just given them power. I don’t think that this argument is as tautological as many claim it is, but it’s certainly a major concern.

However, none of this hides the fact that voting reform has never gained much support from the general public, unlike other anti-establishment causes. Electoral Reformers are in the uncomfortable position of being hated by the establishment but treated with disinterest by the wider electorate too. It is so often seen as peripheral issue, which only middle-class policy wonks from the liberal elite can be bothered to care about (a problem which the Lib Dems are oh so familiar with).

This is why, if we ever want to make progress on electoral reform, we mustn’t be sniffy about working with UKIP. However much we disagree with them, they are by far the most successful party at whipping up populist support for anti-establishment causes among ordinary people. Leaving the EU wasn’t always such a popular position. UKIP drove it into the mainstream again, with unprecedented success. As well as helping us reach a wider base, working together with UKIP would drive home the fact that electoral reform is about allowing people to have an equal voice, regardless of their political persuasion. It would emphasize the sincerity of our message, and help us build a principled case for reform.

There were murmurs earlier in the year about a cross party group forming to fight for electoral reform, including the Lib Dems, UKIP, the Greens and parts of Labour. Talk of this seems to have died down, along with every other issue, since Brexit cast the rest of the political agenda into shadow. But we must do everything in our power to get voting reform back on the menu.

However much the issue is sneered at, the disproportionality of First Past The Post affects every corner of British politics: from the NHS, to foreign affairs, to the referendum on the EU – granted by a party which 64% of voters didn’t vote for. We don’t live in a real democracy until everyone’s vote counts the same, and we should never forget how urgently we need this reform. If sharing a platform with UKIP would help to advance this cause, which I believe it would, then so be it.

* Ben is a Councillor in Sutton, and the Vice Chair of the Environment & Transport Committee at Sutton Council. He has been a member of the party since the 2015 election, and used to work for the Sutton Liberal Democrats as a volunteer organiser. Ben now works for a charity promoting the greater use of Restorative Justice in the criminal justice system.

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  • Sorry, but we need that bunch of ferrets in a sack like a hole in the head.

  • Where I live is a rock solid Tory stronghold and that party deeply hates the idea of electoral reform, as does most of Labour. Why should they give up a system that is so deeply biased in their favour ?
    There are no LibDem or Labour members of our district council, but a colleague and I were elected for UKIP. Since none Tory residents refuse to ask their own councillors for help, they often ask for ours, which we do our best to provide. This obviously brings us into contact with supporters of the other parties and guess what, we are no so very far apart, except over the EU and all that comes with it. I actually joined UKIP as much over the state of our sham democracy as anything else.
    You have to understand there are a wide range of political philosophies within our party, branches differ considerably whilst sharing basic nationwide principals. This is sometimes a problem but one we are now on top of.
    Personally I’d have no problems co-operating with LibDems, Greens or any other reasonable group in a campaign to introduce some form of PR. If it’s good enough for the ghastly EU, how come we don’t already have it ? I understand that’s still our policy anyway. I wish you luck with this call to arms.

  • ethicsgradient 2nd Jan '17 - 1:55pm

    I think it would be a good time to debate and have a discussion on the merits and draw backs of PR. I am not a lib dem but think I am Liberal in quite a lot of my outlooks. However with discussions of electoral reform I see the negatives of FPTP being given (often not the benefits of FPTP shown though) while I never see the negatives of PR (or the various form of PR) being debated. It is almost taken as a fact that it must be a better system … Well because it is… So I appreciate the benefits of PR being all votes count, there are no meaningless votes. All spectrum of political views can be represented from fascist or right through to communist for left and those above and below, such as environmental parties, single cause parties etc.

    But what of the drawbacks? yes there are negatives to PR.

    1) loss of directly elected mp’s. If you go with a nationwide system and say one party gets 30% and so gets allocated 30% of the MP places. Well they are just handed out from a list an you lose the local connection between the constituency demos and their ‘appointed’ representative. Some of this can be neturalised by having a split between list and local mp’s but this already distorts the notion of PR directly representing the the general vote itself

    2) Inability to hold a government to its manifesto. Parties run on manifesto. Rarely in PR does one party with an outright majority so a coalition is formed. This means a deal is done and manifestos get junked. The cheap answer (and one voters do not like) is well we cannot govern by ourselves so we had to drop things. Just think how well the tuition fees situation went down. So manifestos become meaningless because they will never be implemented and will always be changed. The voters never get what they voted for.

    3) inability to get rid of corrupt/incompetence mp’s. Because the link between a constituency and an MP is broken (it is PR rather than a local constituency vote ) people cannot vote out individual Representative that do not like/do not trust because people vote for party rather than individual. The corrupt politician remains on the parties list and cannot be gotten rid of. This has been seen time and time again in PR systems.

  • paul barker 2nd Jan '17 - 2:57pm

    We will get Electoral Reform when we have a Government dominated by Liberal Democrats, UKIP may play a useful role in wasting votes that might otherwise go to other Parties but apart from that they are irrelevant.
    Stage one of our recovery is when we start to Poll consistently ahead of UKIP, I would expect that in the summer; after that no-one will talk about UKIP much anymore.

  • Helen Belcher 2nd Jan '17 - 3:14pm

    There is a world of difference between “finding ourselves in agreement with” and “actively working with”.

    In terms of UKIP, we happen to find ourselves in agreement with them on PR (although I wonder whether they’re just being angry about their lack of MPs compared with their popular vote and haven’t thought through what form of PR they want). Indeed, Chippenham’s Make Votes Matter group has representatives from all main parties (including UKIP) except the Tories. Politics does mean we have to speak with all sorts of people and, sometimes, find common ways forward.

    However the fundamentals of UKIP’s main policy thrust displays them as an insular, intolerant and divisive party – completely at odds with the values underpinning the Liberal Democrats. This is why I can’t see ourselves ever going deeper than “finding ourselves in agreement with” when it comes to UKIP and electoral reform.

    To ethicsgradient – bear in mind that there are many different forms of PR – some of which don’t lose the constituency link.

  • Peter Parsons 2nd Jan '17 - 3:16pm


    Your point 1 is addressed completely by using either STV (the system used in Ireland, both the Republic and the North, and for Scottish local elections) or by Open List PR (the system commonly used in Scandanavian countries). Both elect individuals from multi-member constituencies and because the voters get to choose which individuals (rather than the parties, which is a reason why parties don’t like it) get elected, both also address your point 3 as both systems retain a 100% constituency link.

    As for 2, the current government is implementing a manifesto which gained the support of less than a quarter of the electorate in 2015 (11,334,920 votes from an electorate of 46,425,386 – 24.4%). 2005 was even worse (9,567,589 votes from an electorate of 44,180,243 – 21.7%). If a party wishes to govern alone, then they need to come up with a manifesto which can command something akin to a majority of the votes. If a single party is either unwilling or incapable of coming up with such a manifesto, do they deserve to get to impose their will on the majority who did not vote for them?

  • ethicsgradient 2nd Jan '17 - 3:19pm

    @Paul Walter,

    Hi, I understand fully and no problems from me. Its tough moderating boards, fully appreciate the effort.

    All the best.

  • FPTP is very unfair on minorities, grossly exaggerates support for the two main parties which eventually promotes the extremes. SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE best avoids the snags:
    * Minority views are heard
    * Exteme views count for much less
    * Safe seats are abolished
    * Tactical voting is unnecessary
    * Voters can choose between members of the same party, or for independents
    * We would all have several MPs to choose from and so much more chance of finding one with a like mind.
    * Boundary changes would matter less.

  • Plain Speaker 2nd Jan '17 - 3:51pm

    I voted for AV – not because I thought it a good system (although better than Pure FPTP) but because I thought it would be easier to move from that to a more representative system like AV+. In my view, electoral reform will not come as a big bang – it will come gradually. It is not widely known that until 1950 the UK had multi member constituencies (by 1950 mostly 2 members). The MPs were elected by FPTP – the bloc system. My proposal for reform would be to move back to Multi member constituencies but keep the bloc system initially. Thereafter, change from the bloc system to some form of preferential selection. The present dogs breakfast over boundaries would have been much easier with multi members, and might even have proved popular with many MPs.

  • One of the comments refers to the fact that Labour would be against electoral reform . That might have been the case 10 years ago but now Labour’s electoral prospects are very different , especially in Scotland . The only two Parties which will support first past the post are the Conservatives and SNP as they benefit hugely from the present system .
    However as the Conservatives are likely to remain in power for the foreseeable future I don’t see anything happening .

  • UKIP are, as a party, almost everything LibDems should be fighting against.

    But they are also thoroughly stuffed by the current system and could indeed be useful allies for this. There are more ‘kippers than Greens for a start.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Jan '17 - 5:04pm

    Imagine Ken Clarke MP standing for the Tory leadership with the support of John Redwood MP. It has happened, honestly it did, but it was not , repeat not, successful.

  • Leekliberal 2nd Jan '17 - 5:41pm

    Icini, a UKIP Councillor says ‘we are not so very far apart, except over the EU and all that comes with it’.
    I suggest Iceni that you look at the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution to realise UKIP and the Lib Dems are polar opposites politically so any co-operation between us is simply not-on. As we share a wish to achieve PR, we can campaign separately towards that objective and if the the vagaries of FPTP ever allowed the election of a majority of Lib Dem, Green, Labour PR supporters and UKIP MPs we could use a single-clause bill to introduce and pass an Act of Parliament to bring PR about after which we would immediately dissolve parliament for a General election to take place under PR

  • I simply can not see voting reforms taking place for another generation. That argument was lost with AV and due to the disastrous ways in which the Liberal Democrats handled coalition government in my opinion.
    I don’t think It had anything to do with wanting to punish Nick Clegg at all.
    It was simply because the Liberal Democrats where simply ineffective when it came to showing how a coalition government “should work” and how a “junior party” could be effective in moderating the excesses of the main party.
    Cabinet collective responsibility was silly in a coalition government. It saw LD ministers being trotted out to defend Government policies that deep down the party and it’s supporters did not agree with, Tuition Fee’s, Bedroom Tax, NHS reforms.. the list goes on and hence the reason the LD’s were trashed at the next election.

    The Public did not want to hear comments from Nick Clegg like how well him and Cameron are getting on and if they carried on like this, there would be nothing to disagree about.
    The public wanted to see the distinct differences between the 2 parties, because it is only by viewing these differences we would have been able to judge what was negotiated between the two and the effectiveness of coalition governments and indeed a junior party.
    The Cosiness of the coalition gave the impression there was not a cigarette paper between the Tories and the LD’s, which angered many who felt they had been betrayed and duped when LD’s offered “a different way of doing politics”

    I don’t think there is any chance the public would now vote for a change to our voting system, they have been put off by coalitions.
    The only way you would ever change the system now would be for the Government to impose the change and I can’t see the Tories or the Labour Party {if they get anywhere near power again} ever doing that

  • Plain Speaker, I think that referendum we had on AV in 2011 was a disaster for the electoral reform movement and if we had voted for it I doubt very much we would have got another referendum to change it to either AV, STV or any other PR system. Australia has had AV for ninety odd years and shows no sign of changing it to PR or even backwards to FPTP which is even more likely. I have to hand it to the Tories, they were very clever to pull this trick of an AV referendum whilst knowing that it had very little chance of being voted for and yet they could claim they offered the country electoral reform and it was rejected.

  • Peter Parsons, lists present a problem for some people when deciding about the merits or not of PR and can be solved as you say but you could also have a Mixed-Member Proportional/Additional Member System (MMP/AMS) with 50% FPTP single-member constituencies and also a 50% ‘top-up’ list which DOESN’T need to be ‘closed’. Infact, I believe the Hansard Society recommended that the German system of AMS should be used for the House of Commons in 1976 but that the list members should be elected using an ‘open’ list.

  • Jean Shaw, yes the Labour Party’s electoral prospects have become pretty dim not just on account of their electing Jeremy Corbyn but also because they have just one parliamentary seat left in what was a Labour stronghold ie Scotland. Due to the FPTP system, incumbent parties are not easily removed and I think it will be difficult due to that factor for Labour to retake many of those seats. If they fail to do this, they are going to struggle to win a British general election again since many constituencies in England are not renowned for having strong pro-Labour tendencies. If the Welsh were to turn to Plaid Cymru like the Scots have towards the SNP, then Labour are snookered frankly.

  • Paul Scot, I agree that extreme views count for less under STV. However, extremism is very often in the eye of the beholder and quite a few people may not like STV for that reason and vote against it in a future referendum. I think this factor needs to be considered as any change is only likely to happen due to a national referendum being held.

  • Peter Parsons 2nd Jan '17 - 7:59pm

    @Barry, one of the arguments used against AMS/MMP is that it creates two types of MPs, constituency-elected ones and list-elected ones and that is something that opponents of reform play on. Equally, it is a system which seems to function reasonably well in Scotland, Wales and London (and I don’t hear too many Conservatives complain about the representation it delivered for them, fairly IMO, in the last Holyrood elections).

    Ideally I’d start with standardising local government on STV. It doesn’t affect MPs directly and it could be argued to be a policy of introducing consistency to a system which currently uses different systems (FPTP or STV) depending on where you live. Local government also has lots of multi-member wards so lends itself to the concept well without redrawing any existing boundaries.

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Jan '17 - 10:15pm


    Yes, i agree, lib Dems should campaign for STV in local elections. Bigger wards than 3 members though, so that all serious parties put up a choice of candidate. And some way of randomising the ballot so that people called Aardvark are not inevitably elected…

    For Westminster, AM as in Scotland is tbh the only system likely to get sufficient cross-party support. Best to stop arguing and support that ( and yes, I am a big supporter of STV! )

    On coalitions, once you have PR the likely coalitions are generally clear before the election along with any red lines on policy and people know what they are voting for..

  • No arguments with MMP from me (Wales). Labour still end up ruling in perpetuity, but at least MMP means they don’t have it overwhelmingly their own way.

  • Peter Parsons 2nd Jan '17 - 10:37pm

    @Andrew, my thoughts on maintaining the existing council structures is one of minimising the number of changes introduced. Redrawing ward boundaries at the same time would be a second concurrent change which some would use as an argument against changing at all (“you’re making it too complex, better to leave things as they are”).

    I also agree on randomisation (it was claimed by an elected representative of one of the local parties that another candidate was only elected to the town council at last year’s elections because of “alphabetical ordering”, so could be considered to be an issue with FPTP as well). This is easily solved with modern printing systems.

  • Thanks for your comments guys. I’m not going to get into a long discussion about whether or not we should adopt PR. I take it as given in my article that we do, not because I don’t respect people who disagree, but just because it wasn’t the thrust of my argument. All I am going to say is that even if all of the complaints raised against PR here are fair (which I don’t think they are) it all pales into insignificance compared to the benefit of making everyone’s vote count the same. That is literally the point of democracy – and it baffles me that anyone sees this as something which can be traded away. Is there any principled defence of some people’s votes clearly being worth more than others – like they are in marginal vs safe seats under FPTP?

    In terms of how to get PR back on the menu – I don’t think that we should just wait for it to naturally come into the public consciousness again. We need to make a proper campaign on the issue and keep making noise about it until people pay attention. If we can work together with UKIP on this, then I think that this could happen much faster.

  • Colin McNamee 2nd Jan '17 - 11:36pm

    It was unfortunate that Nick Clegg went down the route of AV rather than AV+

    Having described AV only the previous year as a ‘baby step’ and was not overly enthusiastic in its endorsement at the time. Perhaps undue influence from Cameron/Osborne ?

    Within UKIP around 2006/7 TR (Total Representation) being a form of PR but its system ensures a fairer representation by distribution of votes cast whilst retaining a Constituency MP.

    For those genuinely interested in a more representative democracy in the UK, which I am, then Google Total Representation and study the benefits. I could not see any negatives.

  • Matt Severn 2nd Jan '17 - 11:43pm

    No. Absolutely not. We should never work with UKIP, or campaign with them, or even serve in local coalitions with them on local councils. We should ostracise them and vigorously campaign against them. We have our differences with other parties but all within acceptable parameters. UKIP are different – they are opposed to British society & democracy should not be given the time of day.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '17 - 6:53am


    loss of directly elected mp’s. If you go with a nationwide system and say one party gets 30% and so gets allocated 30% of the MP places. Well they are just handed out from a list

    This is not the sort of system that the Liberal Democrats support. The Liberal Democrats support the STV system, not a party list system.

    Under the STV system, votes are directly for individual candidates, not for party lists. For a candidate to get elected he or she must get a quota of votes. There is no requirement that these votes come from an even distribution. If a candidate concentrates campaigning in a particular place and gets all his or her votes from there, well, that’s his or her constituency.

    However, unlike the current system, candidates can define their own constituencies. It may be that the constituency is a particular sort of person rather than a geographical area. It might be (the possibility of this was why I joined the Liberals in the first place because only they supported STV which allows it) scattered poor areas in a wealthy county.

    So actually STV gives much stronger and more personal constituencies than “first past the post”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jan '17 - 7:03am

    The first thing we must do to promote electoral reform is expose the utter hypocrisy of the Labour Party.

    They condemned us for “propping up the Conservatives” and yet they support an electoral system that props up the Conservatives by giving them many more seats than their share of the votes. By accepting a Conservative-led government in 2010, the LibDems were only doing what Labour said should be done by the FPTP electoral system: prop up the biggest party so that it can take control.

    The difference between what we want and what Labour wants is that Labour wants the biggest party propped up by giving it more seats rather than a coalition. Well, from 2015 onwards, Labour have what they wanted. Congratulations, Labour. We have the biggest party propped up government you say we should have, YOU Labour have propped up the Tories 100% by not supporting electoral reform.

    The 2010-2015 coalition was the only viable government due to the distortions of the electoral system, and due to those distortions which Labour thinks are so wonderful, the LibDems had a much smaller proportion of seats than their share of votes, so had only a minor influence on the government. But we had some influence, which enabled us to swing the government towards moderation when there were enough Tories to go along with us and counter their right-wing. Labour want none of that, they just want and unrestricted Tory government, so long as they are the sole and powerless and useless opposition to it.

    For that reason, anyone who votes Labour is voting for a 100% Tory government.

  • Little Jackie Paper 3rd Jan '17 - 9:28am

    Andrew McCaig – ‘And some way of randomising the ballot so that people called Aardvark are not inevitably elected…’

    I’m always really surprised that more isn’t made of that. I’ve done some election administration in professional bodies and we would never even dream of putting candidates in anything other than random order.

    I also take issue with ballot papers in AV/PR elections that do not explicitly tell voters that they do not have to cast a 2nd (3rd etc) preference if they do not wish to do so.

    Huntbach – ‘However, unlike the current system, candidates can define their own constituencies.’

    I agree with the point you are getting at, but I’m not totally sure that it’s a positive in any and all circumstances. A weakness of the current system is the built-in advantage pensioners have and I suspect that might be magnified by PR. Obviously the flip side there is that a youth candidate might find it easier to reach a youth vote, but I’m not totally convinced. The drone voter has always worried me about PR and I do think it’s glossed over too readily.

  • Matt (Bristol) 3rd Jan '17 - 10:49am

    I don’t like a lot of UKIP and fear it may offer sanctuary to those who are seeking a prejudiced restructuring of British society.

    But they are not an inherently racist party – yet. There are fellow-travellers who have flocked to them who are simply reasonable / liberal-minded Eurosceptics who gave up on the other parties some time ago.

    So I do feel that we must not treat them as pariahs and refuse to deal with them under all circumstances – as much as anything else that would be bad psychology, and encourage the ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’ element within them.

    But there needs to be a recognition that our areas of compatibility are slight, and vulnerable to several factors not under our control:

    – the remains of the cult of Farage as the inspired, improvisational leader who had to be given a free hand,

    – the general ‘us vs them’ oppositionalism that has naturally come out of the referendum

    – the question of whether they really take the political process seriously (so far they have been an outcome-focused party, bothered about the end, not the means).

    Under Paul Nuttal, UKIP has a choice – will it choose to be the cheerleaders of Brexit and nothing more, or will it try to forge a new party identity that has a coherent set of policies?

    If it is able to achieve the latter, it will then need to decide how much electoral reform features in its agenda and what it means by that.

    During that period we need to keep extending the hand of (limited and sceptical) friendship to those elements of UKIP who are serious about change, but we need to be ready for several stops and starts.

    But UKIP should realise it needs electoral reform to seriously survive – it owes most of its success to the PR system used in the Euro elections and has not really managed to build the ground campaign needed to consistently take seats at Westminster.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Jan '17 - 11:34am

    Ken Clarke has just given us his view on the coalition in an interview with the Parliament Channel about his book. He said both parties were “doomed” to stick together.
    Incidentally this jazz-loving MP made two mentions of Ronnie Scott’s Club in his book but omits the televised occasion when he went with Labour MP John Prescott after a late sitting. Prescott asked “How many hospital have you closed lately?” and got the affable reply “None in your neck of the woods.” Clarke could have said that the 1970-1974 Tory government had a hospital building programme with computerised design systems (HARNESS) but the 1974 Labour government cancelled it to reduce capital spending.

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Jan '17 - 12:25pm

    You may be interested to know that the German system does not allow by-elections. When there is a vacancy, through death or resignation, the next person on the Party List is chosen, regardless of whether the seat is a constituency or a list seat.

  • Does David Raw ever post anything positive ?

  • Russell Simpson 3rd Jan '17 - 1:57pm

    I think the best solution is the Additional Member System. It works well already in this country (Wales/Scotland/London) so is understood. It is used in NZ where they built in to the original legislation 2 opportunities for NZers to kick it out – and they haven’t. NZ is similar to NZ and had fptp previously. Conservatives will vote for PR about the same time as Republicans vote against the US Electoral College so clearly we need Labour to “come to the party”! Blair reneged on his 1997 manifesto for obvious reasons but clearly Labour has virtually no chance of getting a majority in foreseeable elections. Given the current Labour leadership is not interested in electoral reform we may have wait but it seems to me that the only way Labour gets back to power is with sharing it. The best chance of beating the Tories is for Labour/Libdems/Greens/SNP(yes!) to agree, seat by seat in about 50-100 seats which parties stand. This is for 1 election only. All these parties sign up to implementing PR immediately and new election run as soon as PR is in place (this may take a year or two so there would be a coalition govt). This plan requires Labour to be interested in Governing so we have to wait for that.

  • Peter Parsons 3rd Jan '17 - 2:30pm

    @Russell, there are high profile Labour MPs who have spoken publically in favour of electoral reform. John McDonnell has done so a number of times, as have other members of the current shadow cabinet such as Clive Lewis and Jonathan Reynolds (who tabled a bill to introduce AMS for Westminster back in December 2015). Chuka Umunna is another who regularly advocates for PR.

  • My apologies to Ben: His posting is spot on but we have fluffed previous opportunities for progress on PR because of over simplistic campaigns supporting duff election systems.
    Although I assume that most of the members contributing here will have taken part in the internal party STV elections, it seems that we need to cultivate our commitment to STV before we can effectively present the case for it. Paul Scott and Matthew Huntbach and others have put the key benefits. However, despite the fact that STV is the best system for elections there is still the tradeoff between size of multimember constituencies and the degree of proportionality e.g. a 9 member constituency could leave up to 10% of the voters unrepresented.
    Little Jackie Paper:– We can surmise that the differential turnout between young and old voters would diminish with STV as it is reasonable to assume that participation will increase with awareness that only a small proportion of votes will not influence the outcome.
    Back to the argument re UKIP:-
    We don’t know where UKIP will settle in terms of political geography. There isn’t much room on the extreme side of the egg beyond Conservatives under TM. If UKIP does survive as a significant electoral force it is likely to be in competition with Labour in their former strong areas as oft stated recently elsewhere. When they start promoting policies they may well loose much of their support. The policy making process will force them to think about what they really want to achieve and how PR is relevant to that. A potentially great opportunity for us.

  • The idea is eminently rational. “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, on this issue anyway.
    Can we afford to be proud about how we approach the way back to national relevance and indeed to actually getting to a position where we can implement the things we stand for?
    They suffer from the same handicap under FTP as we do. But does anyone know their position on this, or are we just opinionating….

  • John Littler 3rd Jan '17 - 5:43pm

    You may have a point about UKIP reaching 10-12% of voters who no one else can, to popularise a rather esoteric issue such as electoral reform. That is even if they are late comers to reform and opposed it up to 2010. They might even influence some on the Tory right.

    UKIP had to learn the hard way, how brutally unfair First Past the Post voting often is and only after they felt what was probably the most technically unfair result in history did they make the damoclesian conversion to fair votes.

    But wash your hands and check your wallet afterwards.

  • There are a number of reasons why the majority of the UK voted to leave the EU but time and again people spoke about being forgotten by an elite, seemingly proved as London and other capital cities voted to stay.

    UKIP may be the opposite to everything the Lib Dems stand for but they had been represented in Westminster in a way that there vote at the GE deserved them to be then there would have been less of that anti-elitist feeling going into the EU referendum and UKIP would not have been able to play itself off as the voice of the ignored successfully. The result may have been very different.

    The one issue that PR will have to answer is based on how smaller parties elevated into greater power than they had previously will be able to cope. UKIP has been shown to structurally be a bit of a basket case since the GE, but if the EU referendum was the bigger prize then that again may have swung many votes to the remain point of view.

    While standing with UKIP on any issue feels a little sickly, democracy means that you make your case better and you do more to listen and convince voters to side with you rather than hiding behind an electoral system that keeps power in the same hands decade after decade.

  • I agree DJ that the feeling of being forgotten was a big part of the Brexit vote, and IMO caused by a broken electoral system in the UK and nothing to do with Brussels. If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be obvious now that we need to fix our own system.

    While I accept that the failed AV vote took the wind out of the sails of the electoral reform movement, the need for electoral reform has become more apparent, and I think it has become less of a fringe issue, which we need to work on. Apart from the obvious political differences, I don’t think a shared platform with UKIP is useful, as it will be too easy for opponents to lump us together as a minority interest having a moan because we’re not popular enough.

    The movement for electoral reform must be cross-party, and right now there is renewed motivation for Labour party members especially to appreciate the advantages. We should be supporting those within the Labour party who are working to persuade other members of its merits, and not just go against it because it’s a LibDem policy.

    Regarding coalitions, there’s no doubt we made mistakes, but we have learnt a lot from it, and would do better next time. As each month passes, more of the public are realising that we did temper the Tories. We’ll be accused by some Labour supporters of facilitating the Tories, and we need to be better at responding to that, and using it as an opportunity to raise discuss electoral reform.

    In theory, the SNP are in favour of PR, but they are revelling in being Westminster’s 3rd party, and expect to be treated as such. They’ll support reform if it means complaining about Westminster, but will be less reliable if it means fixing Westminster.

  • Peter Parsons 6th Jan '17 - 3:41pm

    There’s now an All-Party Parliamentary Group for PR:


    I would hope to see both LibDem and UKIP representation in this group at some point.

  • Colin McNamee 15th Apr '19 - 9:58am

    ……and still after my post nobody mentions ‘Total Representation’ ( TR). A form of PR that retains the Constituency MP link, does not increase whatever the existing number of MP’s is at the time, and very definitely accurately reflects the votes cast by the electorate.

    Neither the Liberal Democrat’s – principle supporters of PR -; the Parliamentary Select Committee – on voting reform sitting in 2010/11 prior to the referendum in 2011-; nor In Parliament debates discussed TR. Even the media, given a tendency to political laziness, did not pick up this form of PR.

    Looks like a similar apathy here as well. It is worth checking it out for yourself, at least then you could argue against, if you wish, from an informed understanding.

  • Peter Watson 15th Apr '19 - 11:22am

    @Peter Parsons “I would hope to see both LibDem and UKIP representation in this group at some point.”
    There is a more up-to-date register of for the group (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/180606/proportional-representation.htm, after the 2017 General Election) which shows Wera Hobhouse representing the Lib Dems in this group as a vice-chair (as well as other Lib Dem members being listed here: https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/who-we-are/appgpr/).

  • Colin McNamee 15th Apr '19 - 7:11pm


    Thank you for the links, noted.

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