First Past The Post is destroying the Union

David Green, a former member of the Electoral Reform Society’s Council, has issued the following circular to national & regional media:

Our voting system is destroying our union with Scotland in the same way it destroyed our union with Ireland

I am an individual voter who believes that our First-past-the-post voting system is about to malfunction in spectacular fashion next Thursday and so I have published a simple website at http://www.knackered.org.uk which highlights our voting system’s deficiencies and what can be done to put things right.

As you know, our Victorian voting system can gift the election to a party which failed to poll the most votes, it can deprive the UKIP of any representation notwithstanding millions of votes cast for their candidates, and it can waste over two thirds of the votes shovelled into it.

But I am a Unionist and right now I have a more pressing concern.

According to a recent opinion poll, the Scottish Nationalists are on track to take 100% of the Scottish seats with just 54% of the vote, thereby giving them a wholly disproportionate and undeserved influence over UK governance and creating an impression worldwide that support for nationalism north of the Border is a lot stronger than it actually is.

I wonder if you realise that this has happened before, 130 years ago, when Ireland was still part of the UK.

In the 1885 General Election, thanks to the use of First-past-the-post in newly created single member constituencies, Charles Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party eliminated Unionism in the South of Ireland with just 68% of the Irish vote. Nothing could be done in Westminster afterwards without taking Mr. Parnell and his 85 MPs into account.

Moreover, the pocket of unrelieved Unionism in the North East of Ireland, also elected in 1885 courtesy of First-past-the-post, laid the foundations of the conflict which still festers on the streets of Northern Ireland to this day.

While there are limits to the parallels that can be drawn between Ireland and Scotland in terms of era, culture and politics, what can be said is that First-past-the-post brutalises political debate; it accentuates differences of opinion; it fuels geographical tribalism; it overstates the majority and discriminates against the minority, even to the point of eliminating it altogether.

I believe there is a case for suggesting that our First-past-the-post voting system is destroying our union with Scotland in pretty much the same way it destroyed our union with Ireland.

Ironically, the Irish abandoned First-past-the-post on independence in favour of the British system of proportional representation – the Single Transferable Vote in Multi Member Constituencies – which among other attributes facilitates local and proportionate representation of meaningful minorities. It’s high time we followed the Irish example and adopted STV for all our public elections.

Please use your best endeavours to ensure the defects of the current voting system are drawn to the attention of your readers/audience and use your influence to ensure that, whoever takes power next Thursday legislates to reform our voting system.

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