On the 12th of December the UK goes to the polls. Before you stop reading this post right now, I am not going to tell you how to vote. I just want to try and say why we should all vote. Also, why I vote and what I think would encourage more people to vote.
I was eligible to vote for the first time back in 1979 when the Thatcher government came to power. I am proud to say I have voted at every local and national election since.
Many of you would say, why bother, all politicians are the same and you can’t trust them. Since the Brexit referendum of 2016 you may have a point. Our political system has not worked well and neither has our parliament. But that word ‘our’ is important. The parliament in any democracy is chosen by the people. It’s the way offered to the people to choose our MPs which differs.
In the UK we have ‘The first past the post voting system’. In my humble opinion this part of the problem.
If we go back in the UK’s history we can see that the right to vote has been fought hard for. From groups like The Chartists who wanted the right to vote for all. Then on to the Suffragettes who fought for the right for women to have the vote. To me, it’s mind boggling that all women in the UK didn’t have the vote until the 1920’s. By then both my Parents had been born. I would like to see the voting age for the whole of the UK down to 16.
It’s one thing for universal suffrage to have been achieved you then have to prove that the voting system is fair. This where our voting system falls down.
When all the votes are counted in your constituency our system wants to know who got the most. They are then elected. The problem is, when you add the votes of all the other candidates together in many constituencies it’s more than the person who won. How is that fair? With our system a party with 35-40% of the vote can gain a majority. Surely, if your party has 40% of the votes cast you should have 40% of the seats in parliament. In Europe, a voting system like this is in place. It’s not perfect, it makes parties work together to create a coalition government which has a real mandate. No doubt some of you will say look what happened with the Tory & Libdem coalition, we ended with austerity. What is vital is a system of checks and balances. That’s why democracies have a 2nd chamber in parliament. This is where our biggest problem lies in my opinion. We don’t have an elected 2nd chamber. If a campaign for fair votes is going to succeed it has to include a replacement for the House of Lord’s.
I have always believed that everyone must vote. In countries such Australia it’s compulsory. If we go down that root though we should have an extra box on the ballot paper. That box should allow you as a voter to say ‘none of the above’. Then, if that constituency has more votes for ‘none of the above’ another group of candidates should fight for the seat.
It’s not just our system that is not fair. In the USA they have an electoral college system which is made up to mirror the size of the States. So, the States with the highest population have the most votes. This led to President Trump being elected but Mrs Clinton having a majority of the votes cast by the public.
Like everything worthwhile in our country’s history, if we want to change our voting system we as voters must campaign for it. Only then can we say that we have the parliament that we voted for. If we want change we must demand it.