4. Why we need proportional representation

Beyond Brexit:

A programme for democratic reform

4. Why we need proportional representation

The first-past-the-post system is archaic and undemocratic – it has to go.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill

Topics Brexit Politics UK

In the fourth piece in our five-part programme for democratic reform, Brendan O’Neill makes the case for proportional representation. Read the introduction to the series here, Mick Hume’s piece on why we must leave the European Union here, Tim Black’s piece on why we must abolish the House of Lords here, and Luke Gittos’s piece on why we must scrap Royal Prerogative powers here.

Imagine what a different country the UK would be if we’d had proportional representation in the 2015 General Election. In that election, UKIP increased its vote share by a stunning 9.5 per cent. It won 12.5 per cent of the national vote: 3,881,099 votes in total. And yet it got just one seat – one measly seat out of 650 – in parliament. A party backed by 12.5 per cent of the people occupied just 0.15 per cent of the House of Commons. That, by any measure, is a catastrophic failure of democratic representation; an explicit disenfranchisement of millions of people. Their votes made practically no impact on the political make-up of the nation.

It was a similar story for the Greens. In 2015 they increased their vote share by 2.8 per cent, winning 3.8 per cent of the popular vote. That’s 1,157,630 votes. As with UKIP, it was their best-ever General Election result. And yet they, too, got just one seat in the Commons. And if there had been proportional representation rather than the first-past-the-post system that British electoral politics has been defined by for centuries? UKIP would have won 83 seats. The Greens would have won around 37.

The Greens, in the words of the Daily Telegraph, could have been ‘kingmakers’ in government-formation. And UKIP, then led by Nigel Farage, would have wielded extraordinary influence over the enactment of the EU referendum and, crucially, the upholding of the referendum result in favour of Brexit. It is unquestionable that if UKIP’s and the Greens’ popular support had been fairly and accurately reflected in the parliamentary system, then the current defining tension in British politics – that between ordinary people and the new elites – would have been more democratically resolved.

Indeed, the surge in support for UKIP and the Greens in 2015 spoke to the emergent political divide between those sections of the public who favour sovereignty and national pride (UKIP supporters) and those who see global institutions and expertise as the best means through which to resolve political problems (Green supporters). And yet this divide, this fascinating, fruitful divide that has to all intents and purposes superseded the old left-right divide, found virtually no political expression in our political institutions. It was given expression by vast swathes of the public, and yet our political system successfully neutered it, silenced it, disenfranchised it.

This is down to first-past-the-post. This system generates a vast disproportionality in the UK’s political life. Parliament fails to reflect what people vote for, and that failure has intensified over time. Under this system, the parliamentary candidate who wins a plurality of votes in a local constituency solely represents that constituency. He or she doesn’t even need to win more than 50 per cent of the vote, just one vote more than the nearest rival. Indeed, in the 2005 General Election, a majority of MPs won with just 35 to 49 per cent of the local vote.

This is a system that favours the two main parties, which can easily secure a plurality of votes in their longstanding ‘safe’ constituencies. It has led over time to the ossification of politics; to the sustaining of an archaic two-party divide that doesn’t represent real and new political divides; and to the disillusionment of huge numbers of voters who feel their vote makes no tangible impact. They feel that it is virtually impossible to use our collective democratic clout to change the focus and agenda of parliament. Consider the nearly four million people who voted for UKIP in 2015 and then watched as their preferred party got just one seat – they will have felt locked out, silenced, failed by politics.

To shake this up, we need radical electoral reform. We need to institutionalise proportional representation. No, not in order to drain ‘tribalism’ from the body politic and help to nurture a more compromising, consensual form of politics, which are too often the arguments made for PR (more on those arguments shortly). But rather for the simple but deeply democratic reason that a representative body should be genuinely representative; that the law-making body of the nation should reflect the popular passions and beliefs of that nation’s inhabitants.

The central problem with first-past-the-post is that it freezes out parties that win substantial support across the country – reflecting mass democratic shifts in opinion and belief – and yet which struggle to top the polls in a local constituency because of the conservative continuity of the two-party structure and the electoral process that benefits that structure. Going back to 2015, this led to some incredibly warped results.

Consider the fact that UKIP beat the Liberal Democrats in the popular vote. The Lib Dems’ vote share plummeted by 15.1 per cent: they got just 7.9 of the national vote share. A total of 2,415,916 votes. And yet they got eight seats in the Commons. They got 1.5million fewer votes than UKIP, yet eight times as many seats as UKIP. If we add to this the fact that the Lib Dems have 109 peers in the unelected House of Lords – the abolition of which is one of the key demands of spiked’s programme for democratic reform – we can see how both the democratic wing of the political system, via first-past-the-post, and the undemocratic wing of the political system, as expressed in the archaic, unaccountable Lords, conspire to stymie and, in some cases, outright thwart popular passions and views.

The warping effect of first-past-the-post can be seen in the fact that it takes nearly four million votes for UKIP to get one MP, and more than one million votes for the Greens to get one MP, while it takes just 30,000 to 40,000 votes for the Tories and Labour to get one MP. This creates a two-tier system. It actually calls into question the principle of one person, one vote, given that the votes of those who opt for UKIP or the Greens or other small parties count for far less, and have far less of a political impact, than the votes of those who remain within the dominant two-party structure.

Many of the arguments for PR – and against it too, in fact – are based on the idea that it would ‘soften’ politics; that it would replace the shoutiness and tribalism and conflict of our current, mostly two-party political system with an instinct, or even a necessity, for compromise. After all, if parliament better reflects national sentiment rather than just being a consortium of a plurality of votes from largely Labour- and Tory-dominated local constituencies, then it will incorporate smaller parties and alternative voices and give rise to a situation where coalitions will have to be formed for the business of government and the passing of laws. Some of those who favour PR say this is what makes PR good, while those who oppose PR say it is the ultimate downside of this electoral system – that it zaps the life and tension from politics and nurtures instead a neverending process of principle-ditching horse-trading between parties.

There are a couple of things to say about this. The first is that we already have coalitions and compromise in the political system. Indeed, it is arguable that the two main parties are coalitions of sorts, only dishonest ones.

The Tories right now are a fractious coalition of one-nation conservatives and globalist technocrats. Labour is a tense coalition between old-world state socialists and neoliberals. And both sides in both parties frequently compromise: witness Jeremy Corbyn’s abandonment of his lifelong commitment to leaving the EU in order to hold together the Labour coalition, or Theresa May’s continual softening of Brexit in order (ostensibly) to placate Remainer forces in her party. The two-party system does not guard against constant coalition-making or problematic compromise – it merely contains these things within a party-political structure that seems increasingly ill-suited to the shifting nature of politics today. And it obfuscates the true and interesting tensions of time by rebranding them as narrow internal party matters.

Moving to PR will not guarantee an improvement in policymaking. It will also not necessarily make policymaking more difficult or principle-lite. The longer-term impact of electoral reform will be decided primarily by the new forces that emerge to take advantage of this opening-up of the political system to different democratic voices and ideas. But there is a profound argument to be made in favour of PR, regardless of what its consequences would be, which is that it would instantly democratise parliament. In the words of Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds: ‘The number of votes cast should be reflected in the composition of parliament. That is the start and end of the debate for me.’

We can hope – and trust, in fact – that PR would have one positive, historically transformative impact: it would act as an invitation to the creation of new parties and to the breaking-up of the current main parties. Right now, there is a strong, almost immovable disincentive to the setting-up of new political parties, or to the breaking away, as an example, of the pro-Brexit Blue Labour movement from the increasingly middle-class, metropolitan, Remainer Labour Party – which is that the potential of these forces to break through to parliament and public influence is incredibly limited. They could even win millions of votes across the country and still find no footing in the Commons. PR would change that. From greens to socialists, Brexiteers to full-on nationalists, all the new and conflicting strands of opinion in British public life would feel energised towards organisation and galvanisation. Because they would know that their ability to reflect significant sections of public opinion would be sufficient, as it ought to be in a genuine democracy, to secure seats and power.

The result would be a more honest, reflective, representative democratic system, in which new thinking and new ideals might finally supersede the exhausted, zombie-like parties of old. There would be tension and division and possibly compromise, of course. But only those who know little about history would ever expect democracy to be easy.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Tony Allaway

10th September 2019 at 3:07 pm

The situation we have at present is an illustration of the chaos that would visit upon us. If we have to go down that route, most certainly it should not be EU-style lists where voters cannot get directly at those they vote for. The system I favour is the French one of a run-off between to the top two.

Aunty Podes

18th August 2019 at 6:04 am

It seems we don’t have freedom of speech in here! I have just tried to post an update on NZ’s actual experience of this diabolical idea of prop rep, only to have it killed – WHY?

Paul Schaefer

11th August 2019 at 10:25 pm

Perhaps a preferential voting system as we have in Oz. Not perfect, but forces the major parties closer to the centre.

Paul Gregory

12th August 2019 at 10:45 am

What is good about the centre? Its mediocrity? What is wrong with Fuzzy Democracy?

Paul Schaefer

12th August 2019 at 10:11 pm

I don’t know what’s wrong with fuzzy democracy. Mediocrity is likely more a function of mediocre thinking and general apathy.

Paul Gregory

11th August 2019 at 9:02 am

Brendan fails to address some difficult issues with PR, which are about how the voting and counting are to work without destroying the local connections of candidates, which many in the electorate hold dear. The multiple screen approach of Fuzzy Democracy retains that connection, although it is inevitably weakened somewhat.
Another aspect Brendan does not address, but will certainly acknowledge, is that the situation is even worse than he describes. Many of the votes the big parties get are due to tactical voting, not anything resembling conviction. Fuzzy Democracy solves this problem because even if your chosen candidate gets relatively few votes, they will still be able to use their contingent. (There might be a lower limit beneath which this is not feasible, but it can be a very low threshold.)
There is always talk of high thresholds for parties to obtain before they get representation under PR. A party imagines you cannot have too many votes, and this leads them to be all things to all men, using different manifestos for different target groups. Hence all big parties become populist by nature, including the German Volksparteien (CDU and SPD).
With electronic voting this can be corrected with some lateral thinking. Keep the threshold (five percent, for instance) but make it an upper limit. If you want to vote for a popular (populist?) party (Conservatives, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Social Democrats) vote early. Because later in the day your vote for them will be disallowed. The screen says “No longer available”. The purpose here is to prevent excessive concentration of power. This absolutely stops parties pandering and forces them to concentrate on conviction politics while understanding the need for consensus.

Aunty Podes

18th August 2019 at 6:02 am

NONE of you have addressed the issues raised in my post. We have already got this diabolical system in NZ and it is a total disaster. Minor parties given buckets of $$$s to splash out to buy votes. Ludicrous, financially crippling, anti AGW measures put in place which will put NZ back in the stone-age – and without power to boot. Comrade Ardern virtue-signalling her way into the halls of infamy at the UN. The silly woman’s only job was serving is a fish and chip shop. She has not a clue what the hell she is doing – needs to set up an enquiry every time a decision has to be made.

Paul Gregory

10th August 2019 at 5:49 pm

In my post an hour ago I did not mention the second element of Fuzzy Democracy, an element which would also be compatible for PR or even FPTP. We must urgently get away from this idea of having one parliament for everything under the sun and insistence on unitary government with the idea of collective cabinet responsibility. For a start, set up a separately elected “ethics” assembly to deal with all those issue around the beginning and end of life, recreational drugs, treatment of animals, betting, and so on. Any representative or candidate who has thought long and hard about these things will not, normally, have thought equally long and hard about the design of taxes, high finance, foreign & defence policy, education, health etc. Let people vote for a candidate who represents them on these matters, maybe a priest, perhaps a humanist, an iman, a rabbi, a social worker etc. Next set up an assembly for infrastructure. This avoids calling for referenda on every airport expansion, power generation plant, railways (HS2 anyone?). Infrastructure is also about Huawei and environmental protection. Of course there are some interactions with other areas (such as taxation) but still such an assembly can concentrate and reflect democratic forces. If it is possible to set up a Scottish or Welsh assembly, then it must also be possible to set up an ethics and an infrastructure assembly. Of course, there is a limit to how many such assemblies you can have. The assemblies can then vote in the ministers for their areas, and so reduce the dictatorial power of the Prime Minister.

Paul Gregory

10th August 2019 at 5:06 pm

As many comments here indicate, PR is not the solution. But no-one has proposed how else to replace FPTP. Try Fuzzy Democracy, which is new. Under Fuzzy D. every vote counts one way or another. So there is no tactical voting, no voting for the least bad option, no second-guessing how others will vote, and no second rounds. How is this possible? To get elected someone needs a set number of votes, or share of total turnout. Most fail to achieve this threshold, and a few celebrities get more. At an electoral college after the poll those close to the threshold can canvass for the contingent of votes the also-runs obtained, while those with surplus votes can similarly redistribute votes. Basically you give your preferred candidates a power of political attorney.
Voting is electronic at a screen. The first screen shows the handful of candidates in your constituency as now. If you are satisfied with this selection, you go ahead and vote. If are not satisfied you can move to a second screen with the hundred candidates in neighbouring constituencies, or hundreds in the county or the region. You will have given the matter some reflection beforehand and basically know who you want to vote for. There is a search function to help you find your chosen candidate. You check the name (photo, etc.), cast your vote and obtain a printout, which you check, fold and place in the urn. No funny business with the computer. Your search engine should find a website explaining this in greater detail and handling all conceivable objections.

David Margison

10th August 2019 at 11:45 am

I was talking to a Dutch couple about 5 years ago, we were discussing politics in our respective countries. I had the view that our system was unfair and not representative. I explained that in our system thirty five percent of the vote could enable a single party to win an election and impose their doctrin on the other sixty five percent. They in reply said, well at least you get things done, it has beed nine months since our ellection and we still have’nt formed a government. We have sixteen parties who have to form a coalition, it’s nearly impossible and all the while nothing is being done.
So! Do we really think PR is the utopian system we are looking for? I like the arguments of this atticle, a modified form of PR, perhaps requiring a party needing to achieve a certain proportion of vote before inclussion may be an idea.

Paul Gregory

11th August 2019 at 8:27 am

The modification to PR that you suggest, of requiring parties to achieve a certain threshold for representation, does not work. In Germany there has always been a five percent hurdle, resulting in paralysis, while other countries (NZ, Israel) have played with this principle with unsatisfactory results. There are two problems. One is parties. Political parties are conspiracies to obtain power at the expense of the rule of reason and the wisdom of crowds. We cannot get entirely rid of them (if prohibited they would creep back through the kitchen window), but we can diminish their stranglehold. Fuzzy Democracy does this with its voting and counting mechanism (as sketched in my nearby post) and explained at an eponymous eu-based website. Fuzzy D. reduces their status to one resembling think tanks. The other plank of Fuzzy D., the special topic assemblies and their appointment of ministers (if necessary against the wishes of a PM), puts an end of most of the horse-trading and delay that occur when parties, whether a few or myriad, negotiate to form a government.

Edward Carson

9th September 2019 at 2:37 am

There is an extremely simple answer to this conundrum of unstable or uncreatable goverments.
Institute so called presidential government. Ie the executive directly elected by the voters. This of course doesn’t mean instituting a republic; still have a prime minister but have he/she and deputy directly elected with a second ballot paper at same time as normal House of Commons elections, as is done in the US amongst other countries.

Anthony O’Brien

9th August 2019 at 10:01 pm

Yes, you do need proportional representation. It will deliver some unexpected results, and status quo politicians will claim it is “undemocratic”. But it will allow a realignment in politics. It’s not a panacea, but you do need it.

Aunty Podes

10th August 2019 at 1:35 am

“We” (that is anybody) need proportional representation like a hole in the head. We have it here in NZ and it is a total disaster. Last election the Nats and Labour (under the leadership of a card-carrying communist, Comrade Ardern) were pretty close – but Nats clearly ahead. A geriatric, frustrated, former Nat MP, Winnie Peters leading the populist (among other geriatrics and imbeciles) held the balance of power and, due to his disaffection with the Nats and Ardern’s preparedness to sell herself and the nation down the river in the interest of her hunger for power promised him the Dep Prem’s baubles of office.
Ardern is a total incompetent. All she is “good” for is posing, virtue signalling and initiating endless enquiries. Action, (even filling her world-famous child’s bottle) is alien to her. Full of vain promises the ministers she has appointed are unfit for purpose – promising the world and producing nothing. As part of her sell-out to Peters, she endowed his party with a colossal pile of taxpayers funds to distribute among their friends and buy votes.
All this is – and much more – is thanks to proportional representation. It ought to be termed distortional representation and consigned to the rubbish heap.
Steer clear else disaster will ensue!

Hana Jinks

10th August 2019 at 9:44 am

Excellent post Aunty. Ardern is an utter menace.

Alexander Allan

9th August 2019 at 9:24 am

Sorry Brendan, PR is not the way forward as it either produces unstable governments or elected dictatorships.

What is needed is a system I have roughly developed that makes elected politicians always accountable to the people. It is inspired by the selection process for USA presidents. Basically it is as follows:

1. A political group/party (PP) sets out a minimum of 5 ideological political axioms that they believe in, such as: a/. We believe is small government. b/. Low taxes. c/. Individual responsibility and a freedom to choose. d/. the freedom of speech and it’s freedom to offend etc.
2. In each consituancy at least three people need to stand for the PP.
3. There must be at least 3 ideological differences between those standing of which one needs to be a fundamental difference. e.g.: a Remainer vs Brexiteer. So each candidate need their own mini manifesto.
4. All PP candidates who stand for a constituency must have lived in that area for a minimum of 2 years.
5. It is illegal for the central party political machine to interfere in the nomination of the candidates by the local branch of the PP.

When it comes to an election you then first vote for the PP followed by one of at least three of the candidate who wish to represent you in the PP of your choice. When it comes to the count, the PP that gets the majority vote represents the constituency. Then within that PP they count which candidate got the majority vote and that candidate represent the PP in the parliament of MP.

Why I believe this is better than PR or FPTP is that:

1. It holds on to the benefit of FPTP in that the electorate can make a radical change in the political direction and sweep out an incumbent PP.
2. There are no safe seats for MPs. If they go into an election saying that they are for X but then go against X, at the next election the electorate can still confidently vote for that PP ,who’s political axioms they agree with, but replace their representative with someone else as they have other representative from that PP they can vote for next time.
3. This would mean that you would have much more independently minded politicians who’s first priority would be serving their constituents, and not their self interest within the PP, as every election would be a vote in confidence in their performance over the last 5 years, and if they have deviated for their manifesto someone else can be selected to represent them for that PP.

Ven Oods

10th August 2019 at 4:52 pm

Interesting; but who’s having a problem with ‘whose’?

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 3:31 pm

This 4th piece is clearly the hardest to resolve looking at the comments here, some very interesting points have been raised.
I think PR is the way to go but it has it’s own issues as has been mentioned.
I am a fan of referendums, certainly the last one ! We wouldn’t be leaving the EU any other way if we hadn’t got this vote and seized it with both hands. By the time UKIP had got anywhere enough seats via elections for us to have the opportunity of leaving the EU … ie forming a Government ! We would have been already tied to the EU for perpetuity.
I think we could be sure that with referendums we would have decisions based on what people really think knowing that a vote in a referendum has no bearing on living in a red blue or green area, every vote would be counted. I think the last referendum brought out millions that wouldn’t normally vote for the reason I just mentioned.. ‘your vote clearly counts’.
The problem of course is two fold, not just representative democracy but democracy that is not interfered with. We have to tackle both the political class and the political media, for no matter what kind of democracy we have the media will corrupt it, our educational system has been corrupting minds for decades, these issues have to be tackled in tandem with one another.
I must admit that the thought of 37 Green MP’s does alarm me somewhat, but it is offset by the thought of 80 plus UKIP MP’s !

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 3:34 pm

Further to my last post , with today’s internet communications, referendums would be easy to hold, and we could have referendums based on petitions that reach a certain volume which is in practice now to a degree. I’m not advocating government run on such but it could be a part of.

Charles Stuart

9th August 2019 at 2:04 am

Well said Jerry.
I’ve seen PR in action , in the AUstralian Senate elections, and it is absolutely awful.Basically, the Parties pick a lot of unelectable hacks and functionaries who none of us really know or care about. We then vote for the party we prefer, regardless of the candidates and from this after a lot of complex calculations Senators are elected. They represent no-one and have no direct contact with the voters whatsoever.
But what I hate most about PR is that it is profoundly undemocratic.
What PR proponents fail to realise is that democracy isn’t just about elections. It’s about governing. You need constituencies so that the people feel they can contact their local politician and get representation. With PR there are no constituencies and no constituents. Politicians are, as you say, further removed from the people.
Even worse is the fact that if you have a myriad of little parties, each with different manifestos, when it comes to an election you can never be sure whether the manifesto of the party you support will ever be carried out by the elected government. If every government is a coalition cobbled together after the election, then the parties will have to indulge in horse trading, requiring much compromise on manifesto promises and policies. Look what happened to the Lib Dems and their pledge about University fees.
In the end all this can lead to is a herding together of the manifestos so that the politicans, who will of course become more of a self-perpetuating clique than ever, will make their policy solutions more and more alike so as to ensure that they can be part of any government.
Those who push for PR or for ”more democracy” inevitably make the same categorical error. Instead of actually first seeking to determine the purposeand limits of government, they get hung up on the form of government. There is no point having the purest democracy on God’s earth if that empowers politicians to rule evry facet of our lives on the whim of the majority.
Most of our problems have been caused by government and its steady accretion of power and influence over so many areas of life since the Second World War. More and more regulation piles on top of old regulation, without anyone ever really stopping to see whether any of it works or whether the spending programs actually make things better. In the 60s and 70s, theis nearly brought Britain to its knees.
SPiked would be better off campaign for leaner andmore efficient government, rather than advocating an electoral system that would just lead to politicians being more isolated from the people.

Jerry Owen

9th August 2019 at 11:11 am

Charles. You make some salient points. I follow politics in Australia to a small degree on YouTube.. ‘Australia news’ I think the broadcast is. It appears Australia is catching the UK up in terms of pc lunacy very quickly .. proof possibly that PR isn’t all that representative.
Yes, as you say small government is critical for a freer society. Trump’s America is doing well largely to his policy of less and less regulations. I believe it is currently for every one new regulation there are nine out. He campaigned on making government smaller.. it appears to be helping the USA .
I think lots of relatively easy changes would be very useful , and then we can see what major changes are needed to finish the job.

Edward Carson

9th September 2019 at 3:50 am

C’mon Charles
“You need constituencies so that the people feel they can contact their local politician and get representation.”
There is on average 100,000 constituents per MP! Be realistic, he is going to give you preference over the remaining 99,999? The pro rep MP won’t listen to you either, but at least he is an MP with your specific beliefs.

“a myriad of little parties, each with different manifestos, when it comes to an election you can never be sure whether the manifesto of the party you support will ever be carried out by the elected government.”
At least you have the little party MP in parliament speaking truth to power and broadcasting you issues.

“If every government is a coalition cobbled together after the election, then the parties will have to indulge in horse trading”
Simple answer: change the system so as to directly elect the executive, as in France, Sth Korea, USA

Anthony O’Brien

9th August 2019 at 10:11 pm

Just don’t think your current projections of proportions would apply if you had, as you should have, PR. People vote differently once they realise their vote counts. This particularly applies in the second and subsequent post PR elections. In NZ our first PR election (1996) resulted in a small party wielding a lot more power than they should have, but in the last (2017), once voters understood the system, the result was to defeat a tired and out of touch government. Also much more fun with MMP, it really brings out the small parties.

Sean Robertson

8th August 2019 at 2:56 pm

Although beloved by Politics students, Green parties and Literal Antidemocrats everywhere, PR is a step in the wrong direction.
It moves representation further away from the control citizen rather than closer to them – votes would cease to have any direct effect.
It would effectively reinforce the hegemony of the zombie parties rather than challenge them.

What is required is electoral reform which makes MPs far more accountable to their constituents, more easily replaced, perhaps even a limit on the time they are allowed to serve. Perhaps even facing criminal charges if they are shown to have deceived their constituents.

These anachronistic political parties need to be broken up and thrown away in favour of more direct democracy. It is the 21st Century. Communication has improved.
A start would be the abolition of whipped voting.

A moderating second chamber to replace the House of Lords, created on the basis of PR, might be appropriate.
I would even be open to the possibility of a Government selected on the basis of PR.

Amelia Cantor

8th August 2019 at 10:04 am

Read the introduction to the series here, Mick Hume’s piece on why we must leave the European Union here, Tim Black’s piece on why we must abolish the House of Lords here, and Luke Gittos’s piece on why we must scrap Royal Prerogative powers here.

“Must, must, must!” What pathetic cisgender white male posturing.

Yeah, if you have a tantrum long enough and loud enough, you’re sure to get what you “must” have. All three-year-olds know this.

As for proportional representation: if we can weed out the racists, xenophobes and Brexiteers, I’m all for it. And Father Time IS weeding them out. Not fast enough, tho’, which is why it’s so good to see the rate of increase in the Muslim community and other communities of colour. Hate is slowly but surely being swamped by progressive forces of universalism, compassion and international solidarity.

Neil McCaughan

8th August 2019 at 11:16 am

Amelia, the paedophile’s spokesman.

Amelia Cantor

9th August 2019 at 12:52 pm

Amelia, the paedophile’s spokesman.

&lsr;yawn&gtr; Not only does the cisgender white male make a baseless accusation, the cisgender white male is too stupid to get the baseless accusation right. It should be “the paedophiles’ spokesman.” Or rather: “the paedophiles’ spokeswombyn.”

Plural possessives and singular possessives. You should know the difference at your no-doubt-advanced age, Neil.

Hana Jinks

9th August 2019 at 7:31 pm

You can’t see the irony in the phe×*tishi¥zing of the kind of inte₩llectual÷ism that comes from a ma&rxi)st-indoc=trina£tion centre?

Hana Jinks

9th August 2019 at 7:33 pm

Or that I’ve had to frame this riposte a fortnight late on a free speech site, after it’s been modded out by you eleven times?

Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 8:51 pm

The Amelia Cantor break where I go and put the kettle on.

Hana Jinks

9th August 2019 at 4:06 am

You ol’ tea-bagger, Jerry Oven-Kraut.!!

Marvin Jones

12th August 2019 at 1:00 pm

Gosh! you seem to detest the male gender so much, you take ultra feminism to a new height. Are you getting the essentials that life requires?

Martin Bishop

8th August 2019 at 7:52 am

There does need to be something that breaks the two party system, that is for certain. The current system has led to a system that has led to people feeling they need to vote for the least worst side of a single stinky coin and not being able to vote for what they want for fear of wasting their vote.

So far though, all we’ve had is an increasing concentration of power into the hands of the unaccountable. Leaving the EU, reducing Royal influence and getting rid of the HOL are necessary steps in creating a democracy. However, they still just concentrate power into the hands of those that cannot be held to account. We are still appointing a parent figure to rule over us, who can backtrack on their promises, and cannot be sacked.

No one would say that someone who is let out of a cage for one day every few years has freedom, well the same applies to democracy. A digitalized voting system is long overdue given that we can do virtually everything else securely online. It also has the potential to massively reduce tribalism by allowing people to vote for policies rather than a party that may come bundles with some policies we don’t want. It would be a massive shift of power into the hands of the people who can be free from people claiming to speak on their behalf.

Martin Bishop

8th August 2019 at 8:02 am

Manifestos becoming legally binding contracts wouldn’t be a bad idea. If a party doesn’t implement certain manifesto pledges within a specified timescale, they’re out.

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 5:13 am

Heaven is a Christian theocracy, you squabbling, red greeks.

Ray Prebble

8th August 2019 at 4:54 am

I was a firm proponent of PR in New Zealand, for all the obvious reasons. First Past the Post seemed a grotesque perversion of the voting system. I didn’t realise what perversions PR could result in. Take the last general election here. National won, Labour lost, but National did not have an overall majority. So a minor party (NZ First), as it has done previously, was King Maker, and held the whole country in its power as it traded with both major parties to see who would give it the best deal. Admittedly NZ First has reigned in the worst excesses of Labour, but, when you live it, PR takes away the sense that your vote counts, especially when an MP loses their seat but “regains” it because they are high on the party list. Be careful what you want.

Anthony O’Brien

9th August 2019 at 10:16 pm

No, PR delivered a fair result in 2017. National lost. They are still in denial.

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 11:37 pm

Ho rooah

Hooo rah

We is the IRA

Johnny I hardly knew ya
Come and fight with me


The fight is not even worth it

Wwith gubs abd dr7ns abd dtyms and gys HOORAH


Jerry Owen

8th August 2019 at 8:31 am

Winston Stanley
When you are on the weed or whatever , best stay away form the keyboard as you make a complete twat of yourself. Just a bit of positive advice for you !!

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 2:22 pm

Jerry Oven-Kraut.

Do you ever wonder why you’re accused of naziism?

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 11:27 pm

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 11:23 pm

Seriously man, what do you “think” that you are doing?


Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 12:11 am

Marvin Jones

12th August 2019 at 1:07 pm

Proof that there is life out in space and somehow got to this planet. On the other, it was discarded here!

Hana Jinks

12th August 2019 at 9:37 pm


Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 11:15 pm

British State is a Zio state. Just remember, we will HUNT you down and KILL you all when the time comes.


Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 11:19 pm

We is the Islamic State

Hana Jinks

8th August 2019 at 12:13 am


7th August 2019 at 10:56 pm

A form of PR has been in place in the Scottish Parliament since 1999. It works extremely well. Westminster operates according to an outmoded, unjust and unrepresentative system of FPTP. The Westminster system is the antithethesis of democracy and must be replaced by a modern, fully representative system of PR.

Neil McCaughan

8th August 2019 at 11:18 am

It works so well that Scotland is the most incompetently and corruptly governed part of the UK, despite the huge subsidies it receives from England.

Anthony O’Brien

10th August 2019 at 1:13 am

You’re right. The traditional Westminster system is profoundly undemocratic.

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 10:54 pm

Only JAH knows how we suffer


Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 10:40 pm

British State, come and fight with me


Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 10:28 pm

By the rising of the moon, by the rising of the moon

Our spears will be together
By the Rising of the Moon

Tis the Rising of the moon
Poor old Ireland will have its say


Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 10:34 pm

terence patrick hewett

7th August 2019 at 9:34 pm

PR is a scam by politicians to give themselves jobs for life. The electorate know that PR is a formula designed by politicians for their enslavement. The sudden and public execution of FPTP suits the English mentality: but it is not so popular with politicians.
The genius of FPTP is the instinct that it inspires in politicians: that of survival and saving their own necks in the face of government unpopularity and to act in a way that any PR system wouldn’t.
With PR we would never ever get rid of the troughers. PR systems deliver the least public accountability, little if any local accountability, the most control by party machines, the weakest governments, the worst type of pork-barrel politics and governments which are always held hostage by minority groups.
Which is why FPTP won – and will win again.

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 9:02 pm

One takes the slightest puff of skunk and one is entirely convinced that one is the last sane man standing. I mean, WHAT is THAT all about?

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 9:16 pm

Hana Jinks

7th August 2019 at 11:09 pm

Michael Stringer

7th August 2019 at 7:52 pm

What room for abstentions?

At the top of each ballot paper there should be box for “none of the below” for abstainers to vote for.

Any candidate who cannot beat the number of votes for “none of the below” cannot be elected.

Hat-tip: Peter Hitchens a couple of Sundays ago.

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 7:45 pm

Many Swedes live in the south of Finland b/c Sweden had an empire once upon a time. Do they play up all the time about southern Finland ought to be a part of Sweden? No, b/c they are normal sane people and they intuitively know that empires are over when they are over, and that is better to get on with one’s neighbours. The British state has got a serious attitude problem and everyone can see that. It is time to let go of grand delusions and to make peace. You want to keep it going, what on earth for?


7th August 2019 at 10:58 pm

The UK has no written constitution and an unelected head of state, and the Brits see fit to lecture other nations about ‘democracy’! For true democracy in action, look to Finland or the Republic of Ireland.

Neil McCaughan

8th August 2019 at 11:20 am

Britain has nothing to learn from such worthless and insignificant places. Both are merely obedient colonies of Brussels – democracy is now forgotten.

Richard Elsy

7th August 2019 at 6:12 pm

Sorry – a mistake on my part – in 1974 the Liberal Party got six seats from 6.0 million votes. Sounds familiar?

Richard Elsy

7th August 2019 at 6:09 pm

This argument has been going for some time and I rather hope for a useful conclusion before too long. I can remember the first General Election in 1974 which resulted in the average number of Labour votes to elect one MP at about 60,000, for a Conservative MP about 70,000 and for a Liberal MP 250,000. Not a great example of a parliamentary democracy.

Neil McCaughan

7th August 2019 at 5:30 pm

I do abhor people who ignore the results of referendums. Nearly 68% of the population said “no” to a change in 2011. I understand that every single one of them has since died, and that, in any event they didn’t know what they were voting for, but all the same ……

Jim Lawrie

7th August 2019 at 5:52 pm

Alternative adheres to the constituency and representative. Spiked are arguing for a more centralised exercise of power, which contradicts their opposition to The EU.

Jim Wigan

7th August 2019 at 8:32 pm

No, the 2011 vote was for AV. Labour, who backed AV before the 2010 election, changed their minds afterwards (surprise!) when they calculated that they had more chance of winning the next election on FPTP. So they refused to back the proposals. Many others refused to back it because they wanted PR.

UKIP supported AV but were locked out of the campaigns by the Lib Dems, who wouldn’t share a platform with Farage.

christopher barnard

7th August 2019 at 5:13 pm

We would probably have had PR for a while now if the establishment could work out a system which would allow the Greens to get lots of seats and UKIP or the Brexit Party to get none.

Jim Lawrie

7th August 2019 at 2:40 pm

” It is unquestionable that …. ” So why not close comments on this one? Another of those expressions aimed at giving what follows the status of established fact, when it is just the wishful thinking of the writer..

The influence of The Greens in Scotland is out of all proportion to their share of the vote, thus negating that assertion. Green MSP’s are not directly elected representatives and are answerable only to closed door committees.

The article nowhere refers to representatives.

Do we want 35 Islamist MP’s influencing Government?

Anthony O’Brien

9th August 2019 at 10:13 pm

Yes you do

Marvin Jones

12th August 2019 at 1:30 pm

You MUST be James’ twin.

thefat tomato

7th August 2019 at 1:49 pm

What if the house of lords is replaced with an elected national centurion senate, each member of the public has one vote to assign to any candidate for any reason, top 100 candidates in terms of national votes gets a seat in the new upper house

Bronk’s Funeral

7th August 2019 at 1:56 pm

Good idea. Centurions were the ones with the big plumes on their hats, right? People respect plumes.

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 2:32 pm

The “House of Lords and Ladies” commands zero respect, hardly anyone wants to retain it in its present form. Vermin robes fool no one.

Edward Carson

9th September 2019 at 3:55 am

funny man

Edward Carson

9th September 2019 at 3:59 am

Not a bad idea Thefat, but the voting would have to be preferential. Otherwise a popular candidate might gain 9% of the vote while needing only 1%. Thus the remainder of the votes would be discarded and those voters denied their input.

Bronk’s Funeral

7th August 2019 at 1:42 pm

What? No we don’t—we need bulletproof vests and incubators and shit. We had a referendum, Brendan. The People don’t want *any* kind of alternative voting system.

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 2:01 pm

That is not true is it. I voted against AV b/c the reform did not go far enough and could have hindered a move to full PR down the line. The LDs totally fluffed their lines in that coalition. Their single demand should have been a referendum on full PR.

Bronk’s Funeral

7th August 2019 at 2:42 pm

Are you denying The Will of the People, Winston? Most unbecoming. Don’t you want Our Brave Lads to have armoured grundies, or whatever?!

Winston Stanley

7th August 2019 at 7:18 pm

Armoured girdles and bras? Hopefully we can get our youngsters into a position where they do not need them. I mean, what on earth for?


7th August 2019 at 10:53 pm

You are the self-appointed spokesperson for ‘The People’? I question your credentials.

Bronk’s Funeral

8th August 2019 at 1:47 pm

We *had* a *referendum,* Zenny. Don’t make me grit my teeth any harder.

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