Thank you for contacting me about electoral reform and for expressing your views regarding “First Past the Post”. I have read your email carefully and have noted the key points that you make.
I am afraid I do not agree with the main thrust of your email. Indeed, I support First Past the Post (FPTP) strongly and would certainly not endorse a proportional system for U.K. general elections.
FPTP is a tried and tested system that tends to encourage political stability and clear governance, and that also tends to prevent disproportionate influence by minority parties with minimal public support, who typically end up holding the balance of power in PR systems.
The British people also preferred FPTP in the AV referendum on the voting system back in 2011 by a very wide margin, although I acknowledge that AV is not a PR system.
FPTP is well established and understood by voters, providing a clear and robust way of electing Members of Parliament, and the unambiguous link between constituents (and constituencies) and their representatives in Westminster under FPTP is almost universally acknowledged as a key, and hugely valuable, benefit of the FPTP system.
More often than not, FPTP produces governments with working majorities in Parliament, enabling efficient and effective decision-making, and encouraging robust (even brutal!) accountability at election times where people can easily ‘vote the rascals out’ if they wish to, or, alternatively, they can decide that they prefer the existing governing party to the main alternative on offer. (In 9 out of the 11 U.K. general elections since 1979 under FPTP, one major party emerged the winner, having secured an overall majority of seats. On the two other occasions, 2010 and 2017, a government was formed with the support of two parties).
In similar vein, FPTP also tends to encourage the existence of a strong opposition party that can hold the government of the day accountable and that can try to prepare itself, and present itself, as a realistic alternative government at the following election.
I believe that all the alternative proportional systems are less transparent, more complicated and less likely to lead to effective and truly accountable government. After a somewhat inconclusive PR election in Belgium in 2010 it took no fewer than 540 days to form a new Government!
Lastly, in these unprecedented and challenging times I think the last thing we probably need is the added inconvenience and uncertainty of a major referendum on PR and/or a complete change to our electoral system. I am sure that PR is something that will continue to be debated as a possibility in the future, especially by academics and by activists for PR, but for now there are more certainly more important and pressing issues to focus on.
With best wishes and thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this issue.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking