Cormac Manning from MVM discusses the imminent US Presidential election – and the unrepresentative voting systems that we share with Canada and America…

Four years ago Donald Trump became US President without winning a majority of votes. With 46.1% of the popular vote, he was almost three million votes behind his rival Hillary Clinton. Yet the voting system deemed him the winner.

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That’s not fair, right? Whatever you think of him, someone who had the backing of only 46% of their fellow citizens doesn’t have a mandate to govern 100% of a country.

Yet the last time any political party achieved over 46% of the vote in a British general election was… 50 years ago. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s current “landslide” was achieved on 43.6% of the vote.

This is because under First Past the Post – the medieval system that the UK uses to count votes – there’s no requirement for the national result to resemble what people voted for, in a similar way to the US. So if a majority of voters decided to vote a Government out of office, the system might allow the people of the UK to get what they voted for, if those voters happen to live in the right constituencies. Otherwise it might well give that Government an 80-seat majority instead, regardless of what most voters want. Whoever you voted for in 2019, we can all agree that this isn’t democratic.

Johnson 44.jpg

And our current Government isn’t a fluke. Election after election, decade after decade, whether it’s Blair, Cameron, Thatcher, or Wilson, we hand the keys to Downing St to someone most of us rejected at the ballot box. If we don’t do something now to change this system, there’s every chance the next 50 years will go the same way.

Westminster and Washington aren’t the norm – they’re the exception. The UK, US, and Canada are alone among major developed countries in using the First Past the Post voting system – and both the US and Canada inherited it from us.

And the system doesn’t work any better in Canada than it does here or America. In the last Canadian federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party was awarded the most seats despite coming second in the popular vote. Even though the Conservative Party won more votes, they were awarded fewer seats.

And even though more than one in five Canadian voters chose the New Democrats (UK Labour’s sister party) or the Greens, the two parties combined were awarded less than a twelfth of the seats in Canada’s House of Commons.

Justin Trudeau governing on 33% of the vote is a record - the lowest vote share for a Government in Canadian history. Graphics by Joe Bevan.

Justin Trudeau governing on 33% of the vote is a record – the lowest vote share for a Government in Canadian history. Graphics by Joe Bevan.

We need a system of Proportional Representation. All this means is that voters get what they vote for. Majority Governments need to have majority support from the public, and minority viewpoints are represented in Parliament in accordance with their vote share.

This isn’t some far-fetched hope – this is the norm in modern developed nations. Democracies like New Zealand and Ireland have successfully levelled up over the decades: trading their old and broken Westminster-style First Past the Post systems for vibrant democracies where all votes matter.

With the grit, creativity, and determination of our movement, we know Britain can do so too. We have a plan to do this: a broad cross-party Alliance, a concerted push to get the Labour Party to join that Alliance, and an indomitable grassroots movement.

We can win fair votes in years, not decades, but only if people from every corner of the UK stand up and call for fair votes. Please sign the petition calling on the UK to adopt Proportional Representation!

We may soon know whether the United States has elected a leader with majority support, or whether a bad voting system has yet again landed a majority with a President they didn’t elect. Whether in the UK or across an ocean, the facts are clear: bad voting systems have serious consequences. That’s why we fight for a better one. Join us.