Max Langer is interning with Make Votes Matter. He lives in Bristol and has recently finished his degree in Film and Innovation.

Max Langer is interning with Make Votes Matter. He lives in Bristol and has recently finished his degree in Film and Innovation.

Monday night saw the first debate on electoral reform of this parliament and it showed how hollow the arguments for FPTP truly are, writes Max Langer.

The Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Constitutional and Political Reform – Wendy Chamberlain MP – called an adjournment debate to discuss our democracy at a time when the government is rushing through with its boundary changes, with committee stage taking place next week. Although it took place very late at night, it gave Wendy and her colleagues the opportunity to put across the arguments for Proportional Representation – and gave insight into just how hollow the government’s position is on this issue.

The debate opened with Wendy making a strong case for PR, noting how First Past the Post creates the dissatisfaction, frustration and apathy that is increasingly endemic among the UK electorate.

However, after rattling off what could be seen a ‘greatest hits’ of arguments for fair votes, she opened up the debate to include some of the less talked about aspects of the topic: diversity and the need for compromise.

The fact that struck me was that every country where women make up over 40% of the legislature has a proportional electoral system. Electoral reform is not just about electoral math; it’s a campaign for fairness that is key to dismantling the prejudices and inequalities that still plague our politics.

There’s also a clear case that PR would end the current confrontation and sabre-rattling in parliament. After years of Brexit debates and now the unprecedented challenge of Covid-19 we need all of our politicians to be working together, building consensus and bringing together every part of the UK. FPTP waters down this holistic view of politics, focusing the debate on two parties in a handful of marginal seats.

It was then minister Chloe Smith’s (Conservative) turn to set out the government’s response. Whilst she agreed that work needed to be done to ensure that every vote counts, she claimed that this would require a move away from FPTP. Instead of real change she reaffirmed the government’s push to redraw electoral boundaries, tinkering at the edges of a broken system.

The minister also raised a number of myths that are easily struck down. The geographic link between an area and it’s MP can and should be maintained under PR; the AV referendum was not a vote against PR; the British people are intelligent enough to vote using a fair system. Check out our mythbusting page for more.

This was the first debate on electoral reform in the House of Commons itself since Caroline Lucas’ debate in 2016. It’s brilliant to see this action initiated by the new Liberal Democrat Constitutional spokesperson and backed up so strongly by others. The Lib Dems have always being passionate advocates of PR – but this kind of active campaigning is exactly what we need to see from the members, supporters, and politicians of all the parties that want equal votes.

Click here to watch the full debate.