Now that Hartlepool, Airdrie and Shotts, Chesham and Amersham, and Batley and Spen have new MPs, what can we learn from this year’s First Past the Post by-elections?

MVM’s Cormac Manning takes a look at what we’ve seen:

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First Past the Post isn’t very good at representing people, but it’s great at tearing apart communities.

Our winner-takes-all voting system breeds a winner-takes-all political culture. And it often artificially narrows down elections to a two-horse race, where parties can focus on negative attacks because they have only one real opponent.

Or when there are multiple candidates, we get heated debates about “splitting the vote” instead of positive discussion of the issues.

Proportional Representation won’t heal everything overnight, but it does mean that parties and candidates have better incentives to make a positive case. Parties couldn’t fight an election with no vision other than “vote for us to kick the other crowd out”, because “only we can win here”.

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Election after election, parties spend their time chasing a few voters in marginal seats while taking their heartlands for granted for decades. Labour did it in Hartlepool, and the Conservatives did it in Chesham and Amersham. Eventually, rightly or wrongly, enough people felt they’d been ignored for long enough.

But it shouldn’t take a by-election to force politicians to listen. Under Proportional Representation, every vote is equal, no matter where you live. Politicians would have to pay attention to your concerns at every election if they want to keep their job.

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Across the four by-elections, voters of most political stripes were faced with a familiar dilemma: being torn between voting for who you really want or voting for someone best placed to keep out the candidate you really don’t want.

If you’ve ever been in this position before, you probably know the feeling all too well. With Proportional Representation, this agony can be banished for good.

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Most voters in the Airdrie and Shotts by-election, for example, voted for pro-union parties. Yet under First Past the Post the only voice speaking for them in Westminster is the SNP. Whatever your views on this or any other issue, it can’t be right or democratic for an MP to hold the opposite view from most of their own constituents.

Across the UK, over 1 in 3 MPs received a minority of votes at the last general election, with MPs given seats on vote shares as low as 32% (it was 35% in the Batley and Spen by-election).

And yes, the SNP do support Proportional Representation. This isn’t about party political advantage, it’s about democracy.

Equal votes won’t just happen

… but we can win them

The bad news is that things won’t just get better on their own. There’s no outside force that will come in and give us real democracy. There are no shortcuts.

The good news is that we are a growing, nationwide movement for change. Together, we can make this happen.

All this is happening because thousands and thousands of people like you across the UK have joined Make Votes Matter, declared their support for change, and made this progress happen.

Can you help build a more positive politics, by sharing the petition to scrap First Past the Post, or by joining the nationwide action day later this month?