​Britain’s broken voting system

If vote swapping seems like a strange way to support your party, you’re right. But it’s not vote swapping that’s the problem – it’s the broken first-past-the-post voting system that necessitates such responses.

Under first-past-the-post, each voter has one vote to choose a candidate to represent their constituency, and the candidate who wins the highest number of votes becomes the elected MP. This winner-takes-all system means that a party that wins, say, 20% of the vote across the country can fail to gain a single seat unless its support is concentrated in particular areas. Supporters of smaller parties may as well stay at home (unless they decide to vote swap).

As the Electoral Reform Campaign says:

First Past the Post is bad for voters, bad for government and bad for democracy.

The current system means:

  • Many of our votes just don’t count. Millions of people have no chance of deciding who their MP will be. Our votes are wasted by the system.
  • Only a few of us matter. Parties continue to focus all their time, money and effort on a handful of ‘marginal seats’, so just a few thousand voters can decide who runs Britain.
  • MPs can speak for the many with support from the few. Most MPs can be elected to Parliament even though the vast majority of voters don’t want them.
  • A divided Britain. Whole parts of the country are ‘electoral deserts’ where parties have no representation despite having real support.

Some people say that the principled thing is to always vote for the party you most support. But our electoral system makes a mockery of this. We think a more principled position is to fight for fairer votes.

Find out more: