The Green Squeeze and proportional representation
The Green Party in this past election managed roughly 525,000 votes compared to the previous election result of 1,157,630 votes. Slashed by over half, the party was squeezed of the success it had prior to the 2015 General Election with the so-called ‘Green Surge’ where 13,000 new members signed up in just one week.
This significant drop in votes was largely due to Jeremy Corbyn who has revitalised the left-wing factions of the Labour party, shifting them away from centrist policy. The Green Party has always had two groups. On one hand, there are environmentalist voters who vote Green because that’s their primary concern. Other than this traditional Green voter, there are those seeking alternative politics which, in this election, has warped into an anti-Tory voter base that has swarmed to the Labour party to unseat Theresa May and her government.
However, another large issue that needs addressing is our faulty voting system from which the Green Party, as well as other smaller parties, suffer by. First Past the Post does not match the seats in the House of Commons with what the people voted for and an alternative, a system of Proportional Representation, would.
In standard political conditions, the Conservatives and Labour dominate parliament. Both parties need around 40-50,000 votes to gain a single seat, but the Greens need about 520,000. Half the votes cast in 2015 didn’t help elect an MP to Westminster – the highest proportion in a recent election. Brexit shrouded this election, but there should have been more of an emphasis on voting reform. While campaigning in this election, the common strategy was to encourage people to vote with their hearts in Labour safe seats, because there would be very little chance of the Tories ousting them. First Past the Post forces us to do this.
Natalie Bennett, the former leader of the Green Party, stated in 2015: “The fact that we have achieved over one million votes yet not been rewarded with more MPs draws into sharp focus just how unfair and outdated our winner-takes-all voting system is. The fight for a fairer, more democratic voting system – one which recognises the will of the people rather than entrenches the established order – has already begun.” She notes the fight for PR has begun, but it is to be a long one as the government remains the only party firmly against changing the system, because it keeps them in power.
Proportional Representation wouldn’t just help the smaller political parties, but would instead help the entire country. Politics is plagued by a sense of division, but it could be about compromise and working together. It’s true that under Proportional Representation, coalitions would be more likely, but that’s a good thing! The majority of developed democracies use one of the many successful systems of Proportional Representation and they have set the standard when it comes to fair democracy.
The country, especially post-Brexit, could rise above the current populist politics we’re seeing here, and around the world. Ensuring everybody is represented, in every area of the UK, is essential to ensuring our democracy produces hard-working politicians loyal to their constituents.
Editors Note: The title of this piece was slightly altered shortly after publication due to correct an editoral error.