Change in voting system long overdue

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Ian Smailes (Letters, 3 March) has surely hit the nail on the head when he advises Brian Wilson to address the real issue with elections to the UK Parliament. Tactical voting works only because of the deficiencies in the present first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system used for Westminster elections.

The FPTP voting system discards the votes of half of those who do vote. This is not the fault of the political parties or of the candidates – it is inherent in the voting system.

And this defect has been obvious at every UK Parliamentary election for many decades. Sometimes more than half of the votes are discarded (53 per cent in 2010), sometimes fewer, but always around one-half.

So tactical voting is encouraged in an attempt to make our votes count.

But even then, FPTP usually distorts the wishes of the voters. How representative is a parliament where a single-party government, with an overall majority of 66 seats, can be elected with only 35 per cent of the votes?

And it’s no better at the local constituency level either. More than two-thirds of the MPs elected to Westminster in 2010 were elected with only minority support.

In Scotland, 37 of our 59 MPs are minority members – what kind of “local” mandate can those MPs really claim?

As Ian Smailes says, it is time to change the voting system to introduce real proportional representation.

The present situation might just be tolerable if we did not know how to do any better –but we do.

We do know how to give effective representation to nearly all of those who vote. And we do know how to ensure local representation with every MP directly accountable to a constituency of local voters. Change is long overdue!

James Gilmour

East Parkside

Edinburgh

Labour argues that a vote for the SNP is more likely to hand power to Cameron than Miliband. Presumably this is designed to dissuade Scots of a left or centre-left persuasion from voting SNP. This fails to understand the depth of feeling of many former lifetime Labour voters. In the rarefied atmosphere of the chattering classes, amongst those untouched by benefit cuts, pay-day loans and food banks, politics can be a fascinating tactical game of voting without concern for what a party stands for, or fails to stand for.

In days long past, Labour pursued radical measures to eradicate poverty by establishing a publicly funded and run NHS, a social security system, and supporting workers’ pay and conditions.

All that has been eroded, sometimes on Labour’s watch, to the point where it is no longer clear what Labour stands for.

Following years of lacklustre leadership and neglect of supporters, Labour fails to grasp the incredulous reaction to Jim Murphy’s frenetic policy about-turns and gaffs. If his antics are attracting admiration from colleagues, they are either easily impressed or ignorant of the mood of the electorate.

The SNP as a mature party of government is trusted by many Sottish voters to pursue policies guided by principles of equity and fairness. It is time to reject the tired old mantra that a vote for the SNP at Westminster is a wasted vote.

Voting SNP is our best opportunity to hear Scotland’s voice and steer UK politics along a more progressive path.

(Dr) Margaret 
Kirkwood

Fenwick

East Ayshire