Tory/Labour meltdown means Westminster must learn from Holyrood – Willie Sullivan

Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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It’s long been true of Scotland, but now it’s true of Westminster too: we have entered an era of multi-party politics. A fundamental shift has taken place across Britain.

New polling shows the two main UK-wide parties combined now command just 50 per cent of public support – a historic low. Yet Westminster and voters remain hampered by a binary, out-dated voting system.

As far as we can gather, on only on one other occasion has the combined support share been lower than these latest polls, in December 1981 at the peak of the SDP/Liberal Alliance.

Since Labour became the second largest party in terms of MPs at the 1922 general election, the lowest combined Conservative and Labour vote share seen in a general election is 65 per cent in 2010 (Con: 36 per cent; Lab: 29 per cent).

The clear, long-term trend is that politics is moving away from two main parties. Not only are voters are not only less closely aligned to the big two parties now, they are supporting a wider range of parties than ever before.

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This rapid fall in support for the two main parties means that the traditional party system is being torn at the seams. We are now living in an era of multi-party democracy but operating under a broken, one-person-takes-all voting system.

Despite the shifting views of voters, Westminster elections remain is stuck in a binary bind. Despite their projected vote being 30 points lower than in 2017, a general election could see the two main parties continue to dominate Parliament, while leaving smaller parties with just a handful of MPs.

However, the results of the next General Election will be a total lottery given Westminster’s voting system – with millions voting tactically to second guess other voters, while ‘extensive vote splitting’ could result in wildly volatile results.

First Past the Post – far from being ‘strong and stable’ – is now an engine of uncertainty.

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With over half of voters supporting a party other than Labour and the Conservatives, it is now in everybody’s interest to back a fairer voting system that encourages cooperation, not the adversarial politics of the past.

It is time for Westminster to join Scotland, Wales and local elections in Northern Ireland and Ireland in introducing a fair, proportional voting system where seats in Parliament accurately match how people vote.

Willie Sullivan is director of Electoral Reform Society Scotland