Time to catch up with reality

From Prof Simon Hix.

Sir, Martin Wolf (Comment, February 25) makes a compelling case in support of the alternative vote. However, he misses one additional yet critical point. In addition to a decline in support for the two largest parties, Britain now has highly geographic fragmented voting patterns.

In the 2010 election the Conservatives and Labour were the top two parties in only 44 per cent of constituencies (as opposed to 96 per cent of constituencies in 1950). With the current pattern of party competition, it is highly unlikely that any party will win enough seats to form a government on their own, even if they could manage more than 40 per cent of the vote.

If first past the post cannot deliver single-party government it certainly does not deliver anything else we would like an electoral system to provide, such as fair representation of parties, or allowing voters more choice between parties or between politicians from the same party.

Our current electoral system was ideal for a country that no longer exists – where two parties competed head to head in all corners of the land – and it is time we caught up with this reality.

Simon Hix,

Professor of European and Comparative Politics,

London School of Economics, UK

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