Every five years or so we vote for a constituency MP to represent our views, because we are a democracy, right? Not so much. Yes, the UK does run on democratic politics, but there are many things that occur behind the doors of the House of Commons that erode the electorate’s effectivity in influencing Parliament. These things are purposefully supressed to keep everyone satisfied, but when you dig a little deeper, there are many things wrong with our parliamentary system.
The first is Party Whips. The job of these is to effectively persuade party members to vote in favour of their leader’s views, by blackmailing a forced resignation or demotion if they do not. I asked Conservative MP, Steve Baker, about the extent of Party Whips’ threats to which he was quite vague (surprise surprise), but denied the rumoured use of a ‘burn book’ that is used to threaten MPs with their personal lives. Regardless of the threats themselves, it is highly undemocratic to force MPs to ignore their conscience and constituents and abide by their party leader, especially due to the common factions in parties today. This was apparent when Jermey Corbyn placed a 3 line whip on passing the Brexit bill in February of this year. I saw this as an utterly humiliating feat for Corbyn, especially due to the failing support he has as leader of the party. In forcing the vote for the Brexit bill, it eradicated the views of the 210 Labour MPs that voted remain in the EU referendum, and abolished their role in representing the public’s desires. Many constituencies did not have a majority ‘Leave’ vote in the referendum, like that of St Albans, South Cambridgeshire and many northern and Scottish constituencies. This means that MPs are not representing their constituents and therefore not doing their job adequately. It is clear that these Whips embellish dictatorial aspects within our democratic system, and must be abolished; MPs are elected to represent those in their constituency and should not be hindered by party leaders. It gives me hope that MPs are becoming increasingly mindful of the importance of conscience and constituents when voting against whips, much like the 52 Labour rebels of the second reading of the Brexit bill.
Electoral systems are one of those things people cannot be bothered to try and understand. This would be a lot different if it was more well known that our current electoral system for General Elections is one of the most undemocratic of all. First Past The Post is a plurality system whereby candidates must win at least one more vote than their nearest rival to win in their constituency and therefore, a seat in Parliament. Although this means there is a clear and indisputable winner, it is a lazy way to quickly get to a mandate that essentially ignores the views of the majority of the electorate. The Green Party are a perfect example of this flawed system. In the 2017 General Election the green Party gained just over half a million votes, whilst the Conservatives got 13.6 million votes. From this data it should be confirmed that the Tories have roughly 27 times more seats than the Greens, right? Not under First Past The Post. Green’s 1 seat versus the Conservative’s 318 is a vivid example of how First Past the Post wastes thousands of votes and fails to represent the public. This is basically down to the UK’s growing two party system where it’s extremely difficult for any party except Labour or Conservative to win a constituency’s seat in Parliament. Supporters of smaller parties or independent candidates are heavily underrepresented and essentially cast a wasted vote in General Elections. This ultimately means that anyone who votes for a candidate who does not win that constituency’s seat is not represented. The resolution to this major issue would be electoral reform to a system which uses more elements of proportional representation.
It is inevitable that a large majority of people’s views will not resonate with that of your MP’s, even if they represent the party you support. I can relate to the fact that having an MP who stands for the opposite party to you is frustrating and abolishes the hope that your views are being represented in Parliament at all. Living in the Beaconsfield constituency, that has been a Tory safe seat forever and produced a Conservative win in 2017 with 65% of the vote, is very unnerving and hard for me to believe my vote will be effective in the next election, where I will be eligible to vote. This being said, I still feel represented by Labour MPs from other constituencies that hold counter arguments to Tory policy. There are also many other things that confirm Parliament’s poor representative skills: the House of Lords can only block legislation for one year before the Commons can completely ignore them, showing that the lack of accountability of the executive is abysmal. Moreover, Select Committees that check governmental proceedings are a microcosm of Parliament, so are inevitably going to be bias. All these things accumulated produces the worrying reality that the UK is falling into dictatorial quicksand, and fails to represent the electorate in the democratic ways it makes everyone believe.