Proportional Representation: House of Commons — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:01 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston 5:01 pm, 23rd April 2019

Yes, I do agree. Of course, one weakness in the Government’s proposals to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 is that that would create very large constituencies that in some cases were unmanageable and did not have geographical communities of interests.

On the subject of MEPs, although we have some excellent hard-working Labour MEPs in the north-west, the track record of people sent by this country to represent us in the European Parliament is not a great advert for PR. Of the 73 MEPs elected in 2014, 25 are no longer in the party that they were in when first elected.

We have had a few defections in this place, but on nothing like the scale that we have seen in Europe. More than one third of all the UK MEPs no longer represent the party that they were elected to represent. Let us be clear: if one third of Members in this place swapped parties, that could easily lead to a change of Government. Any system that allows so many politicians to denude the voters of their voice needs to be seriously challenged. Of course, politicians can change party under first past the post—we have heard today from some Members who have done that—but at least they have to face their constituents when they do it. Under PR, those people who ride under one banner of convenience can easily find themselves on the list for their new party at the next election with no apparent consequences for their actions. That does not sound like a democratic system to me.

Whatever system we have, we also need to look at whether this place is truly representative of the people whom we wish to represent. According to the Sutton Trust, 29% of MPs were privately educated, compared with just 7% of the general population. That is an improvement on the 32% from the 2015 election, but there is still a long way to go.

In conclusion, we need a massive overhaul in how politics is conducted in this country. How our economy and society works has massively changed in the last decade. Any item that we desire can be ordered from the comfort of our own home and be on our doorstep the next day, but our political system, both in the way elections are held and in the way Parliament operates, is stuck in a time warp.

One of the most commonly used arguments in favour of first past the post is that it enables there to be “stable” majority government. In recent times, that theory has been tested to destruction. Every day that we spend here without making any progress on the big issues of the day is another day closer to a far more radical change to the way we do politics, which will come from outside, not from in here.

What will happen with all the excellent arguments that we are hearing in favour of different systems today? I will tell you, Mr Evans: nothing will happen. Nothing will change. Nothing is changing. Parliament seems incapable of changing anything, incapable of tackling the big issues that we face in this country. That is why we all need to wake up and fundamentally challenge the way our democracy works—not just how we vote but, more importantly, what we actually do once we are elected.