Electoral Reform Bill

July 2016

This was a ‘Ten Minute Rule’ Bill, which Caroline Lucas MP sought to introduce on 20 July. The House of Commons voted against it being introduced, so it will make no further progress.

I am afraid that I disagree with both altering the voting system for general elections and lowering the voting age. Regarding the voting system, we had a referendum on electoral reform in the last Parliament. Electors voted strongly against changing the system, with more than two-thirds voting against switching to the ‘Alternative Vote’ (AV) system and in favour of retaining First Past the Post.

It would be hard to justify ignoring this verdict, or to make a case for more ambitious reform, such as Proportional Representation (PR), when the more modest AV proposal was defeated so resoundingly. The tried and tested system of First Past the Post ensures stability and clear governance, preventing disproportionate influence by minority parties with minimal public support, who typically end up holding the balance of power in PR systems.

Regarding the voting age, polls show that most adults oppose lowering it to 16. It is notable that most democracies consider 18 the right age to enfranchise young people. It is widely recognised as the age at which one becomes an adult, and full citizenship rights, including voting, should be gained at adulthood. Interestingly, a 2009 report by the Youth Citizenship Commission stated that the voting age is not the principal factor in encouraging young people’s interest and involvement in politics and citizenship.