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The two party political system has been in long term decline and since 2010 the UK has seen a surge in popularity of political parties who struggle to break through under the first past the post system.

Compass continues to support calls for Proportional Representation to make all votes count. However, with the 2015 General Election fast approaching we need to think about what the role of Compass is in this highly imperfect electoral system. So we've set up this discussion in order for you to help guide any future action we might take.

In 2010 Compass members voted to back efforts to support tactical voting. This helped deny the Tories an outright majority but given the formation of the Coalition are you worried tactical voting will lead to another political arrangement that denies us a progressive future or will it make a progressive outcome more likely? Will voting for your preferred option just pave the way for your least preferred outcome or is now that time to vote out of principle? These are the dilemmas many of us face.

At the last Compass Gathering (AGM), we had a particularly interesting discussion about tactical voting and we want to extend that conversation to our wider supporter network and members who couldn’t make the event.

As ever at Compass we try to 'be the change' so please be inquisitive, passionate and respectful. It’s your organisation and it’s an important discussion - we invite you to discuss these in the relevant threads/posts below.

You will not need to register to post any comments, but if you can please leave your first name in the post we would appreciate it.

Anyone supporting proportional representation does not understand it. The result of proportional voting in the London Assembly was to let in the National Front! That is just one example of the folly of proportional representation. Look at all the countries – Belgium and Italy being just two examples – that have been unable to form a government for months because of bickering between the parties. Proportional representation will allow minority parties to have a major say in the government. Proportional representation may make VOTING more democratic but it results in a far less democratic GOVERNMENT, because the government you end up with was not the one voted for by the majority.
When was the last General Election which resulted in the a single governing party receiving at least 50% plus 1 of the votes cast, to claim it represented a majority rather than a plurality of voters?
I agree that proportional representation isn't all it's cracked up to be. I have spent a lot of time in Ireland the last 10 years and their system of proportional voting is very complicated with more than one candidate from each party standing in most constituencies. Anyway, to cut a long complicated story short, candidates with fewer votes than others end up becoming TD's (eg how Dick Spring(labour) got voted out a few years ago. There is an immense amount of tactical voting..... you have more than one vote, ie you can vote for say 3 candidates.
I realise that this is not really on topic but I thought it was worth saying given the post above.

As for tactical voting in UK.... well I can never bring myself to vote for a person whose politics I don't agree with when push comes to shove. I always vote for the furthest left person on the list, however hopeless it is. Usually in my constituency, there is a right ring labour candidate, so real democracy is denied to me.
PR would produce more DEMOCRATIC governments because, by definition, more of the votes cast would be counting: in far too many UK constituencies the seats are 'safe' under FPTP - and this encourages voter apathy. When did a genuinely new party last emerge in England? [the SDP in the 80s were centre-left Labour MPS and supporters; UKIP are predominantly disgruntled Tories] Contrast that situation with Spain - where Podemos has a realistic chance of breaking the PP/PSOE two party mould in this year's election.
I need time to think about PR having just cancelled my membership to the LP due to local apathy around engaging young people from poor backgrounds in politics. I think Ed has some good policies around tackling tax evasion and providing jobs, the trouble is his party isn't reaching out to the disaffected in the most isolated parts of the country, beyond the northern cities to the seaside towns and villages. E.g., my 14 year old daughter has had to resign as a Member of Youth Parliament because she received no local support, but I've been told it isn't a party issue.

I refuse to support politicians in safe seats who don't raise local issues with their national party for fear of destabilising the vote.

I think a more democratic system would permit online debates and online votes at 16. Gordon Brown once said he would consider votes at 16 if politics were on the curiculum - well they are not, and we are heading into the general elections with the future generation left behind.

We talk about PR without reimagining what it would be like to hold inclusive ballots, and how the landscape may change if we were more inclusive, not just of the young, but of the sick and disabled. It is always about supporting hard working families and slighting migrants, picking on the weakest to gain support of the strong.

Sorry, but at this moment in time tactical voting seems like cheating those who are least able to understand the system.

Alan (Lincs)
In my view PR is, in it's presently viewed form, heavily flawed.
If we want to keep to the MP/constituency formula, then we need a new vote counting system AND a vote preference system, one where the voters preference for a ruling party has equal or greater prominence to the MP vote.
By having a ruling party preference we are far more likel;y to end up with the government we WANT as opposed to the one that the political parties want.

Junior Member
Posts: 1
I am not sure what is the correct type of Voting system. They all have plus points and minus points. But we are stuck with the current system for this General Election. so we best make good use of it. I think it ought to be Compulsory to Vote but with an "opt-out" box. If significant "opt-outs" occur the votes should be re-run. Where I live one Party always wins be a large margin, so it does not matter who one Votes for. So tactical voting will make little difference in my Constituency. But it will have value in certain areas. WHAT WORRIES ME IS THAT WE ARE GOING TO FINISH UP WITH A FOUR-WAY COALITION!!!???!!! Then we will have a major crisis. 
It matters nothing who, of the present parties, forms a 'government'. The Remembrancer who sits behind the Speaker's chair and stymies any legislation that goes against the privileges of the semi-autonomous City of London indicates where the real power in the land resides. Thatchers endorsement of Tony Baloney only underlined the capitulation of our state to corporate interests.
Face it, the new feudalism is here and it will take more than a few people tactically voting to get out from under those.
Re-arranging deck chairs and 'Titanic' come to mind.

Re PR, I am in favour in principle, and marginally in favour in practice.

Clearly, it must be more democratic. So possible objections are regarding the undesirability of its potential results, from specific political points of view.

It favours emerging parties, and at the moment I am concerned about the rise of support for populist parties. These seem to me to benefit from scaremongering / demonising (UKIP with immigrants and the EU, the Greens with GM), and / or peddling irresponsible economics based on the idea of a money tree somewhere, such as in someone else’s garden (Syriza in Greece, and the Greens here with their policy adoption of full reserve banking – a system deployed to date only in North Korea and Cuba, those beacons of multi-party democracy and well-fed citizens).

However, party groupings must be capable of change and the people must speak – so if there was another referendum I would again vote yes for PR.

On the latest polls, these would be the results of the current system as against crude PR (no vote transfer):


Labour 298

Cons 265

SNP 50

L Dems 16


Greens 1

Others 19

Likely result: Labour/SNP coalition



Labour 208

Cons 208


L Dems 58

Greens 39

SNP/others 39

Likely result: Cons/ UKIP/ L Dems coalition and another early election


An interesting and tricky issue!

Rick, Presteigne


Junior Member
Posts: 3
It is fairly flattering at the age of 84 to be described as a junior member! 

Junior Member
Posts: 3
I cannot agree that not voting is an option. It is a matter of voting for the least repulsive. We are stuck with the voting system we have until enough people scream about it from inside !
The only PR system I like is exhaustive ballot where the candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated until one achieves 50% plus one or more.

I would also campaign for compulsory ballot.
The Current voting system and,therefore, the governments thereby elected are invalid.
The referendum on a pre-determined system was a dishonesty. The question should have been  to change the voting system or not. Then the options could have been set out, not by the political parties, but by independent and non-aligned organisations.
I would discourage voting on a such a scale as to render the result blatantly undemocratic.
I think the idea of compelling people to vote,especially under the present regime, is abhorrent and undemocratic.I do not vote because it would be pointless and by voting I would be supporting the current corrupted system.
The very least there should be is a "NONE OF THESE" on the ballot form.
In reply to post Nr 2, there is a big contradiction in calling for an electoral system to be 'more democratic' by designing an electoral system that is guaranteed to leave out the far right! 

In reply to the post about the London Assembly, there are NO UKIP members in this legislature [biggrin]. Much depends on the voters, not just the system.

Regarding PR in general, we need to understand that:

1) PR is never ever purely proportional in the sense of giving 20 % of the seats to a party with 20% of the votes, except in Israel. There are a variety of seat distribution formulas, ranging from only slightly proportion, moderately proportional, to strongly proportional. The most frequently used throughout the world is the "D'Hondt" method, which I'd call moderately proportional. It can be adjusted to be slightly more, or slightly less, proportional - as desired, without any boundary, candidate, or rule changes. 

PR in Spain for instance has consistently led to a majority or a minority government, but never to a coalition. Countries with the traditional 2 large parties will alternate in government according to voters' choices. Smaller parties will get fewer seats than the % of their votes. Regionally based parties may get a dollop of seats in their region where their vote is concentrated, but nowhere else. Sounds familiar? The total number of parties in the House of Commons and the Spanish Cortes is nearly always identical - but in more proportional sizes, ie. a handful more, but not many more, Lefts & Greens, and more, but few, far-right members.

2) It's all about how to distribute the seats to the parties. PR using the D'Hondt method for doing this is dead easy - you can calculate who gets what on the back of any envelope! [smile]

3) What about the 'constituency link'? PR with it's Party Lists has some advantages here too. True, with their large multi-member constituencies with big teams of MPs, it is possible for MPs to never visit the whole of their constituency. But they travel to the regional capitals and local towns to meet with people, local pressure groups, party organisations, etc. If this is deemed insufficient contact, the MPs can informally divide their constituencies into areas and share them out, so that each area is always visited by the same MP who develops a close link.

4) But who wants to see the same MP all the time, especially if s/he's from your most unloved party? This depends on outlook/culture. People used to PR are used to having several people to represent them, and mostly they will always have at least one MP representing their preferred party - a very big advantage from their point of view.

Under PR there are constituencies that always return the same spread of MPs from only 2 parties, but the system avoids the electoral deserts that blight our system, where most people in the country have no access to an MP of their preferred tendency; and worse, will never have one throughout their lives unless they move! [bawl]

I for one could not bear to live in a constituency with only Conservative MPs for ever [mad] Worse if he were a man, as I believe there should be a woman representative in every constituency. FPTP would not be considered democratic by those who believe in offering our diverse electorate a choice of representatives to be in contact with locally.  

5) The problem for us is changing over to a well-designed PR system that suits us. MPs don't want to lose their seat during the initial constituency boundary changes they imagine will be to their detriment. 

6) To steer a path through this thicket  see my newly designed [idea] electoral system "Constituency-based Voting with Proportional Allocation of Seats" at

Monica Threlfall
Because I am one among thousands, there has never been a likelihood of my vote getting any non right wing candidate elected in South West Norfolk. I could vote Tory, Labour or LibDem this time to show my opposition to UKIP. But that just reduces voting to a silly game. I shall be 64 later this month and perhaps have only three or four more opportunities to vote in general elections. I shall vote for the party I believe comes closest to matching what I believe our government should do. That's the Greens and if my vote goes some small way towards increasing their longer term national credibility, I shall have cast it appropriately.
Why do people argue against PR by pointing out the shortcomings and turn a blind eye to the major shortcomings of first past the post. Under the current system we have had more Tory Governments than any other. With a proper PR system although you may have more than one party in government but you will have a more balanced government. As proof this government has had measures from both parties Tories and LibDems as part of its agenda whether you like it or not. The Labour Party where in favour of PR and the list system for Euro Election was introduced by them. What is needed is a grown up attitude to the idea and not one that defends a system that is more skewed than any alternative. A further bit of evidence is that without exception the Tories support first past the post.
A good point made, that the Conservatives are pretty much unanimously in favour of retaining the present system.  No wonder...

The fact has to be faced that the surest way to a Tory-led Government is for Labour and Green supporters in Lib Dem-held seats to vote Labour or Green.  Certainly where a Lib Dem is defending a small majority, eg: Chippenham; or is standing down, eg: Bath. These seats represent the best, indeed probably the only, chances for Tory gains.  And of course unless the margin is very close, Lib Dems will feel obliged to try first for a coalition with the party with the largest number of MPs returned, however dodgy the system.

I rather agree with George Monbiot that decades of tactical voting has got us nowhere. Too often we vote for someone we dislike in order to keep out someone we dislike even more.  Monbiot urges us to vote for the policies we actually want, regardless of the chances of that candidate being elected.  This is what I'm going to do in May - vote Green even though the Green candidate has no hope of winning the seat.  If we all voted for what we really want instead of what we don't really want but could put up with, it could transform the political landscape and strengthen the already strong case for proportional representation.
Will Duckworth

Junior Member
Posts: 1
I think it is time to vote for what we believe in.  We have ended up with the rich getting richer and the poor getting the blame.  Let's show that there is an alternative and stop voting for a pale pink Labour Party to get rid of the Tories.
I agree with Will.  If Labour see their voters transferring to the Greens then they have only got themselves to blame.  See John Harris in the Gdn recently.  In sum Blair (Bliar!!), Iraq, Brown and (austerity-lite) Balls.

The more the LP have a go at the Green Party with their hit squad of Sadiq Khan and Steve Bassam the more support we get.

Voters are fed up.  Fed up with the Westminster establishment, the grey parties and business as usual.

Voting Green is a vote against austerity and a vote for hope and a sustainable future.

Douglas Coker

Full declaration - Green Party member - PPC Edmonton.
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