1,500 Cornish People Demand Proportional Voting System as Petition Hits 100,000 Nationwide

make votes matter


Almost two years after the 2015 General Election a petition calling for a change of voting system has gathered 100,000 signatures. Of those, over 1,500 come from Cornwall.


The breakdown for Cornish constituencies is as follows:
Truro and Falmouth: 317
St Ives: 293
South East Cornwall: 245
North Cornwall: 241
Camborne and Redruth: 229
St Austell and Newquay: 181


The petition – which was started by campaign group Make Votes Matter – points to the last General Election when, because of the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system, the Conservatives won 37% of the votes cast but 51% of MPs. Meanwhile, UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party won 24% of the votes but only 1.5% of MPs.


The election was dubbed by campaigners as the ‘most disproportionate in British history’ with the FPTP system accused of distorting the result. The distortion was evident in Cornwall, where 6 Conservative MPs were elected with just 43% of the vote between them. Although 170,000 people in Cornwall voted for parties other than the Conservatives, everyone is now represented in Parliament by a Tory.


In 2011, a referendum was held on whether to change Britain’s voting system, which was rejected. However, campaigners point out that the system on offer was not Proportional Representation.


The petition says: “As David Cameron himself said, the AV Referendum was on a system that is often less proportional than FPTP, so the rejection of AV could not possibly be a rejection of PR. In fact, so few voters wanted either system on offer that the turnout was just 42%.”


In 2015, the Electoral Reform Society found that 74% of votes cast were ‘wasted’ and did not contribute to the election of an MP.


Make Votes Matter Spokesperson Owen Winter, from Wadebridge, said “First Past the Post fails to represent Cornwall’s diverse and vibrant politics. When you turn up to the polling station you expect to cast a vote which has equal weight to everyone else’s. This expectation is undermined by our broken voting system.


“In Cornwall, most candidates had no chance of winning. Voters who supported the Green Party, UKIP, Mebyon Kernow or Labour were forced to vote tactically or risk ‘wasting’ their vote. This leads to a result which does not reflect the opinions of most voters.”


Council STP Committee: “the process of engagement with the public was inadequate and seriously flawed”

Now that the petition has reached 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in Parliament by MPs.


Tim Andrewes, Green Party Cornwall Councillor for St Ives East, said:


“The current first-past-the-post system narrows the focus of political choices down to the largest parties, to the exclusion of new voices and different perspectives, which struggle to be heard and considered.


The system often forces voters to choose the lesser of two evils – resulting in a negative vote – rather than voting positively for the sets of policies and values that chime most with their own beliefs. In this way, first-past-the-post diminishes our political culture.”


Stephanie McWilliam, UKIP Cornwall Councillor for Lynher, said:

“The AV referendum in 2011 was probably lost because it was a choice between the status quo and the only option almost nobody wanted. First Past The Post (FPTP) suits a two-party system but our politics has moved on. If we are to have a House of Commons which better reflects the views of the people of this country, it needs a different voting system.


“We already use different systems for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and London Assemblies so it shouldn’t be difficult to evaluate the various options and recommend one that will work better than FPTP does now.


“Even people who oppose UKIP and everything it stands for recognise that 3.9 million votes at the last general election only delivering a single MP makes a mockery of the current system. Can we please look at this again?”


Loveday Jenkin, Mebyon Kernow Cornwall Councillor for Crowan and Wendron, said:


“Mebyon Kernow believes that every voice should be heard. Proportional representation should ensure that the clear wishes of the Cornish people are expressed within Cornwall even when that voice may be lost in a wider British vote. Within the First Past the Post Parliamentary system even if Mebyon Kernow were to get 20% of the vote across Cornwall it would not guarantee us a seat in Westminster.”


Joanna Kenny, Liberal Democrat Cornwall Councillor for Newquay Pentire, said:


“Proportional Representation would be an important step towards a parliament that fairly represents people’s’ views. It would allow people to to vote with their hearts rather than having to vote tactically for the ‘least bad’ candidate. I also think it is important that MPs have a link to a particular constituency which could be achieved with a system such as the Additional Member System or the Single Transferrable Vote.”