Only PR can end the chaos in Westminster
For the last three elections in the UK, the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system has delivered a coalition, a small majority government and now a minority government propped up by the DUP, a party that received 0.3% of the UK popular vote. The argument in favour of FPTP, that it produces strong government and certainty, has been completely debunked. Proportional Representation, whereby seats gained are roughly similar in percentage to the proportion of votes received, may too produce similar results, but at least it would deliver greater legitimacy, which is the main problem with Theresa May's new-found love for the Ulstermen. This point is further reinforced by the disproportionate result of Thursday's election, which exaggerated the seats of the Conservatives and limited the Liberal Democrats to twelve seats. While the vote-to-seat ratio for 2015-17 Parliament was far more stark, the new Parliament still fails to accurately reflect the popular will and, more significantly, creates the conditions for even more instability. Here is the situation:
Conservatives received 42.4% of the vote yet won 49% of the seats;
Labour received 40% of the vote and 40 % of the seats;
Liberal Democrats won 7.4% of the vote but just 2% of the seats;
SNP received 3% of the vote and 5% of the seats;
UKIP won 1.8% of the vote but has no seats;
Greens won 1.6% of the vote and received 1 seat.
If PR was used for this election, then the seat distribution would have looked something like this:
Conservatives 276 seats instead of 318;
Labour 260 instead of 262;
Liberal Democrats 48 instead of 12;
SNP 20 instead of 35;
UKIP would have 12 rather than none;
Greens 10 instead of 1
With these results, Labour would have been able to cobble together support from the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Green Party, and pass a Queen's speech, since the combined strength of these parties would amount to 328 seats, the exact figure that the Tories have, under the current system, when combined with the 10 seats of the DUP. Thus, for political as well as moral reasons, Corbyn should get behind PR. Yes, chaos could still ensue, given the four-party support that would be required. Yet there are two powerful arguments, aside from the legitimacy one mentioned earlier, which need to be considered:
The first is that chaos is the new reality of our current system. As Vernon Bogdanor writes, if FPTP delivers the same results as PR, why keep it? The second argument, and perhaps the most significant one, is that PR will change the toxic political culture of Westminster, and put a huge dent in the tribalistic tendencies of the political establishment. Instead of expecting big majorities that fail to materialise, and ruling out coalitions for fear of weakness, parties would expect to work with others, as would their voters. Brexit, and this election, has revealed how divided we are as a country. Our electoral system reduces our politics to political-point scoring and gotcha politics. In the words of former prime minister James Callaghan, who knew a thing or two about minority government under FPTP, "Let's have consultation, not confrontation."
Put it this way, would you rather have a weak and embattled prime minister of one party, representing just 42% of the electorate, going to Brussels to commence Brexit talks? Or a confident, cross-party group of MPs, committed to the interests of the 100%?