Press release: Democracy campaigners respond to ‘unrepresentative’ council after voting reform row

Cross-party campaigners in North Yorkshire have rejected claims by Conservative councillors that they wasted council time by calling for a change to the voting system.

A meeting of the Conservative controlled North Yorkshire County Council’s executive last Tuesday saw councillors refusing to support a proposal calling on the government to introduce proportional representation (PR) for all future general, local and mayoral elections, with one Tory executive member branding the debate as ‘peripheral’ and ‘political posturing’.

But polling at the end of last year from Compass, a national campaign group dedicated to building cross-party alliances and pushing for the implementation of PR, showed support for voting reform among the public has hit a record high, with 56% now backing a change to the UK’s First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system.

Members of Compass North Yorkshire said the current UK voting system wastes millions of votes, forces people to vote tactically and subjects the whole population to unrepresentative ‘minority rule’.

In last year’s local elections, the Conservatives won 47 out of 90 seats (52% of the councillors) on North Yorkshire County Council with just 41% of the popular vote.

Celine Barry, Coordinator of Compass North Yorkshire, said: “They don’t have a proper democratic mandate from the people of North Yorkshire, so how can they claim to speak for us? Like countless other councils across the country, we’re being forced to endure a tyranny of the minority.

“By dismissing these proposals, Conservative councillors are ignoring the bigger picture.  Only by changing our dysfunctional voting system and political culture can we build a democracy that truly represents all of us.”

Criticising the proposals, one Conservative councillor said PR could lead to unstable coalition governments – but failed to mention that two of the last four general elections under the FPTP voting system have produced ‘hung’ parliaments, with 5 Prime Ministers since 2016 and 3 during 2022 alone!

The public has also lost faith in our voting system, with 62% saying it doesn’t provide strong and stable government, Compass polling from last year revealed.

Sean Hagan, Compass North Yorkshire member, said: “It’s no surprise that the Conservatives are so keen to defend our unfair voting system, since they’re the ones who most benefit from it. FPTP has kept the Tories in power for two-thirds of the past century, although they’ve never gained a majority of the total votes cast in any general election since 1931!

“People across the country struggle to engage with politics and feel like their voices aren’t being heard. Our winner-takes-all voting system plays a huge role in that by shutting out views that should be represented and closing off debate.

“Time and time again, more people vote for progressive parties, but because their votes are split, they get unrepresentative Tory governments. We’re working to make sure our broken system doesn’t deliver such an undemocratic result the next time around.”

But there are clear local signs of a concerted opposition push back against Tory dominance on North Yorkshire County Council.  A by-election last Thursday saw the Liberal Democrats take a council seat from the Conservatives. In a direct two-way contest in the Masham and Fountains seat, 62.7% of those voting backed the Lib Dem candidate against the Tory, which further reduced the council’s overall Tory majority to just two.  The combined opposition now holds 44 seats against 46 for the ruling Conservatives.

Win As One, which launched in December, is a new campaign from Compass focussed on facilitating cross-party cooperation in key seats across the country to help a progressive government win power at the next general election.

Win As One will prioritise support to progressive candidates who are not only best placed to win, but also commit to Proportional Representation and wider electoral reform and will work with Compass activists to build alliances at a local level.


For more information please contact: 

Harry Gold, Compass Media and Press Officer +44 (0) 7500560643

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