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The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, founded in 1819, is a charity that promotes interest in science, literature and the arts – in the city of Leeds and beyond. We have meetings, lectures, entertainments, publications and visits.

Grown-up politics needs a grown-up voting system – our future depends on it

The case for electoral reform – Chris Graham, former UK Information Commissioner

Read the whole script of the talk here: Chris Graham – Electoral Reform – Jan 2024

If quoting any part of this talk, please give as the reference this page of the LPLS website. 

With the clock running down to a general election some time in 2024, former UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham laments the failure, as he sees it, of the Westminster system to deal adequately with the big issues facing society, our world, and the planet today. He pins the blame primarily on the UK’s archaic X voting system and bangs the drum for reform of our First Past The Post electoral system – replacing X voting with 1, 2, 3 proportional representation in multi-member constituencies.

Now seven years retired, Chris is free to critique the way we elect our Members of Parliament. He believes that X voting results in both an unrepresentative Parliament and ‘representatives’ who prioritise party games over long-term thinking and planning. Tactics are pursued at the expense of strategy. That’s bad news when international relations and climate change, to take just two examples, demand long-term thinking and grown-up policy responses.

Chris Graham is an elected member of the Board of the Electoral Reform Society ( which campaigns for PR STV (proportional representation using the Single Transferable Vote).* He served as a non-executive director of Electoral Reform Services (2002-2008) and, again, as senior independent director, from 2016 until the company’s sale to Civica in 2018.

Chris has been both a winner and a loser under X voting. A Liverpool City Councillor, 1971-4, the then barely 21 year-old Chris became Britain’s youngest councillor at a by-election in December 1971, successfully defending his gain the following May (in the run up to his university Finals). But, when it came to Westminster, Chris was an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate at both the 1983 and 1987 general elections.

Chris argues for the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system of Proportional Representation, introduced by the British to Ireland a century ago and adopted for local elections in Scotland more recently. That’s the system Welsh councils are currently being invited to consider for local elections in Wales.

Some of the questions addressed:

  • Doesn’t PR stand in the way of strong government? ‘Italian politics without the sunshine’.
  • Mightn’t PR encourage extremist minority parties? Nigel Farage says he’s in favour.
  • Doesn’t STV break the link between an MP and his/her constituency?
  • Why would the winners under the present X voting system go for PR? Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.
  • How might a Labour Government be persuaded to introduce PR?

Chris was speaking in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Electoral Reform Society.

*The Board consists of 15 members, 12 elected every other year by the membership using the Single Transferable Vote. Up to three members of the Board can then be co-opted. The current Board was elected in 2021.

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