It's time to open the door to dissent

Apr 07, 2021

Of all the arguments made against Proportional Representation, one of the most pervasive is the idea that allowing smaller parties into the Commons will somehow undermine the quality of debate and disrupt the order of our political system.

That view only holds true if you believe that all political issues can be accurately represented in a two-dimensional, black-and-white debate between government and opposition. We don’t. The issues thrown up by modern life are subtle and multi-faceted and require a much more nuanced debate than our current system can manage.

Parliament should be reflective of the people outside the building, a condensed version of our great nation in one room, debating the issues that matter most in our lives. Few, if any, voices should ever be excluded from that debate.

The political establishment tried for years to ignore those expressing eurosceptic views. David Cameron regarded eurosceptics within his party as irksome ideological opponents to be stifled rather than political colleagues with legitimate views who should be challenged through rigorous democratic debate. In campaigning passionately against electoral reform in 2011, he ensured that the eurosceptic movement could not gain a foothold in the Commons but he also sowed the seeds of his ultimate downfall in 2016.

We at Open Britain do not hide our desire to see the UK continue to be an open, outward-looking country that plays a leading role on the international stage. But nor do we hide from our duty as good democrats to ensure all voices can be heard as we debate what our future should look like.

Adopting proportional representation is not about rigging the system so ‘our side’ wins every time. It’s about giving a platform to those views, both left and right, that have been marginalised or excluded by the current winner-takes-all Westminster system, so they can inform the national debate that ultimately shapes our lives.

Excluding inconvenient voices from the debate does not mean they go away. They simply grow in strength somewhere out of sight and return later, much stronger and much more uncompromising. 2016 showed us all too clearly the consequences of that approach.

Let’s stop thinking of dissent as a negative force that might derail carefully laid plans but rather as an opportunity to learn from new perspectives and strengthen the overall debate. Proportional representation would allow us to build our country’s future on firm foundations, ones that represent the best possible fit with ALL the views.

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