Hello. I'm Martin Bristow and I'm a citizen of the United Kingdom. The snap election plan is a sequence of practical steps to give the UK electorate a meaningful say on replacing our general election first-past-the-post voting system with a proportional-representation voting system by the end of the year 2022.
Who might be interested?
- Are you eligible to vote in the UK? Do you know someone who is? Will you become an eligible voter in the coming years?
- Do you want to be considered as equal to other voters?
- Do you want to be able to vote for any party you want, and have a much better chance of your vote counting, regardless of which party you vote for and regardless of where you live?
- Do you want those who sit in the House of Commons to reflect the views of the electorate?
- Do you want the parties on offer to know where they stand and what they want?
- Do you want to do away with a parliamentary culture of insults, points-scoring, infighting, us-versus-them, tribalism, and division?
- Do you, instead, want a parliamentary culture of collaboration, negotiation, team-work, skills sharing, power sharing, cross-party solutions, and equality?
- Do you want the UK to be shaped by the hearts and minds of its citizens, and not wealthy corporations, wealthy individuals, and lobby groups?
- Have you lost trust in the democratic and political institutions that our lives depend on? Do you want to regain that trust?
First Past the Post Must Be Replaced
The first-past-the-post voting system was adopted nationwide in the UK at a time when one man on horseback would ride between his constituency and London to represent his constituents. It was adopted at a time when representative democracy in the UK was in its infancy, when vast swathes of the population were delighted to even just have the chance to vote at all, and when a system that was quick and easy to process was a priority. That was 1884. But even then, concerns were raised about first past the post: the Proportional Representation Society (now the Electoral Reform Society) was founded in that year. Later, in 1911, Sir Winston Churchill said:
"The present system has clearly broken down. The results produced are not fair to any party, nor to any section of the community. In many cases they do not secure majority representation, nor do they secure an intelligent representation of minorities. All they secure is fluke representation, freak representation, capricious representation."
In fact, the only thing going for first past the post is its ease and speed of processing. First past the post breeds a toxic culture in parliament but, outside that bubble, its effect on society is much more damaging. The system leads to inequality, intolerance, division, bitterness, frustration, segregation, low productivity, fragmentation, suppression, and bigotry. If we could re-design the UK now, first past the post would be quickly rejected as not meeting the needs of the brief. If it's a democracy that we want, first past the post fails at the most basic of tests.
Unlike other reforms, replacing first past the post is particularly challenging because, no-matter how much the world changes, one thing will always hold true: those who benefit directly from first past the post are the very ones who have the power to change it. Unfortunately, all other areas of debate, such as defence, crime, healthcare, education, financial regulation, public services, research, welfare, and foreign policy, are underpinned by the voting system that converts the will of the people to the power that governs them. Unless we replace the voting system, trying to improve areas such as defence, crime, healthcare etc. is like trying to fix a faulty car with faulty tools. Instead of working twice as long with faulty tools (and even then only doing a poor job), would a mechanic instead choose to replace those tools with ones that would be effective for the job?
It's time to replace the tool of First Past the Post with one that is effective for the job that we want it to do.
The Traditional Approach to Voting Reform
Over the decades, efforts have been made to replace first past the post with a proportional-representation voting system. These efforts have focused on lobbying MPs to support voting reform. As I see it, though, this approach will always be an uphill struggle, because voting-reform enthusiasts are not the only ones who are lobbying MPs. And, those who like the status quo tend to have considerably more wealth and power.
The alternative approach is to use a general election to vote in MPs who support voting reform. On the face of it, though, this approach seems yet more challenging. As a result of first past the post, 68 % of all votes were wasted at the 2017 UK general election. That is, if 68 % of all valid votes that were cast had not been cast that day, it would have made no difference to the outcome of the election. And, unfortunately, due to the nature of first past the post, votes that are cast for voting-reform-supporting candidates are likely to end up on this waste heap.
So, what's left? What approach remains to give the electorate a meaningful say on voting reform?
The Snap Election Plan
The snap election plan is a different approach to traditional efforts. The diagram below illustrates the key phases of the snap election plan.
The plan is composed of seven practical steps:
1. Register a political party. I would try to get the name Snap Election Party (SEP) approved.
2. Stand 650 candidates at the next UK general election.
3. Win a majority of seats at the next UK general election.
4. Form a caretaker government that is accountable to the SEP.
5. Hold a binding referendum, asking which one of the following four voting systems should replace FPTP for UK general elections: Additional Member System; Closed Party List; Open Party List; Single Transferable Vote.
6. Legislate for the replacement of FPTP with the electorate’s choice of voting system.
7. Trigger a snap general election in accordance with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.
- If the party did not win a majority of votes, it would add to the referendum the question of whether the electorate wanted to replace first past the post at all.
- If the party did not win enough seats to implement its two policies of a referendum and snap general election, it would have its MPs vacate their seats immediately. There would be a very high chance that this would lead to by-elections in the respective constituencies.
There's more information on the plan on the Facebook page; the flowchart and associated notes are a good place to start. I've also written a book about why first past the post must be replaced, what the challenges are in doing so, and the plan itself. It's called The Snap Election Plan and is available on Amazon in e-book and paperback formats.
How would the funds be spent?
I'm passionate about implementing this plan, and seeing it right through to the end. The £3000 would pay for the fee of £150 to apply to register the party, and for my time to find and organise 649 candidates to stand for the party at the next UK general election (I would be one of the 650). I would pay myself a wage equal to the National Living Wage (currently £7.50 per hour; going up to £7.83 per hour in April 2018).
How would candidates be chosen?
When appointing the 649 candidates, I will fill the vacancies as and when I receive applications that meet the following criteria:
- Meet legal requirements for standing as a candidate.
- Committed and loyal to the cause of the snap election plan.
- Able to raise the deposit to stand as a candidate. This is currently £500 per candidate and, according to current legislation, would be returned to the candidate if the candidate won more than 5 % of valid votes cast in his/her constituency.
If I process two or more applications for the same constituency simultaneously, and the above criteria are met, the following criteria will be used to decide who should fill the vacancy (in order of priority):
1. Pledged to this project, however much or little.
2. Resides in the constituency in which he/she wished to stand.
3. Knowledge, skills, and experience associated with politics, law, and the UK parliament.
The reason that a pledge to this project would take priority over the other two is that the implementation of this plan won't even begin without funding. Also, due to the nature of the snap election plan, each MP for this new party would represent all Britons equally, so where a candidate resided wouldn't ultimately matter. It would help with campaigning, though, which is why it's included as criterion #2.
The information above would be captured in an application form, and the form would ask for the applicant's top three constituencies. Additionally, I plan to compile a list of 100 stand-by candidates.
Disclaimer (the boring part)
I have a clear vision of how the snap election plan would be a success, and I have every belief that, if it can get off the ground, it will be a success. But there is no guarantee of this. Despite my best efforts, the decision to accept an application to register a political party will lie with the Electoral Commission. Also, despite my best efforts, I may not be able to find 649 candidates (I would be one of the 650) to stand at the next UK general election; that would be, to a great extent, out of my hands. One thing is for certain, though: without this £3000 funding, there is a 100 % certainty that this plan will not be implemented by me at this time. So, of course, there would be this risk in pledging to this project. But I hope that people will see that it is a risk very much worth taking.
If you have any questions or queries on this plan, please get in touch with me. You could message me from this website, write a comment, message me via the Facebook page, post on the Facebook page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together, we can start to implement this plan.