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John Cleese stars in animation about the state of British democracy

He won't return to the UK from the Caribbean island of Nevis until “we get Proportional Representation”.

Sarah Hudspith
21 December 2018

Comedy legend John Cleese stars in a new animation on some of the things wrong with democracy in the UK.  

Make Votes Matter worked with him to produce the video which hopes to stimulate debate on one of the ways we can fix it. In it, a Pythonesque cutout of Cleese argues that a change to our voting system is long overdue:

“The Conservatives and the DUP hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, yet just 43% of votes went to those two parties combined. 57% of us have to put up with a government we didn’t vote for and don’t want. This is what’s known as minority rule.”

The solution, he adds, lies with introducing a system of Proportional Representation for elections to the House of Commons.

“Proportional Representation, or “PR”, simply means that seats in the House of Commons would reflect the way we vote. In other words if one party gets 20% of the vote, they get 20% of the seats - and as a consequence it would mean that Britain is governed by a Parliament that reflects its people.”

Make Votes Matter says that the UK’s First Past the Post voting system means millions of voters are effectively shut out of our democracy thanks to minority rule government. In the 2015 general election the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and UKIP received almost a quarter of all votes cast between them, yet ended up sharing just 1.5% of seats.

Millions more are forced to vote tactically. In 2017, 20-30% of those polled said that they planned to vote tactically for a party who had a better chance of winning than their favourite candidate.

Let’s hope in the new year we’ll move closer to ditching First Past the Post in favour of a fair and proportionate system where seats match votes.

Klina Jordan, co-facilitator at Make Votes Matter, said: “Anyone watching the video will empathise with John Cleese when he says that the alienation and mistrust that’s entered into British politics is a consequence of our unrepresentative voting system.

“He’s absolutely right. British politics has broken down precisely because Parliament doesn’t reflect the people. It’s time we caught up with most developed countries in the world by bringing in Proportional Representation, and we’re delighted to have worked with John and animator Fred Tschepp to make this point.”

The Monty Python and Fawlty Towers actor moved to the Caribbean island of Nevis in October, saying he would return to the UK, “when we get Proportional Representation”.

Is it time to pay reparations?

The Black Lives Matter movement has renewed demands from activists in the US and around the world seeking compensation for the legacies of slavery and colonialism. But what would a reparative economic agenda practically entail and what models exist around the world?

Join us for this free live discussion at 5pm UK time (12pm EDT), Thursday 17 June.

Hear from:

  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Author of Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership
  • Esther Stanford-Xosei: Jurisconsult, Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE).
  • Ronnie Galvin: Managing Director for Community Investment, Greater Washington Community Foundation and Senior Fellow, The Democracy Collaborative.
  • Chair, Aaron White: North American economics editor, openDemocracy
Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

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