The first past the post electoral system seems to survive in England purely by virtue of its utility to the powers that be. This voting system excludes challengers to the main parties, even though the main parties are struggling to garner 60% of the support of those who will vote in the forthcoming general election (and a minority of the electorate as a whole, once those who don’t vote are included).
There are all sorts of reasons to retain the traditional system, including inertia and the perceived need to represent specific areas in Parliament and not simply choose candidates from a party list.
I have a solution. Traditionally, in England there were the burgesses (knights who represented individual boroughs) and the knights of the shire, two per county, suggesting there is some traditional basis for regarding each county as a single multi-member constituency. I suggest we go with the knights of the shire concept, and regard each county, in its traditional borders, as a single constituency, electing an appropriate number of MPs to represent the English population therein. [Note: it is my view that only the English population should be represented and that therefore the number of MPs should reflect the indigenous population only.]
For example: Hampshire in its traditional borders included the Isle of Wight. The traditional county of Hampshire is represented by 18 or 19 MPs. As a single multi-member constituency electing, say, 18 MPs, the 18 could be chosen by proportional representation. For example, if the Conservatives got 50% of the vote in Hampshire, 9 Conservative MPs could be selected from the party list. That way, there is still a regional link: these are not simply MPs from a party list, but MPs with a link to Hampshire alone on a party list. We could also require that candidates show descent from a Hampshire family to ensure that Hampshire’s interests were properly represented.
Bringing back the other traditional counties, we can see that Middlesex would cover much of Greater London and be a single constituency. Yorkshire would be the greatest prize. In all these cases, the MPs would be chosen by proportional representation from a multi-member constituency in just the same way that Euro MPs are chosen by PR to represent a multi-member European constituency.
This would be superior to first past the post and to pure PR, because the regional link would still exist. A voter would be free to contact any of the county’s MPs or to contact the one who lived nearest to him.
The City of London with a small population would have at least 1 MP. Rutland as the English county with the smallest population would have at least 1MP. The traditional counties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be represented in the same way.
This would lead to a opening up of politics — a genuine democratic renewal.