AUDIENCE members of a public debate about the UK’s voting system were left dumbfounded when a Member of Parliament due to defend the first-past-the-post voting system failed to turn up.

Chris Evans, Labour MP for Islwyn, pictured below, pulled out of the Make Votes Matter debate at the Neeld Hall last Thursday two days before the event, leaving organisers without a single politician to defend the current voting system.

Despite not being able to field a replacement, or find a Conservative MP to speak at all, Make Votes Matter refocused the evening as a constructive discussion with audience members about electoral reform led by Ben Bowman from the University of Bath, Darren Hughes, the chairman of the Electoral Reform Society, and Helen Belcher, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Chippenham.

Issy Willis, of MVM Chippenham, said: “We don’t begrudge MPs for being unable to attend for unavoidable personal reasons.

“But what’s striking, and the members of the public who had come along agreed, is that not a single politician was willing to come out and defend first-past-the-post on the night.

“If MPs are going to insist on maintaining this unusual voting system, in which millions are forced to vote tactically, in which most people’s votes don’t make any difference, and in which seats don’t match votes, the least they can do is come and explain why.

“We wanted to have an open public debate, which would have been fair and balanced but instead we had to reframe the debate about proportional representation on the night.”

The group, who thanked the audience for being so understanding, say they have learnt a lot from the experience and are considering putting on another debate in the future.

“We have learnt a lot from the process and we have already been talking about how we could improve,” Ms Willis added.