The introduction of a system based on proportional representation would, arguably, result in a fairer outcome of elections; but it would also have significant political consequences.

Multi-party Parliaments

> most of the smaller parties now in Parliament (the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish and Welsh nationalists) are likely to gain increased representation

> parties who are not currently in Parliament (for example, the Greens) may gain some seats

> factions within the major parties may break away to secure their own representation.

On current voting patterns, it is less likely that one party will gain an overall majority in Parliament (i.e. there will be “hung Parliaments”). Governments would then have to rely on support from the smaller parties or from individual MPs on particular issues.

Increased importance of Parliament

If governments had to rely on the support of individual MPs and smaller parties, these would have increased influence over government - they would be able to "drive a hard bargain". This would mean that Parliament as a whole would have increased importance in relation to the government.

Coalition government

The major parties may seek to form a coalition government in order to secure an overall majority - i.e. two or more parties would share power, share Cabinet seats and agree joint policies. This could have a number of outcomes:

> there could be greater consensus over policies - they would be more likely to command widespread support if they were agreed by more than one party

> it could give a disproportionate amount of power to smaller parties, which could demand big concessions in return for their support

> coalitions can be unstable - if the partners fall out over policy or power

> coalition policies are not known at the time of the election - the policies eventually implemented may not have been put forward in the election - this undermines the concept of the electoral mandate.