Back in May last year, my hopes were answered when a hung parliament was returned by the electorate. I argued then that our electoral system was broken. How could it possibly be right that a party with 36% of the votes gets 47% of the seats, whilst another party with 23% of the votes gets only 9% of the seats?
The reason for this anomaly is the First Past the Post system we have here in the UK. The winner in this system is the candidate with the most votes, but not necessarily a majority of votes. Because of this, a candidate can win with a majority of people in a constituency opposing him or her. The view of that majority are therefore unaccounted for.
This problem becomes really apparent when you consider that a majority of people in a constituency might oppose the winner but split their vote across opposition parties. This leads to tactical voting (voting for a party you don’t necessarily support, but the only one that stands a chance of blocking an even worse outcome). I don’t think it’s right that we should be faced with having to make these sorts of choices: I want to vote sincerely.
Here are some First Past the Post anomalies from the 2010 election:
- The Conservaties needed 34,940 votes, Labour 33,370 votes and the Liberal Democrats 119,944 votes to win a seat in Parliament.
- The Green party got 285,616 votes and won one seat. But…
- UKIP got almost a million votes (919,546) and got no seats.
- The BNP got over half a million votes (564,331) and got no seats.
- The Democratic Unionist Party got 168,216 votes and got eight seats. That’s one-fifth of what UKIP got and two-fifths of what the BNP got, but the latter two got nothing!
I’m a Europhile and have nothing positive to say about the BNP, but isn’t this supposed to be a democracy? Isn’t our system supposed to reflect the will of the electorate?
Between having to second-guess myself with tactical voting and also having that vote distorted by the bizarre system, as proven above, it’s no wonder that I start to question the point of having a vote. MPs are supposed to work for us, but the distorted system that we have to hold them to account doesn’t work. Is it any wonder that the electorate is apathetic and disengaged?
On May 5th, we’ll have a referendum to see if we should change our system. I’m thrilled that we have a once-in-a-generation chance to fix this problem, and over the next few days I’ll be blogging about the choice that faces the country.