So the dust has settled from the General Travesty Election 2015. Let’s take a quick look at how things panned out. We have the Conservatives in power, with Labour trailing surprisingly far behind. That’s what “neck and neck in the polls” means, apparently. Not that I’m too bothered, since, personally, I’d rather be rear-ended by the Conservatives than by Labour. This is mainly down to a personal preference; I just felt that Labour were more inclined to bring in laws (at an alarming rate) that made criminals of ordinary people (for example, trainspotters being viewed with suspicion of being terrorists – not that I am one, but trainspotters are pretty harmless, surely), whereas the Conservatives are less inclined to do this, which is my preferred person-to-government relationship style. Life became a bit of an eggshell-walk under the last Labour regime.
Anyway, I digress. I wanted to talk about the numerics of the results.
The Conservatives managed to get 331 seats with 11,334,576 votes in an election that had (on average) a 66.1% turnout. That works out to be about 34,250 votes per Conservative MP.
Now, take Scotland. They have 59 constituencies at this time of writing. That’s 59 seats in parliament to represent 5,313,600 people, according to the 2011 census. The SNP have 56 of those seats. Assuming an even distribution of people (for the sake of making this calculation easier), that’s about 90,000 people per constituency. So the SNP represent 5 million people (the population of the UK is about 63.1 million) and yet they have 8.6% of the say in the House of Commons. And it only took 1,454,436 votes to achieve that. That’s 26,000 per seat for them.
And what about UKIP? 3,881,099 votes and only one seat? So 6% of the population is represented by 0.15% of the seats in the House of Commons. That doesn’t sound fair to me. Given that 30.6 million votes were cast, UKIP should now have about 82 seats. That would be a lot fairer, I think.
So, many people cast votes that ended up not counting towards the final outcome. I wrote this because I was really lamenting the UKIP representation issue, but it does apply to all parties, whether it works in their favour or not. The SNP have more representation than they deserve and UKIP have less.
So UKIP require 4 million votes to get one MP? Whereas the Scots get 53 MPs with only 1.5 million votes.
Surely, this conclusively proves we need to overhaul the voting system? If we moved to proportional representation, no vote would be wasted. And we might even see higher turnout because the public could come to appreciate that.
But let’s not forget that the Conservatives, and probably Labour, would not table a motion to effect such a radical change. They would want to continue with a system that allowed them to retain their majority and the current two-party system. But the House of Commons now, and for the next five years, does not accurately reflect the will of the British people.
As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that the Conservatives are trying to push through a Bill that will make strikes illegal unless 50% of union members turn up to vote for it. So they’re quite happy to reform one voting system, but not another – because taking these actions helps them and only them. Clearly, we have not quite grasped fairness in our democracy. The concept of electoral reform is, therefore, clearly on their radar, but it remains to be seen whether they will reform the one system most people care about.
So what can we do? Well, ‘nothing’ is probably not an option. But any action taken might take some effort to amount to anything. We can sign petitions all day and get it debated in the House of Commons, but the problem is that there are not enough voices in parties that would support something like Proportional Representation to get something like that through. We are faced with a catch-22 situation in which we need to elect enough MPs from parties like UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to speak up for it first, and then go mad on petitions. In other words, we need to swing a cat before we can have a vote on swinging a cat.
So it looks like we’re stuck. Unless someone has any other ideas. But personally, I find first past the post intolerable and the best I can do, at least for now, is write this post.