A week on from our third General Election in seven years, we’ve taken a detailed look at the results, and their implications for our creaking voting system.

Distorted votes

This election saw a huge increase in the number of people forced to vote tactically.
20% of voters said they planned to vote tactically to avoid wasting their vote or “let in” their least favourite candidate – according to the Electoral Reform Society – up from 9% in 2016. This should never be necessary in a real democracy – let alone on an industrial scale, with dozens of website, apps and even media outlets providing tactical voting guides!

Distorted seats

Once again, millions of voters are deprived of representation. The Green Party, Lib Dems and UKIP received over 11% of the vote (3.5 million) between them. These parties now share 2% of seats in the House of Commons, with UKIP completely unrepresented.

As a result, votes were highly unequal in value. It took 28,000 votes to elect each SNP MP, but over half a million to elect one Green MP. An SNP vote was worth 19 Green votes. UKIP did not get a single seat despite winning nearly 600,000 votes.

And again, this has resulted in minority rule. The Conservatives and DUP received 43% of the vote between them, but hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

Distorted politics

Whatever your politics, there is now a clear progressive majority among the voters, but a conservative majority in Parliament. 52.5% voted for progressive parties to the left of the Tories – Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SNP – yet MPs from these parties are in the minority. The present Conservative-DUP agreement would not be possible under PR – because the two parties share just 43% of votes between them.

That’s not to say that there’s a problem with coalitions or minority governments per se: they work well under proportional systems because each party receives power in proportion to their public support. Any deals therefore must meet with the approval of MPs representing a majority of the voters. But thanks to First Past the Post, we’ve ended up with parties that shared a modest minority of the vote having to make deals between themselves in order to rule over the majority!

A broken system

This is all further evidence that our electoral system is completely unfit for purpose. In fact, the traditional arguments for FPTP are now completely discredited. 

It is not decisive. Two of the last three elections have resulted in hung parliaments, while at the same time failing to reflect the voters. One has resulted in a small majority and the most disproportionate parliament in history. 

It is not stable. It is widely expected we will have yet another General Election later this year – our third in under three years. We’ve actually averaged one unplanned election every ten years over the last Century, and studies have found that countries with First Past the Post have elections more often than those with PR, on average (Dennis Pilon, 2007).

In fact, our election outcomes are more random than ever. 31 constituencies were won with a majority of fewer than 500 votes (up from 13 in 2015), and 13 constituencies with a majority of fewer than 100 votes – meaning tiny changes in vote share would have radically changed the outcome. The Conservatives would now have a majority of seats if just 401 people had voted differently across eight constituencies!

As usually happens in our General Elections, some parties gained votes but lost seats while others lost votes but gained seats. The Conservatives increased their vote share by 5.5% but lost 13 seats. The Liberal Democrat vote share dropped by 0.5%, but they gained three seats. This effectively severs the link between political power and public support.

When over 68% of votes cast were wasted – meaning they had no impact on the make-up of Parliament whatsoever – you know it’s time to find a better way.
 

The answer is Proportional Representation

One positive to come out of the election is that it allows us to compare and contrast elections under First Past the Post with those under systems of Proportional Representation – in the same places and with the same electorates.

Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London have all had fair, proportional elections in the last year or so. Their constituencies have now also had absurd First Past the Post elections during #GE2017. The contrast could hardly be more revealing.

Here’s a comparison of Northern Ireland’s Assembly election under STV, with its General Election under First Past the Post.

One of these elections delivered representatives that fairly reflect the people. One did not. One of these gave every vote an equal value. One did not. One of these meant everyone could vote for what they believe in, one did not.

The same is true when we look at the Scottish Parliamentary elections:

Take Action!

It’s doubtful that anyone could look at these comparisons and, with any sincerity, hold that First Past the Post is more democratic. The argument for PR is won, and has been for all of living memory.

What remains now, is for us to take action in order to win the change we need. 

If you want your vote to matter, come to #SaveOurDemocracy – a demonstration and summit outside Parliament on Saturday 24th June.