• Statement from Make Votes Matter for immediate release reacting to the general election result, 5th July 2024
  • Contact Stephen Gilmore at media@makevotesmatter.org.uk / 07948 219975 for more information.

The general election has produced across a whole series of measures the most distorted result in the UK’s democratic history, according to electoral reform campaigners.

Analysis by researchers at cross-party pressure group, Make Votes Matter, has found that nearly 6 in 10 voters (58%) will be without an MP of their choosing following this election, a record high.

Meanwhile, the group notes, 74% of votes were non-decisive – that is, the share of votes that did not impact the result in terms of the allocation of seats (either because they went to losing candidates or were surplus votes for the winner). This is a joint record high, matching the 74% score in 2015.

Alberto Smith, Interim Chief Strategy Officer at Make Votes Matter, said:

“When it comes to Parliament accurately reflecting how the country voted, these results are as bad as we feared.1 Voters up and down the country woke up this morning to an election result that, to an unprecedented extent, does not reflect how they voted.”

Other striking statistics include:

  • According to the Gallagher Index, a measure of disproportionality in which numbers closer to zero indicate more proportional results, this election scored around 24, the most disproportional result ever for a UK general election. For context, elections in most western European countries return an average score of less than 5.
  • Only 3 in 10 Conservative voters will have succeeded in electing a Conservative MP, compared to 8 in 10 Labour voters for a Labour MP.
  • Overall, on average 87,200 votes were cast per elected Conservative or Reform MP, compared to 31,000 each to elect a Green, Labour or Lib Dem MP.2

Tom Brake, Director of Unlock Democracy, commented:

“As a country, we are less committed than ever to the two main parties, but because of our voting system Parliament will not reflect that. Labour will have obtained a landslide in seats with the support of only 1 in 3 voters.

“Labour’s vote has been described as efficient, but let’s be clear what this means: winning seats with as few votes as possible. The bottom line is, under First Past the Post, some people’s votes matter more than others’.”

Given the Labour Party’s emphasis on stability during the election campaign, Make Votes Matter is highlighting the challenge for an incoming Labour government promising to “end the chaos” and deliver stability.3 In research produced earlier this year, the group demonstrated that the UK’s political instability is not just a problem of the last decade. 

Commenting on the difficulty the new government will face in delivering stability, Alberto Smith, Interim Chief Strategy Officer at Make Votes Matter, added:

“The post-Brexit period has accelerated things somewhat, but the trend in the UK’s political stability was already downward. The UK has been among the most politically unstable of comparable parliamentary democracies over the last fifty years, with markedly above-average levels of ministerial churn, and earlier and more frequent government breakdown leading to more snap elections than is the norm for our peer nations.

“Labour, it seems, has internalised the critique made by the Institute for Government that the Westminster system produces “chronic short-termism” in policy-making, with mooted changes to the way government operates an interesting start.4 But Labour’s new broom will have an uphill battle to sweep away instability without systemic reform to the way we do politics.”

The headline findings of the Strong and Stable report at the time it was published in March 2024 include:

  • The last five UK governments have been the shortest-lived of any government among comparable parliamentary democracies. Across the last fifty years, the average UK government only managed to remain in office for 64% of its possible term, compared to Germany at 81%, or Luxembourg at 92%.
  • Cabinet ministers appointed in the last parliament served in one post for just eight months – a record low among comparable parliamentary democracies (indeed this record extended back to 2014). By contrast, cabinet ministers appointed between the 1970s and 2005 generally remained in one office for between two and three years – longer than recently, but still less than in many European countries, including Germany. Overall, across the last fifty years, the average tenure of a UK cabinet minister (of 2.1 years) was the fourth-worst of the 17 countries studied.

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

1 Financial Times, 21 June 2024. ‘Brace for the most distorted election result in British history’. https://www.ft.com/content/0afa2c8f-3e4f-4b2c-83be-cda81250dfc6 

2 Calculated by dividing the total number of votes received for Reform and the Conservatives, divided by the number of MPs, compared to the same calculation for Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens combined.

3 Quote from Keir Starmer’s victory speech, 5 July 2024: “We said we would end the chaos and we will”. Transcript available here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2024/07/05/keir-starmer-speech-general-election-labour-win-votes/ 
Labour figures including Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves claimed  “stability is change” in the weeks before election day, with Angela Rayner also repeating the line on ITV’s election night coverage.

4 Stuart Hoddinott, 30 Oct 2023. ‘Short-term policy making has trapped public services in a ‘doom loop’’. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/comment/public-services-doom-loop 

Make Votes Matter is a single-issue campaign for Proportional Representation in the House of Commons. Working with all parties to generate irresistible demand for PR, we aspire to a truly democratic UK in which everyone has an equal voice, power is shared fairly, and decisions are made for the common good. Our latest report, Strong and Stable, documents the hastening decline in the UK’s stability in the last fifty years when compared to 16 other comparable parliamentary democracies (most of which use a form of PR to elect their primary chamber).The Alternative Vote – on which the UK had a referendum in 2011 – is not a form of Proportional Representation and can be even more disproportional than First Past the Post.

Featured image credit: Tom Chen