Thursday, May 12, 2005

12 May 2005: Proportion

No, I didn't blog about the election result. Why bother? It was thoroughly predictable, even several months ago, that Tony would be back in with a reduced majority. The exit poll suggested it, and (for the third time in a row) got it pretty much spot on. Just about the only interesting fact is the curio that of the three leaders fighting this election, only Charles Kennedy will be a party leader in the next one.

Well, ok, one more interesting fact emerged, and it's one that something needs to be done about, but nobody is going to do anything about. Let's look at the final vote share in this election:

  • Labour 35.2%
  • Conservative 32.3%
  • Liberal Democrat 22.0%
  • Others 10.5%

Now let's look at the number of seats won, and thus the power share in the next Parliament:

  • Labour 356 (55.2%)
  • Conservative 197 (30.5%)
  • Liberal Democrat 62 (9.6%)
  • Others 30 (4.7%)

So Labour gets a working majority with only just over a third of the votes. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, get pretty much 2/3 as many votes as Labour, yet less than a fifth the number of seats. Unfair representation? Well, here's an example: in East Sussex, there are eight seats. Labour won four of them, despite actually coming third in the overall vote in East Sussex. Reminiscent of Thatcher's days, where in 1987 she got only 10% of the vote in Scotland yet was returned as leader.

So why will nothing ever be done about it? Simple really: for all its failings, the 'first-past-the-post' system has one major consistency: it favours the party in government in a big way. Now Labour, in the 80s and 90s it favoured the Conservatives. Who has the power to change the system? Only the government. And they like the system because it favours them.

The only way it will ever be changed to something less unfair (for instance, the Alternative Vote system, the Single Transferable Vote system or even the Let Everyone Vote Raving Looney They Can't Be Worse Than This Lot system) is if a government knows it is in danger of losing the next election and feels that a proportional system would help limit its losses. There is a window of such opportunity right now - there won't be again for a while after this Parliament - so Labour MPs are putting pressure on their leadership to do something about it.

Will Tony do anything? No. He's probably too busy planning the next war with his coalition buddies well in advance of officially making any decisions.

Postscript: Blogger's spellcheck astounds me yet further by saying it didn't recognise the word 'blog', and did I want to replace it with 'bloc'. I mean, of all the places in the world I'd expect the word 'blog' to be recognised...

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