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2015-05-09

Why Does The UK Have Such A Stupid Electoral System?

The recent election has, probably for the first time ever, shown very clearly how totally unfair, illogical, and unrepresentative of the people our electoral system actually is.







Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Parties
Political PartyVotes ReceivedPercentage of total votesSeats Won
SNP1,454,436 votes4.8% of total votes56 seats
DUP184,260 votes0.6% of total votes8 seats
Sinn Fein176,232 votes0.4% of total votes4 seats
SDLP99,809 votes0.3% of total votes3 seats
Plaid Cymru181,694 votes0.6% of total votes3 seats
UUP114,935 votes0.4% of total votes2 seats






English Minor Parties
Political PartyVotes ReceivedPercentage of total votesSeats Won
Lib Dems1,130,276 votes3.8% of total votes8 seats
Greens2,332,764 votes7.7% of total votes1 seat
UKIP3,811,896 votes12.6% of total votes1 seat


So, ignoring the two major parties for the moment, 7,274,936 English votes resulted in 10 seats, while 2,211,366 non English votes resulted in 76 seats. On average, that means that to win a minor party seat in England needs 25 times as many voters as it does in the non English areas of the UK. OK, some arrangements must be made to ensure the much larger population of England doesn't unfairly overwhelm the non English opinions, so to make matters more fair and just, it seems reasonable to accept that non English seats need less votes on average.

It's not quite that simple, though. All the non English countries have their own Parliaments or Assemblies, in which England has no say. England does not have its own Parliament or Assembly, only the National Parliament, in which all countries have a say. Somehow that doesn't look like a particularly fair and just system. It's high time England had its own Assembly to deal with purely English matters, and I see no reason why any of the other countries would object to that. I'm surprised UKIP, or one of the other smaller parties didn't make that part of their manifesto. The results of the Election might have been rather different.

To return to the Election results, the English parties that won seats won them in the following proportions, listed by share of the total votes. See if you notice anything strange about them.








English Parties
Political PartyPercentage of Total VotesPercentage of SeatsSeats Won
Conservatives36.8% of votes49.6% of seats323 seats
Labour30.5% of votes35.0% of seats228 seats
UKIP12.6% of votes0.15% of seats1 seat
Lib Dems7.7% of votes1.23% of seats8 seats
Green Party3.8% of votes0.15% of seats1 seat


In a truly democratic system, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that the seats would be distributed in proportion to the percentage of the votes? Oh no, it doesn't work that way in the UK electoral system. That's the result of having a First Past The Post system, where if you have 50.0001 percent of the vote in a particular town or city, you win the seat, and the other 49.9999 percent of the voters in that city have no representation in Parliament. Just one vote could make that difference. Doesn't that suggest that the system should be changed? Of course it does, but that can only be done with the consent of whichever of the two major parties is in power at the time, and that's where the problem lies.

Looking at those figures, which of the two major parties has any interest in Electoral Reform? Quite right, neither of them. It suits them both to just block any change in the system.

We had a chance to change things in the 2011 Referendum on Electoral Reform, and what happened? fifty-eight percent of the population couldn't be bothered to get off their arses and go to vote. Two thirds of those that did, voted to keep things as they were, presumably mainly staunch Conservative voters, because whatever you might think of them, they never fail to vote. Labour took no view on the matter, obviously because they had no wish to change things either. If you were among those who were too lazy to vote either way, you should hang your head in shame, because that may have been the only chance we will ever get to change things to a fairer, more representative system.