31 July 2007
The electoral system is rigged against democracy. It is corrupt, unrepresentative, anti-democratic and unfair. Peter Tatchell interviews Chris Huhne MP of Make Votes Count and Mary Southcott of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform.
Peter Tatchell writes:
At the 2005 general election, Labour won 35% of the vote but bagged 55% of the seats. The result was even more skewed in Scotland where, on less than a 40% share of the vote, Labour grabbed almost 70% of the seats. Across the UK as a whole, of the eligible voters, almost twice as many people didn’t vote (39%), compared to those who voted Labour (less than 22%). Despite being supported by only a fifth of the eligible electors, Labour breezed back into power with an overall 66 seat majority.
Further proof of this staggering gerrymandering of the electoral process is the fact that, on average, it took a mere 26,906 votes to elect a Labour MP, but 44,373 to elect a Tory MP and a massive 96,539 votes to elect a Lib Dem MP. Almost four times more votes were required to elect a Lib Dem MP, compared to a Labour MP.
The Conservatives were also badly done by. They polled more votes than Labour in England but won 92 fewer seats. Conversely, in Surrey they won every seat despite winning only half the votes. The UK Independence Party polled 603,298 votes nationwide and the Green Party 257,758 votes. Neither party won any seats; leaving their voters totally disenfranchised and alienated by the electoral system.
Not a single MP now in parliament won the votes of more than 50% of the eligible voters in his or her constituency. A mere three MPs secured the support of more than 40% of their electorate. Conversely, three candidates became MPs with fewer than 20% of registered electors voting for them.
Although the electoral system is currently biased towards Labour, its flaws are long-standing. No post-1945 government has won a majority of the popular vote; all have ruled on the basis of minority electoral support. Even Margaret Thatcher’s landslide majorities in the House of Commons in the 1980s were based on popular votes of less than 45%. During the Iron Lady’s hey-day, a majority of voters were anti-Tory. It’s just that the electoral system prevented the anti-Tory parties, which had a majority of the popular vote, from winning a majority of the seats in parliament.
The rot has got to stop. We need a House of Commons that reflects the people’s will; where the proportion of seats won corresponds to the proportion of votes cast. In other words, a fair voting system, to ensure that: every vote counts, the government has majority support, and parliament represents the full spectrum of voter opinion – and is not just stuffed with MPs from the big-two party establishments.
It is time to finish the parliamentary reform process begun by the Chartists. What is required is a new Great Reform Act to remedy the democratic deficit and secure representative democracy for the people of Britain.
The Scottish and London election systems are practical examples of a fairer electoral process. Electors vote for both a constituency MP and for a party list. This combines the accountability of single member constituencies with additional ‘top-up’ MPs based on the total list vote received by each party; thereby ensuring proportionality between the number of votes cast for that party and the number of seats it secures. It works well in Scotland and London, why not at Westminster?
For more information re the Make Votes Count campaign, see:
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