Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Our Flawed Electoral System

So much tedious election cover here in the UK media - and the election is not until 7th May! It seems that nearly all the cover is of the political parties making irresponsible claims or slagging each other off as they try to bribe taxpayers with their own money. They want those suddenly precious things, our Votes. The media, too, contribute to the unseemly spectacle with their own grab for headlines, making mountains out of molehills and sometimes, more tragically, vice versa.

We are told me ‘must vote’, that not to would be irresponsible. I don’t buy that. A considered choice not to vote is probably a better decision than voting for someone merely out of tradition, with no consideration of the issues involved. Here in the Grantham and Stamford constituency in the last General Election (2010) the Conservatives won with 50.3% of the votes cast - 26,552 votes. The next two parties together (Liberal Democrat and Labour), got 40.2% of the vote, the Liberals edging Labour into third place. As I’ll show later, my political opinion means I should be voting for the incumbent Conservative candidate, Nick Boles, but I will not do that. Mr. Boles is in danger of being overtaken by hubris, so safe is his seat, and I do not want him at risk of any more hubris than necessary. A smaller majority might make him pay more attention to his constituents.

So, in this safe Tory constituency I conclude my vote has no weight at all (whether I use it or not). It seems to me that the country suffers a huge democratic deficit, not only because of situations like the one I’ve just described, but also because of unequal sizes of constituencies across the country. According  to the Office for National Statistics website, a Member of Parliament in England represents 72,400 voters, whereas the figure in Scotland is 69,000 and in Wales only 56,800. In 2013 the Isle of Wight constituency had 111,800 voters and one in Scotland only 22,100. What's fair about that? 

Another dispiriting fact is that we have the ‘first past the post’ system. Look at what the consequences might easily be: If 80% of a 70,000 electorate vote in a particular constituency and 31% vote for Party A with 30% each voting for Parties B and C, and the 10% remainder favouring smaller parties, then the Member of Parliament will be elected based on only 17,360 favourable votes. That is less than 25% of the electorate. More than three quarters of voters do not get a Member of Parliament that they have voted for.

I am well aware that the system, for all its shortcomings, is not unreasonable, is clear, and has been honestly run, at least until the advent of the postal vote. Fraud has been detected in postal voting and I am sorry that in a patriarchal family an overbearing man will be able to control the votes of his household. Some parts of our society do not allow women to occupy their proper place. However, the greater concern is ignorance in terms of choice of who to vote for.

That’s enough for one blog entry - it’s getting close to lunch time. I’ll go into why my political opinions imply I ought to vote Conservative in a future post.

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