SHOULD ELECTORAL REFORM BE BACK ON THE AGENDA?

JOSH McGURK

More than half of those who voted in the general election supported losers. Is our voting system broken and is now the time to change it for a system which better reflects voting intentions?

After staying up all night watching BBC, ITV and Channel 4’s coverage of the general election, there are two questions sticking in my mind and surprisingly, they are not to do with the SNP dominance in Scotland or the Tory majority at Westminster. My interest is in peoples’ reaction.

Can democracy ever please people?

We expect some disappointment and some dismay after any election, after all some parties have to lose. But this time the number of seats won versus votes cast has called into question the fairness of our voting system.

The Conservatives hold a majority of 12 with 331 seats while the SNP gained 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland.

However, under Proportional Representation (PR) the Conservatives would have got 36.9% of the vote which is 244 seats and the SNP would have got 4.7% which is 31 seats.

The PR system would have meant UKIP got 83 seats, the Lib Dems 52 seats and the Greens 25.

Instead, the Lib Dems got 8 while UKIP and the Greens got 1 each so it is easy to understand the frustration caused by the actual results.

Under first past the post, here are the number of votes which were required to elect an MP from each of the mainstream parties in ascending order:

SNP 26,000

Conservatives 34,000

Labour 40,000

Lib Dem 291,000

Green 1.1 million

UKIP 3.8 million

We should not forget one important point, a rather key one that many commentators keep missing, which is that we have already held a referendum to consider the Alternative Voting system (AV) in 2011 after pressure from the Lib-Dems.

The result was a resounding NO.

To be exact, 67.9 % or 13,013,123 million voted No.

And only 41% of the electorate actually voted indicating that the other 69% didn’t care.

I too am frustrated with the fact that the party of my choice did not win in my constituency. My vote might have been put to better use under Proportional Representation as might yours have.

AV is not Proportional Representation but under this system voters rank candidates in order of their preference. Instead of a cross they place 1, 2, 3 etc against the names; 1 being their most popular choice.

A candidate is elected if they gain more than half of the preference votes. If not, the candidate with the least preferences is eliminated and the votes are redistributed according to the next preference.

This continues until one candidate has more than half the votes and is elected.

AV means that MPs would have the support of the majority of voters while there would be no need for tactical voting

There are downsides, particularly the fact that AV would penalise extremist parties who are unlikely to gain many second preference votes.

There is no denying that we did have a chance to change the system, therefore, claiming this election result is unfair, is in itself an unfair criticism.

A further unfair aspect of this election is that the Conservatives are not to blame for people, particularly in England, fearing the SNP.

After watching hour upon hour of news reports and expert analysis, I believe that it is not the political parties but the commentators, so-called experts and television comedians who have instilled this fear.

I watched them jump to conclusion after conclusion — based on opinion polls, exit polls and pure speculation — that Scotland wants independence and full fiscal autonomy.

With the SNP landslide in Scotland, it’s hard to dispute that they are a popular choice. With 50% of Scotland’s vote they are clearly the majority.

But the other 50% voted for an array of parties which shows that the SNP is clearly not the voice of the whole of Scotland.

Many people voted SNP not because they want independence — which Nicola Sturgeon insists is not (yet) on the agenda again — but because the nationalists offer other policies that they agree with.

With the SNP holding so many seats, there is obviously a struggle ahead for David Cameron to keep the United Kingdom together.

However, there is one thing important to bear in mind (David if you’re reading). independence is not important to the whole of Scotland’s electorate as demonstrated by the referendum result last September.

jrmcgurk@hotmail.co.uk

 

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