Burning down the house – why the election system is structurally unsound

Why change is impossible in modern British politics – not that modern British politicians mind too much.

By our inside man at the Liberal Democrats – Kieran Leach

Year after year or more appropriately decade after decade politicians from all parties bemoan the problems inherent in our political and electoral structure.  We elect a total of 650 members of parliament to the house of commons.  Therefore, in order to hold a majority of seats and automatically form a government a party must hold 326 seats.

In order to hold a majority at the last election the Labour party needed only 35.3% of the vote.  They accomplished this – gaining just 66 more seats than the opposition.  In plain english almost two thirds of the votes cast in 2005 were against the party which was returned to government.  This state of affairs becomes even more plainly ridiculous when you compare the three main parties share of the vote to their share of seats.

Labour on 35.3% of the vote have 356 seats, the Tories on 32.3% have 198 seats (that’s 158 seats less based on a 3% difference in votes) and the Lib Dems on 22.1% of the vote have just 62 seats – that’s nearly a quarter of the vote yet slightly less than a tenth of the seats.  Does that seem fair?  I can promise you now that after the next election there will be yet more gas spouted from the two larger parties about how unfair the voting system is, and it will yet again result in bugger all progress.

More incoherent political rambling I hear you cry?  Very well!  There must be an election this year.  But I don’t know when it will be.  The opposition parties preparing for their campaigns don’t know when it will be.  Just Gordon Brown and whoever he’s told know when its going to be.  The Prime Minister of the UK is handed what is effectively an inbuilt advantage when it comes to re-election, they can call it whenever they feel like.

This does not seem right to me.  I have my own idea what the solution should be, but I would much rather that you went to the electoral reform society and read their, more coherent, conclusions.


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