We have a mandate from the people!
7 November, 2015
How many times have we heard that from the government? Yet, did the 2015 general election really give anybody much of a mandate? The Conservative Party gained 11,300,109 votes. This gave them 330 seats, which provides them with a comfortable majority in the House of Commons so they have a mandate to run the country. Yet they only received 36.8%of the vote. Labour received 9,347,324 votes which gave them 232 seats.
Problems start to arise when you look at how the parties fared in terms of share of the vote. On 36.8% the Conservatives would have got 239 seats if the electoral system had been based purely on the share of the national vote achieved. Labour, on 30.5%, would have got 198 seats. The Liberal Democrats on 7.9% of the vote would have got 51 seats instead of the 8 they actually have. UKIP on 12.7% of the vote would have got 83 seats instead of just 1. The Greens on 3.8% would have got 25 seats instead of 1. On the other hand the Scottish National Party with 4.7% of the vote would have got 31 seats instead of the total of 56 seats that they actually achieved.
The first past the post electoral system provides us with all sorts of anomalies yet the UK electorate had an opportunity to change the system when the alternative vote referendum was held in May 2011. The proposal was rejected by 67.9% to 32.1% of the votes cast on a turnout of 42.2% so maybe the UK has the electoral system that it deserves. On the other hand, it is now clearly grossly unfair and divisive. Whatever you think about the parties involved, it cannot be fair that on the one hand there is massive under representation while on the other there is over representation. There is a danger that certain people will see themselves as excluded from the political system. This cannot be good for society as a whole.
AV may not be the answer but some form of electoral reform looks overdue if our political system is to consider itself inclusive in the future and if the government is to continue to claim that it has a mandate because at the moment that mandate appears more fantasy than reality.Back