Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Thoughts on the Election #GE2015

As a 21 year old, this was the first year I was allowed to vote in the UK general election. Like many, I entered the polling station with hope and optimism. And like many, I ended the day with disappointment, disillusioned by the whole process.
A photo posted by Vicki Maitland (@vickimaitland) on

Needless to say, I wasn't one of the 11 million or so who voted for the Conservative party. I was one of the 18.9 million who voted for an alternative party.

This is where my disillusionment comes from. Not the fact that the party I voted for didn't get in, but the fact that a party got in with only 36% of the electorate supporting them. That's 64% of people who voted against them. The Conservatives received 34,000 votes per MP. The Liberal Democrats received 301,000 votes per MP. The Greens received 1,000,000 votes, yet only got one MP. To me, that seems wrong.*

I'm not going to lie. I'm afraid of how this country will turn out being run by a Conservative government for the next five years. It will doubtless mean more cuts to the poor, the young and the vulnerable: benefit cuts, cuts to health services, cuts to education, a rise in tuition fees. At the same time, it will provide tax breaks for the richest. It will re-instate fox hunting. It will repeal the Human Rights Act. It will campaign to have us leave the EU.

But I'm more afraid to see that my voice hasn't been heard in this election. In UK politics we have scarce opportunities to see that happen and the general election is the biggest opportunity for the general public to be listened to. There have already been protests outside Downing Street, protests the mainstream media have either ignored or else only shown one side of (such as a WW2 monument being graffitied or the fact that five police officers were injured).

The next five years are going to bring about a lot of change. It's a shame that this change will reflect the views of a minority, rather than giving equal representation to the views of the electorate.

* As bit bit of background, the UK is run on a constituency based election. The country is split up into 650 areas of differing sizes but (in theory) equal population (so there are a lot more constituencies in London than there are in Scotland because the population density is so much greater in London). Each constituency then votes for the political party they want to see represent their constituency, which means that not all political parties field candidates in all constituencies. Because of this, a party can become elected with less than half of the population voting for them - for example:

If party A received 40% of the vote, but parties B, C and D received 35%, 15% and 10% respectively then party A gets elected, despite 60% of voters voting against them. If we pretend that there are 100 people in a constituency, this could mean that party A only needed 40 votes to get an MP.

If you spread this across the country with a similar vote break down (say, out of ten 100 person constituencies, 55 seats went to party A, 20 seats to B, 15 seats to C and 5 seats to D) then parties B, C and D needed a lot more votes to get fewer MPs.

The government only needs 326 seats to have a majority - which means that provided all MPs from the party in power vote for a law then it will be passed. The Conservatives currently have 331 seats, which is a majority albeit not a strong one, so if six MPs vote against party line then laws can be blocked, but that's a big if, and relies on opposition parties also voting against policies.

In short - we need electoral reform. 'First Past The Post' is an outdated system that was formed when there were only two political parties (the Tories and the Whigs). We now have a multi-party system, and the way we elect our politicians should reflect that.

Got opinions? Tweet me @VickiMaitland or leave a comment below.

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