There is no other way of cutting it – this election result is an absolute disaster for Britain. We are set for five years of utter misery, with further cuts to public services and welfare, further privatisation of the NHS and our education system and further attacks on migrants, the unemployed and the disabled. The Tories have won and we are stuck with them.
While it’s important now to get angry, to get agitated and get organised, it’s equally important to look at the future with a degree of optimism to stave off defeatism. There are, through it all, small glimmers of hope. Our Co-Editor Chris Jarvis will, over the next few days be looking at some of them.
by Chris Jarvis
No election in British history has so clearly highlighted the incompatibility of the first past the post electoral system with sense than this one. Ever since 1983, when the SDP-Liberal alliance won 25% of the vote, and yet received only 23 seats in parliament, the faults in the bizarre system we use to elect our parliament have become more and more apparent.
But this time round, there cannot be a single observer, not even the most ardent defender of the first past the post, that won’t have raised an eyebrow having seen how the number of votes each party won reflected the parliamentary make up this year. Even the political establishment, who have benefited from an undemocratic electoral system for centuries, must now be questioning how long they will be able to cling on to it.
faults in the bizarre system we use to elect our parliament have become more and more apparent
Each election reduces the legitimacy of the system, and there will come a tipping point at which fewer people will have faith in it than the number of people who care passionately enough about changing it that they will go out and fight for it. At that moment, the era of first past the post will be over. I believe that moment to be now.
The simple reason for this is that this election really has blown open the two and half party system we’ve lived under for most of the last century — more people have voted for parties outside of Labour, Tories, and Liberal Democrats than ever before.
Let’s look at the data. After everything had been counted, Thursday produced extraordinarily ill-fitting vote to seat translations. Cumulatively, UKIP and the Greens received just shy of 5 million votes and over 16% of the vote share, yet received just a single seat each. By contrast, the SNP received fewer than 1.5 million votes and less than 5% of the vote, and yet won 56 seats in parliament. To put that into context, the Greens and UKIP together won 3 times as many votes as the SNP and yet the SNP won 27 times more seats in parliament.
Likewise, 24% of the vote was held between the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, and the Greens — almost a quarter of the entire electorate who turned out to vote. Between them, they won only 10 seats — 1.5% of them — in parliament. Labour alone won 30% of the vote and yet received 232 seats.
the Greens and UKIP together won 3 times as many votes as the SNP and yet the SNP won 27 times more seats in parliament
If you haven’t quite got the picture yet, this is utterly absurd. How can we claim to be a properly functioning democracy when 1 in 4 people who voted in this election are only rewarded with a seat count that is reflective 1 in 100?
It’s no surprise then that in Douglas Carswell’s victory speech in Clacton, his central focus was on electoral reform, nor that the Green Party have launched, just two days after the election the #fairvotesnow campaign.
Resisting electoral reform in this parliament is, therefore, more difficult than it ever has been. Countless people up and down the country voted for something different, whether on the left or on the right, but were denied it, not through not enough other people agreeing with them (the reason it should be denied under an effective democratic system), but instead were denied it by the way we run our democracy.
For a government to say to those people that nothing will be done to stop that from happening again in the future, is for a government to reject the will of the people and make clear that the purpose of our current electoral system is not to ensure the most effective and democratic elections can take place, but instead to defend the status quo.
If the Tories drag their heels on electoral reform, they will be hounded by sections of the media and by bigger and bigger chunks of the British population. And further down the line, they will be defeated at the ballot box.
This election, in spite of all its disappointment, all the dashed hopes and the fact that we will be spending five more years under a hideous Tory government, opens the opportunity for a transition towards a fair and proportionate electoral system, which we can then use in 5 years’ time to kick the Tories out of government.