Election reflection

For the first time in almost 100 years, the UK has had a December general election. The Conservative Party has won its biggest majority for over 30 years, despite being led by a prime minister who is widely regarded as a mendacious, sociopathic narcissist and a cabinet comprising individuals who seem to have undergone compassion bypass surgery. They won partly because they kept thumping a simple (and irritating) message into the ears of a nation wearied by the absurd Brexit debate and the political paralysis it has caused, partly because the main opposition party is weak, divided and ill-led, partly because their manifesto contained few if any concrete policy promises, and partly – not least – because of our iniquitous and undemocratic electoral system.

Let me illustrate that last point using the following table. These are the actual results from yesterday’s vote.

Votes cast % total vote Seats won Seats that should have been won

Conservative Party

13,941,086 43.6 364


Labour Party

10,292,354 32.2 203


Liberal Democrat Party

3,675,342 11.5 11


Scottish National Party

1,242,380 3.9 48


Plaid Cymru

153,265 0.5 4


Green Party

864,743 2.7 1


Brexit Party 642,303 2.0 0



I’ve omitted the 18 seats representing Northern Ireland, which are a special case (and showed a trend against the Conservative-allied Democratic Unionist Party, who lost two of their seats), so 632 House of Commons seats have been assumed in the calculations. The final column in the table, ‘Seats that should have been won’, indicates how many seats each party would have secured had we had a proportional representation system, as almost all democracies have, instead of the so-called ‘first past the post’ system, which no democracy except the UK has.

Some entries in this final column are misleading. The Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru, as their names indicate, contested seats only in Scotland and Wales respectively. The SNP secured almost half the votes cast in Scotland so on a strict proportional representation system they’d have had 29 of the 59 Scottish seats, not 48; which is a little ironic, since the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh, is elected by genuine proportional representation (the SNP has a minority government there). My calculated figure of 25 is therefore not far from the ideal; and my figure for Plaid Cymru is close to the actual number of their seats. Also, the number of Labour MPs in the new House of Commons is remarkably (and fortuitously) close to what proportional representation would have produced.

However, the other figures reveal the anti-democratic distortion caused by ‘first past the post’. The Conservatives have 88 more MPs than they’d have in a genuine democracy, the Liberal Democrats have 62 fewer, and the Green Party and the Brexit Party are under-represented by 16 and 13 seats respectively.

Our parliament is called the ‘mother of democracy’. Sometimes, alas, our mothers become senile and have to be placed in care.

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