UK Parliamentary Elections - 2005The UK election results from the 2005 parliamentary elections suggest the electoral system is extremely flawed. In Britain’s general election last Thursday, a victorious Labour party, led by Tony Blair, swept into a third term in office, a hat-trick his party had never before been able to achieve. Yet, despite the victory, repeatedly termed “historic” by media and party officials alike, the immediate impression was of a party that had suffered a massive set back, as Labour’s triumphant 1997 majority in the House of Commons of 179 MPs withered to 65.
This was a let-down largely because of expectations, as Labour’s current majority is more than sufficient to form a workable government. In fact, the size of the majority seems quite surprising when we take a look at the numbers.
Labour garnered only 36% of the vote, only 3% more than the Conservatives, who nonetheless came in 59 seats behind Labour. That Blair and his party could win the sizeable majority it did with such a low share of the vote is a result of a bias within Britain’s electoral system. Labour-leaning constituencies tend to be smaller than Conservative ones. Thursday’s election revealed that a Labour MP only needed 27,000 votes to get elected compared with 44,000 votes for a Conservative, and a staggering 98,000 for a Liberal Democrat.
As a result of these skewed and disproportionate results, many political leaders and media figures, including veteran Labour Party leaders are calling for a proportional voting system.
The loss of Labour support was owed in part to gains by the Lib Dems, for whom 2005 was the best election since 1923. This viable third party also encouraged the re-emergence of “tactical voting,” a phenomenon in which voters opt to vote for a party other than their own in order to prevent the party they really want to defeat from winning.
A more proportional system would allow voters to vote for their candidate of choice, ensure that the winning party had a majority of support, and repair the massive gap between votes and seats.