Reform advocates say result �rubs salt in wounds of electorate�

By Damien Henderson
Published May 7th 2005 in The Herald

ALL votes are equal. But, as George Orwell might have said, some votes are more equal than others.
With that sentiment in mind, electoral reform advocates used yesterday's result to bolster their call for an overhaul of the system, claiming many voters had been under-represented.
Despite a rise in voter turnout – about 61% of people went to the polls, a 2% rise on the last general election – Labour's share of the vote fell to 36%, which beat Harold Wilson's record low of 40% in 1974.
Ron Bailey, co-director of reform group Charter88, said the result "rubs salt in the wounds of the electorate".
The Electoral Reform Society claimed the first-past-the-post system made nonsense of electoral democracy and produced huge "electoral deserts".
This affected all the parties, the society claimed. In Scotland, despite receiving 15.7% of the vote, only one Tory MP was returned. In Surrey, where 28.4% voted LibDem and 16.7% voted Labour, all 11 seats were taken by the Conservatives. In Tyne and Wear, the 40% of voters who opted for either the Conservatives or LibDems saw all 13 seats returned with Labour members.
Moreover, because the general election result hangs on marginals, the vast bulk of voters living in safe seats are by-passed by the media and party campaigners, the society argued.
Ken Ritchie, the ERS's chief executive, said the result hastened the need for reform. "The Conservatives won in England in terms of votes, but they were defeated heavily on seats," he said. "Any system which can deliver such a reversal in the results over such a large area can in no way be considered democratic."
The election brought significant inroads for the LibDems, the party most closely aligned with the cause of proportional representation.
But it also saw some of Labour's most persuasive advocates for voting reform ousted, including Stephen Twigg in Enfield Southgate, Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow and Anne Campbell in Cambridge.
Ironically, though the Conservatives stand to gain from reform, the party is traditionally most opposed to it, preferring "strong" governments and abhorring the tendency for hung parliaments PR produces.