Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Paradiiiiiiiiiigm Baaaarrrr! Plurality Voting As Used By The UK General Election
May 6, 2010 - the set date for the upcoming UK General Election. Here's a brief look back at the results of past elections; which party was in power and for their respective terms as governmental rulers of the land;
1935-45 ---------- Conservative Party
1945-51 ---------- Labour Party
1951-64 ---------- Conservative Party
1964-70 ---------- Labour Party
1970-74 ---------- Conservative Party
1974-79 ---------- Labour Party
1979-97 ---------- Conservative Party
1997-present ---- Labour Party
Anyone hazard a guess as to whom will win it this time around?
As things currently stand; there are over 400 registered political parties in the UK; 367 and 46 in Great Britain and Northern Ireland respectively. They are allowed to contend for office of the 646 constituencies or "seats" that make up the United Kingdom's parliament. Many of these parties do just that and stand for their native constituency and/ or surrounding areas, and so therefore are clearly not in the running to rule the country. However, the system in which a party is elected on a regional level is just as unbalanced as it is on the overall national scale. This is down to the method of plurality voting (aka "First Past The Post" (FPTP/FPP) voting) over majority voting.
Consider this situation; Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are the only parties running for election for a constituency. The total number of votes counted is 10,000 (low turnout, eh!) - with Labour getting 4,000 votes, the Conservatives with 3,001 and then the Liberals with 2,999. In the plurality voting system Labour would get elected as they got more votes than the other parties; but to have won by majority Labour would need 5,001 votes or more; otherwise there'd be no winner, and the parties would have to co-operate as a coalition government (hung parliament). As a percentage, Labour got 40% of the votes in plurality; a majority victory requires at least 50(+1vote)%. With plurality voting, a party can win earning a certain amount of votes, even if more were cast not to put it into power.
In addition to the plurality system being used, another factor comes into the equation of how the electoral results are calculated. The DV (Deviation from Proportionality) Score writes off votes with low totals by the smaller parties and transfers it to those that already fared better. On a national level the DV Score strengthens the major parties' chance of acquiring governmental rule. Voting Matters highlights that at the 1997 UK General Election 21% (1 in 5) of the MPs elected got their position through DV. Regarding the last Election in 2005, Labour retained power by getting 55.2% of the seats with only 35.3% of the total number of votes.
As you can see; it requires less votes to get elected via the plurality system along with the unfair DV Score. These elements lean heavily towards the two dominating parties as they are in contention for many of the seats throughout the UK to gather up more votes, whilst the smaller parties and independents aren't truly represented; if at all.