A Labour majority on 32% of the vote? There will be an uproar

Big Ben, Westminster

YouGov’s latest survey, for the Sunday Times, suggests that Labour could get 32% of the vote, which could give the party a majority.

Firstly, it is important to note that electoral calculators under our FPTP voting system are crude measures of uniform swing.

Secondly, the particular calculator did not allow for factoring in the SNP, which will likely hurt Labour in Scotland, nor the Greens. Additionally, the UKIP factor is quite unpredictable a this point.

Nonetheless, a majority on 32% of the vote could be possible. The Electoral Calculus calculator suggests that Labour would get a slim majority of 4, whilst the Conservatives on 31% would get 271 seats. Additionally, the Lib Dems would get 18 seats, whilst UKIP would get zero.

Labour would get 50.3% of the seats, eighteen points higher than their share of the votes.

As stated, there are problems with such calculators, but in the age of more and more smaller parties, constricted by our first-past-the-post system, anything is possible.

In this scenario, Labour would get a majority on the lowest ever share of the vote. The current lowest for a majority was Tony Blair’s 35% of the vote in 2005. Interestingly, five years later, David Cameron managed to get the Conservatives 36% of the vote, whilst Labour’s share plummeted to 29%, but the Tories failed to achieved an overall majority.

If Ed Miliband’s Labour gets a majority with less than a third of the votes, and with the Conservatives just behind them, there will be uproar and a realisation among many that the current voting system for electing our representatives to go to Westminster is completely outdated.

In this particular scenario, this would come at a time when UKIP get 18% of the vote but no seats (according to the calculator). UKIP are likely to gain a handful of seats, but the difference between the percentage of votes they get and seats they get will still be large.

Of course this might not happen - and as mentioned such calculations are crude - but this argument from YouGov's latest poll does highlight a major flaw in the voting system. First-past-the-post tends to provide stable majorites, but with a majority on such a low share of the vote possible one has to ask: is that really democratic?

The full results of YouGov's latest poll - for the Sunday Times - can be found here.

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