Britain’s electoral landscape has changed - it’s time for reform

The rise of the SNP and the stagnation of UKIP and the Greens in the Commons make the compelling case for a change in voting system.

The argument for change has been weakened by the fact that the country has woken up to a Conservative majority - something thought near impossible as the party system fragmented - but the arguments for a change to the UK’s voting system are still strong, and are even confirmed by the 2015 general election.

First of all let’s look at the SNP’s success. Their success is at one end of the spectrum, in the sense that first-past-the-post has benefited the biggest party in particular area. The party took 56 out of 59 Scottish seats - that’s almost 95% of the seats. Looking at such figures one might think that the SNP have come to dominate every corner of Scotland and taken every vote, but the reality is that 50% of Scots voted for the party. And obviously 50% of Scots voted for other parties. The SNP's surge to 56 seats is a huge success of course, but the massive lack of correlation between the SNP’s seat share in Scotland and their vote share stands out. Furthermore, the Lib Dems, the Tories and Labour all got one seat each in Scotland but they each got very different vote shares: 7.5%, 14.9% and 24.3% respectively. This only further highlights the massive differences.

What about UKIP? The party increased its vote share dramatically, cementing itself into being Britain’s third party - but in terms of votes only as only Douglas Carswell managed to get a seat. UKIP won just one seat with 3,881,129 votes, whilst the SNP managed to get 56 seats with 1,157,613. Yes, the SNP only stood in 59 seats but the differences between vote shares and seats shares highlights the flaws of the UK’s voting system. Furthermore, the Greens quadrupled the number of votes they got compared to 2010 (and quadrupled their vote share) yet failed to make an increase on their one MP.

As for the Liberal Democrats, it can be said that they lost this election, but the 8 seats they got represents about 1% of the seats in parliament, but the party did achieve 8% of the popular vote. Ironically for them 8% in a fully proporitonal system would give them almost the number of seats they had in the 2010-2015 parliament.

The system discriminates against smaller parties, which is not such a problem when the smaller parties remain small, but 2015 highlights that they have grown tremendously, but the system has let them down.

With a Conservative majority government it looks unlikely that electoral reform will be a major issue in the forefront of this parliament, but in the background it will make some headway.

2015's election showed us that we have a multi-party system, and that our two-party electoral system is no longer fit for purpose.

All results are as reported by the BBC - view the full results here.


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