First past the post

If only it was that simple

In our form of democracy, a first past the post system is used. In a general election, votes are held at constituency level with the person enjoying the most votes, of those placed and counted, getting the job of representing the people in Westminster.

The reason given for using such an approach is that it gives a clear winner and an unequivocal result. This allows the country to have, in the parlance of the day, strong and stable leadership.

The system, however, is inherently unfair, in that it almost always leads to a minority government. The first past the post system leads to a government that does not have the backing of the majority of the voters, let alone the population.

The results of the last five general elections in the UK are: 2017 Conservative win with 42.4% of the popular vote; 2015 Conservative win with 36.9%; 2010 Conservative win with 36.1%; 2005 Labour win with 35.34%; 2001 Labour win with 40.7%.

Indeed we would need to go back to the 1930s (1931 and 1935) to get a government which managed to gain more than half of the votes cast.

If we then consider actual turnout the figures are even more depressing. At the most recent election there was a turnout of 68.7%, a relatively high figure compared to previous elections, which means that the current government is in power with just over 29% of all possible votes. Of course there is no way of knowing where those who did not vote would have put their mark but the point remains valid.

What is unequivocal is that since 1940, the United Kingdom has been governed by a party that has not represented the wishes of the voters. Our system of democracy is undemocratic and does not represent the will of the people. Our electoral system produces the exact opposite of what is intended.

Remember this when politicians are on the television spouting about their mandate.

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