On polling day, our democracy will fail spectacularly…

It really doesn’t matter what you think of Corbyn or May. All the manifestos, the (non) debates, the spin, vox pops and soundbites – all will have absolutely no effect. For in some two-thirds of constituencies the result is already known. Indeed, on the morning of 9 June, the returning officer will declare a Conservative as my own member of Parliament. I know this because for the last 67 years my constituency has always been Conservative regardless of who has the keys to number ten. Unless I vote Tory (and I most definitely will not), my vote will not matter.

Sadly, forgone conclusions like this make a mockery of our democracy. Unless you live in a marginal constituency, then you will have no influence on who forms our next government. But it’s even worse than that, for under our first past the post voting system, most of us will end up with a government that we didn’t want (no party since at least 1945 has ever won more than 50% of the popular vote).

Put another way, a relatively small number of swing voters, in a minority of parliamentary constituencies, will ensure 100% of the power goes to a party that is supported by less than half of those who voted. The winner will take it all; and democracy will have failed spectacularly.

Note: For information on proportional representation, please see Make Votes Matter and the Electoral Reform Society


the argument for PR is being won among electors, but what about the politicians? #FairVotesNow

So we have to endure five years of Tory majority rule. All thanks to a system that enables 25% of the electorate, with 37% of the popular vote, to elect 51% of our MPs thereby giving 100% power to the Conservative party.

The significance of this mathematical outcome has not been lost on some of the 63% who didn’t vote Tory. Before all the results were in, people were taking to Twitter to complain at the injustice of a system that saw the Green party secure over 1.1 million votes but only 1 MP. Perhaps a genuine first was seeing placards calling for proportional representation at the little reported demonstration against the Tories that was held in London last Saturday.

But the anger didn’t stop there. Sixteen year-old Owen Winter started a petition on Change.org, calling for a fairer voting system, while the Electoral Reform Society launched their own campaign Make seats Match Votes. Similarly, Avaaz.org also opened a petition calling for electoral reform. What’s more, our disproportionate FPTP system and its PR alternatives were covered by numerous news organisations in Britain and beyond.

So it looks like there is some real momentum for changing our system. Indeed, during the election campaign itself a survey found some 61% of people being in favour of PR.

The obvious question though is will this groundswell of support for PR make any difference? The Tories have no incentive whatsoever to change our voting system; and their are no signs that on this issue Labour is prepared to change either. So aside from the efforts of the SNP, Greens, Lib Dems and other smaller parties, it is going to take continued campaigning to keep the issue on the agenda. So we need to keep petitioning, keep shouting, keep marching, keep tweeting, blogging, lobbying and reporting on fair votes. The argument is being won amongst the electorate, but we need to translate this into support among Labour and Tory MPs.

The case for PR is well made by the Electoral Reform Society. Under a proportional system the Green Party would have an extra 24 MPs, whereas the Tories would have 86 fewer. Now I know critics of PR bang on about strong government, but the last coalition was already a strong government. What people really mean by “strong” is in fact “one party” government. 

Of course there is a drawback with PR. On last week’s vote UKIP would have over 80 seats under a proportional system. I agree that’s a frightening prospect. But we shouldn’t cherry pick the parts of democracy we like at the expense of others. If people are inclined towards UKIP, then its up to the rest of us to present an alternative. Indeed, perhaps if we had a system where there were no safe seats (as with PR) then all parties would be more accountable across all of the country.

On 7 May I voted for the Green party. I knew that in the ultra safe Tory seat where I lived it would have no meaningful effect. But unlike previous elections I was not prepared to even contemplate a tactical vote for the next best thing. Another 1.1 million voters did the same. I just hope that next time around I get a chance to make my vote actually count.

if only it was just a bad dream…

If only it was just a bad dream. Five long years of a Tory majority government is a shocking prospect. It’s not as if there was a massive increase in Tory support as their share of the vote only went up a very small 0.8%. So why is Cameron in Downing Street?

Well I guess there are a combination of reasons. A loss of people from the electoral roll following the new voter registration rules can’t have helped (presumably a large number of young people were excluded in particular). A fall in the Lib Dem vote coupled with only a small rise in the the Labour vote was pretty crucial too. This, I put down to the Tories effective fear message against an imaginary SNP-Labour coalition; and a lack of clarity as to what voting Labour would actually mean  (For a good analysis of the Labour and Tory approaches see this article in the New Statesman). But perhaps the main reason is our out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system. Maybe people will at last recognise that the system is broken. It can’t be right that 25% of the electorate, 37% of the popular vote, and 51% of MPs results in 100% of the power?

And what will these long five years bring us?

Well we can certainly look forward to more austerity. This means more cuts, falling as before on the most vulnerable in our society. What’s more, the promised £12 billion of welfare cuts is surely just a start, especially if the Tories raise the 40% tax threshold.

No doubt we’ll also see the accelerated privatisation of NHS services as American health companies eye up lucrative contracts, and the gradual erosion of our NHS being free at the point of use..

Our schools will face yet more interference, with further burdens on the teaching profession and more private sector control of local schools. And despite all their promises, there will be a real terms cut in expenditure. Tuition fees in higher education will be raised yet again, while further education (always the poor relation) will struggle to survive the inevitable further cutbacks. (I really wouldn’t want to be working in our education sector that’s for sure).

With Gove’s new appointment, our justice system will no doubt be privatised, whats left of legal aid will be cut; and of course our human rights will be put at risk when they abolish the Human Rights Act and introduce increased surveillance measures previously blocked by the Lib Dems. We can also expect major new restrictions on trades unions and strikes, with public sector workers in particular being singled out for further  attack. Plus, whose to say we wont also see further increases in tribunal fees? Then there is their support for TTIP and Trident.

As for the environment, Tory hatred of onshore wind farms and removal of solar subsidies will mean a big blow for renewable energy. Instead fracking rigs will start blighting the countryside as they reward their friends in the oil companies. And speaking of rewards, while other European countries introduce a Robin Hood tax, the finance sector here will enjoy business as usual. We’ll probably also see a vote to reintroduce fox hunting and there will be a prolonged, bitter and damaging lead up to an in-or-out referendum on Europe.

Clearly this is all very depressing (and I’m sure there are plenty of other things I’ve forgotten to mention). So what can we do? Do we just keep our heads down, wait for Labour to rebrand itself, and in the meantime grumble to friends and family?

Personally I think the Labour ship has already sailed; and if I wasn’t already a member, I’d be joining the Greens today. But as well as political activity I think we we’ll be seeing a lot more community protest, industrial action, demonstrations, petitions, blogs, social media campaigns and so on. Indeed, however much or little someone can contribute, I think that this time, people will become more involved. The 63% who didn’t vote Tory are surely right to feel robbed. If they don’t then I fear this bad dream will seem much longer than five more years.