Liberal Democrats and wasted votes
The Liberal Democrats, and before them the Liberal Party, have long found themselves coming up against the difficulty of Britain’s highly disproportional first-past-the-post electoral system. The Tories have also suffered, because of the various spreads of the three parties across different constituencies. In 2005, the Tories won more votes than Labour in England, but less seats.
This time around, there is a serious prospect of Labour coming third in vote terms, but far ahead of the Lib Dems in seats. Electoral Calculus currently predict that Labour will be marginally behind in vote share, but will get 133 more seats than the Lib Dems. This will prove for the Lib Dems the best case for electoral reform. The best they are likely to get is the alternative vote, STV in single-member districts. This would still be far from proportional, but there is a strong affinity for many of having a single MP who they can call their own.
A Lib-Dem-leaning voter in a Conservative-Labour constituency would often have voted for whichever of the larger parties was their reluctant second choice. This year, there is a strong case for them to vote Lib Dem, as the greater the level of disproportionality, the stronger the case of the leadership of the party will be in any government negotiations for a more strongly proportional electoral system, which Chris Huhne is today raising against David Cameron.
Here’s John Cleese in 1997, on how voters’ perception of the Lib Dems’ chances is really their biggest obstacle.