Home > British politics, Political Reform > Liberal Democrats and wasted votes

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.

  1. 26 April, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I really would like to see a better electoral system in this country so that the system is more fair. It stands to reason that if a party gets, say, 30% of the vote, they should get as near to 30% of the seats as possible.

    • William
      26 April, 2010 at 4:06 pm

      As a political science student, and general observer, I’ll be interested to see how close you get to that. The proposals of the Jenkins Report would edge closer in that direction, and correct particularly perverse results but would be limited in their impact. I’d wager the results will still diverge quite a bit from the level of proportionality seen in many European countries.

      • 26 April, 2010 at 4:36 pm

        Yeah, I dont think we will ever get a system where the results are absolutely in line with the number of votes, but still I think this first past the post way of doing things is not that fair. Perhaps second rounds would be a good alternative to ensure that individual seats are won by proper majorities, or votes in order of preference, or something along those lines.

        In the constituency where I live, in 2005 Labour got something like 65% of the vote so obviously they deserved this particular seat, but in others parties can get something much lower and still win the seat when sometimes the vast majority of people dont want them to be their representative.

        That is hardly fair and democratic.

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