Unrepresentative First Chamber

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In May, 2015, the Conservatives secured the right to govern despite 63.1% of the national vote being cast against them. The party won 331 seats, securing a parliamentary majority of 6 out of the total of 650 seats in the House of Commons. This represented a net gain of 24 seats, even though the Conservative share of the vote increased by just 0.8% (their 11,334,576 votes represent a 36.9% share of the total number cast). Ironically, even though the vote for Labour increased by 1.5%; the party suffered a net loss of 26 seats (their 9,347,304 votes represent a 30.4% share of the votes cast).

Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system does not produce a first chamber that is representative of the political views of the electorate:

2015 General Election – just over one third of votes in the general election secured a governing majority for the Conservatives. 63.1% of the electorate voted against the Conservatives.

PartyVotes %Seats

 Conservative  – Ruling Majority  11,300,303 36.9331
 Labour  9,347,326 30.3231
 Scottish National Party  1,454,436 4.756
 Liberal Democrat  2,415,888 7.98
 Democratic Unionist Party  184,260 0.68
 Sinn Fein  176,232 0.64
 Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales)  181,694 0.63
 Social Democratic and Labour Party  99,809 0.33
 Ulster Unionist Party  114,935 0.42
 United Kingdom Independence Party  3,881,129 12.61
 Green  1,157,613 3.81
 Speaker  34,617 0.11
 Alliance Party  61,556 0.20
 Others  288,412 0.91

 

Taken from “The Spectator”:

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 11.11.41

 

2005 General Election – just over one third of votes in the general election secured a governing majority for Labour. 64.8% of the electorate voted against Labour.

PartyVotes %Seats

 Labour – Ruling Majority  9,552,436 35.2355
 Conservative  8,784,915 32.4198
 Liberal Democrat  5,985,454 22.062
 Democratic Unionist Party  241,856 0.99
 Scottish National Party  412,267 1.56
 Sinn Fein  174,530 0.65
 Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales)  174,838 0.63
 Social Democratic and Labour Party  125,626 0.53
 Ulster Unionist Party  127,414 0.51
 Respect  68,094 0.31
 Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern  18,739 0.11
 Speaker  15,153 0.11
 United Kingdom Independence Party  605,973 2.20
 Green  283,414 1.00
 British National Party  192,745 0.70
 Others  385,056 1.41

 

In 2015, political distortion under the first-past-the-post electoral system and current methods of selecting parliamentary candidates, resulted in almost 56% of MPs being elected in ‘‘safe seats’’, most of whom were white, male, middle-class and middle-aged. Only 191 of the 650 MPs elected were women (29% of the total – 43% of Labour MPs, 36% of the SNP’s, 21% of the Conservatives’ and none of the Liberal Democrat MPs), and just 42 (7%) were from ethnic minorities who comprise 14% of Britain’s population. Of 525 newly-elected MPs in 2015, 427 went to university (81%) compared to a fifth of the adult population and 131 (31%) of those went to Oxford or Cambridge University and 25% attended private schools (compared to 7% of the general population). 66% of MPs hailed from the professions or business, while just 4% were manual workers or farmers.

A recent report based upon Hansard Society’s data on political engagement reveals that increasing political disaffection is being fuelled by “spin” and a perceived lack of accountability in the British political system.

 

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