“A man without a vote is a man without protection.” Lyndon B Johnson
Much will be made of the 2015 General Election but the six week lead in campaigns were lacklustre and just 66% of the electorate voted. We certainly lost some big political hitters like Vince Cable, Ed Balls, Simon Hughes and Nick Clegg. Even George Galloway has lost Respect. The biggest losers though were the British public and democracy. We have mediocre politicians who lack personality and ideas. They work within the First-Past-The-Post1democratic model which favours the outmoded 2 party system.
The Tories didn’t so much win as limp over the finish line with a very slim
majority of 12 seats. However, it is a majority and none of the pundits saw it coming. The Tories increased their share of the vote by just 0.5%. That will not prevent this from being the first of several Tory Governments over the next 10 – 15 years. David Cameron will quickly introduce the boundary reforms2that he was unable to implement under the coalition government. This will reduce the overall number of seats in the House of Commons to about 600 but it will create about 25 more Tory safe seats. This will shore up the Tory party but stifle democracy for the rest of us.
A democracy needs a strong opposition and Ed Milliband did not provide that alternative. The reasons are numerous. There may have been left over sentiment from the rivalry with his brother. His left thumb was always annoyingly sticking up during debates and that did not add to a statesman like image.
Ideologically Ed moved the party from under the shadow of
the Conservative Blairism. That was necessary. However Ed failed to redefine the Labour Party. It was neither New Labour nor Old Labour. Labour had the moral high ground in looking to redress the huge inequality that exists. That would appeal to the electorate but the electorate are also aspirational. Labour did not appeal to those aspirations. Ed allowed the Tory lie that the Labour Government caused the 2008 financial crash to take root. That took precedence over the Tory proposed spending cuts of £12 billion.
Ed failed to look Prime Ministerial. He had no message, lacked image and consequently has no government. It was not all bad news for Ed and Labour. Their share of the vote was up from 29% in 2010 to 31.7%. They also managed to gain 7 of their 12 target seats from the Tories. Ed’s resignation will allow a politically fresh face like Dan Jarvis to connect Labour once more to the people.
It was not immigration but racism under the guise of nationalism that helped the Tory success. They played a blinder with the idea that the SNP3would run Westminster. That helped English floating voters make up their minds. The fear of having the Scots in government was a message that sadly, resounded with the English. One set of nationals against the other. So much for the Union.
In Scotland the SNP won 56 of the 59 seats. They were expected to win by a majority. In fact they are the only party that can make a real claim to victory, even a landslide. That left the Tories, Labour and the now defunct Lib Dems with one MP each in Scotland. A reflection perhaps of the fact that the major parties don’t leave any of their A team in Scotland. Where the SNP won, democracy lost. The 56 seats won by the SNP represents 1.45 million votes (50% of the Scottish vote). That is two thirds less votes than UKIP received, yet UKIP only has one seat in the House of Commons.
Nigel Farage, former and soon to return leader of UKIP, has turned them into the third party. With approximately 4 million votes which is about 16% of the electorate, their support has held. Under a system of proportional representation that would represent 83 seats in the House of Commons. Far more than is currently enjoyed by the SNP.
The good news for the Lib Dems is that they only need a SUV to move their MP’s around the country. They have just eight seats in the House of Commons instead of 57. The lesson they have taught all the parties is that the electorate are not forgiving of broken promises.
The real loser in this election is democracy and the United Kingdom. The Union is now divided on national and political lines. England is represented by the Tories, Scotland by the SNP and Wales by the Labour Party. What message does that send about social cohesion? We have a Government that has been formed on just 24% of the vote. How can that really be representative of the people of Britain and Ireland? The absurdness of the situation is highlighted when the Tory share of the vote is contrasted with that of the None of The Above party. They polled 34% of the vote but don’t have one seat in the House of Commons. The Tories have 321.
Unfortunately, this Government will not allow a referendum on the electoral reform. One was held in 20124and we rejected reform. The boundaries will change but the First-Past The-Post system will not. So democracy suffers. The Union is looking increasingly divided. Ultimately it is we the people who lose. There really were no winners in this election.
- Under First Past The Post (FPTP) voting takes place in constituencies that elect a single MP. Voters put a cross in a box next to their favoured candidate. The candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins. All other votes are then disregarded. ↩
- The general aim of parliamentary boundary reform is to make sure that all seats should be of the same size in population terms. ↩
- Scottish National Party. ↩
- The referendum was held on using an Alternative Vote system. ↩