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Saturday, 9 May 2015

Votes and seats

A number of people have pointed out the interesting fact that although nearly 4 million people voted for a UKIP candidate, there's only one UKIP MP. On the other hand, 1.5 million SNP voters got 56 seats. How can this be fair?

The first problem is with the notion of fairness. We're all in favour of fairness, but everyone has a different idea of what fairness is. Usually, it involves taking something from "him" and giving it to "me". Rarely do people requesting fairness, feel over-privileged.

The vote/seat situation is a consequence of the UK first-past-the-post electoral system. For as far back as I can remember, minority parties have complained about how this is unfair, giving them less seats than the feel entitled to.

In 2010, when the Libdems had enough seats to make a Con/Lib coalition possible, the big thing that they wanted in return for support, was a change in the electoral system. And so there was born, a referendum on the voting system. What I don't understand about what happened then, is that the change proposed was to "Single Transferable Vote" (STV), which is horribly difficult to explain and understand, and not to the much simpler Proportional Representation (PR), perhaps better called Party-list proportional representation.

In this system, each party nominates a list, and they get a number of seats in proportion to their number of votes. But that simple system wasn't what was proposed.

However. So, in 2011, there was a referendum on this, and the yes vote was 32.1%, the no vote was 67.9%. The people spoke, and roundly rejected STV.

With that sort of decisive rejection, it's hard to argue.

So is it fair? Hell yes, to quote Ed Miliband. It's fair because despite knowing how minor parties suffer from the existing system, we-the-people decided to stick with it. A change, going against the opposition of we-the-people, would be very unfair. And if you don't like it having the first-past-the-post system, you should reflect on the fact that a large majority of the people in the UK, voted that it's the system they wanted.

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