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Elections, Electoral Reform, and 2010 The Purpose of Elections  They allow the ‘will of the people’ to be expressed  They provide for voter choice.

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Presentation on theme: "Elections, Electoral Reform, and 2010 The Purpose of Elections  They allow the ‘will of the people’ to be expressed  They provide for voter choice."— Presentation transcript:


2 Elections, Electoral Reform, and 2010

3 The Purpose of Elections  They allow the ‘will of the people’ to be expressed  They provide for voter choice in selection of government and their policies  In a democracy, they are the crucial mechanism for providing legitimacy to any government  How effectively they reflect the people’s will is therefore of crucial importance

4 Why Does the Type of Electoral System Matter?  Different systems have different consequences  The issue is what balance we want to strike between strong, clear government, and the need to represent as wide a range of people’s views as possible?  The greater the proportionality of a system, the greater the need for compromise between different parties.

5 Election Systems  First Past the Post  Additional Member  Supplementary Vote  Closed List System  Single Transferable Vote

6 First Past the Post  The system currently used in Britain for Westminster elections.  Since Westminster elections produce the national government, the system used for them is of the greatest significance in the UK

7 First Past the Post – The Case For  Simple for voters – one vote for one candidate  Usually produces clear result producing strong, stable government.  Clear constituency link between MP and voters  1974 and 2010 the only occasions when a ‘hung parliament’ has resulted  Only in 2010 has this caused formation of a coalition government

8 First Past the Post – The Case Against  It is disproportionate to a significant level (in 2010 the Lib Dems, on 23% of the vote, won 9% of the seats; Labour on 29% of the vote won 40% of the seats)  It allows for large numbers of ‘wasted’ votes  It produces an unbalanced two-party system – biased against third or minority parties  Therefore it is inherently ‘undemocratic’ in that it does not properly represent the people’s will.

9 What Happened in 2010?  For the first time since 1974, the FPTP system produced a hung parliament (no party with an overall majority)  This result itself illustrated the disproportionate nature of FPTP, as the Conservatives won 36% of the vote, to Labour’s 29%

10 What Happened in 2010?  In Feb 1974, the largest party (Labour) formed a minority government and called a further election in October, which gave it a small majority.  2010, however, resulted in a coalition government – David Cameron did not try to form a minority government. Why?

11 What Happened in 2010?  Cameron may have realised that the current electoral system is increasingly unlikely to benefit the Conservative Party.  He may have realised that the two- party system looks increasingly unviable  He may have wanted to use a Lib Dem coalition as the basis for a new, centrist political grouping.

12 What Happened in 2010?  As part of the move to have a coalition with the Lib Dems, Cameron embraced a referendum on electoral reform (for the use of AV in Westminster elections in future)  This referendum was held in May 2011 and resulted in a clear rejection of the AV system. FPTP is here to stay.

13 The Cracking of the Two-Party System under FPTP  In 1951 only 3% of votes were cast for non-Conservative or Labour candidates  In 2010 35% of votes were cast to ‘other’ parties or candidates (highest proportion since 1918)  Third parties are also gaining more seats

14 The Cracking of the Two-Party System under FPTP  In 1983 the Liberal/SDP Alliance won 25% of the vote, but only 23 seats.  In 2010 the Lib Dems won 23% of the vote, but 57 seats.  The party has managed to agglomerate support in fewer constituencies, and has benefited from the rise of tactical voting.  More third-party MPs = higher likelihood of hung parliaments, even under FPTP

15 How the Current System Squeezes the Conservatives  David Cameron won a 7% lead over Labour in 2010 but failed to secure a majority of seats  On the same percentage lead, Margaret Thatcher gained a 44 seat majority in 1979  Why?

16 How the Current System Squeezes the Conservatives  Far fewer seats are close contests between Labour and Tories any more  Seats won by Tories have larger electorates (an average 4,000 more voters than Labour seats)  Turnout is higher in Conservative seats  Labour wins more seats with small majorities, thus limiting the number of ‘excess’ or ‘wasted’ votes that is the problem for the Conservatives.

17 The England Factor  The Conservative problem is exacerbated by its failure to make any headway in Scotland, and only limited progress in Wales.  In England’s 533 seats (with one still to hold an election) Cameron won a majority of 62.

18 The Future of UK Electoral Systems  With AV having been rejected in a referendum, it is unlikely that another system will be considered for Westminster elections in the near future.  PR or semi-PR systems are of course used in other UK elections - for the devolved assemblies and the European Parliament, producing a different range of results to the Westminster system.  If reform of the House of Lords were to be pursued (an unlikely prospect as of 2012) then any elected second chamber would probably use a form of PR

19 Impact of Different Systems in UK The Scottish and Welsh institutions have shown up a number of differences from Westminster:  Larger number of parties  Better representation for Conservatives  Coalition governments European Elections show similar differences, notably in larger number of parties being elected.

20 Devolved Elections – Scotland 2011  SNP won majority – first time in the history of the new Scottish Parliament that a single party has done this  List system continued to benefit Conservatives, whose losses were kept to just 5 seats as a result  Lib Dems lost significantly (25 seats)– ‘routed’; blame placed on their Westminster coalition

21 Scotland 2011  Labour lost 16 seats to SNP  Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem Scottish leaders all resigned in wake of election  The Greens won 2 list seats, as did one Independent.

22 Welsh Elections 2011  Labour won exactly half the seats and chose to govern alone  Conservative losses were limited, while Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru did poorly  Once again, the part-list system appeared to benefit the Conservatives

23 European Elections in UK 2009  Conservatives did well – top with 26 seats, but at time of Labour govt unpopularity under Gordon Brown  UKIP equalled Labour’s score of 13 seats  Greens and BNP also gained seats (2 apiece)  Low turnout of around 30%

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