Our Political Editor, David O' Donoghue, argues that the first past the post voting system leaves a lot to be desired in British politics.
As the smoke clears and the Conservative party take their place atop the squabbling totem pole of British politics, one thing is clear: British politics is broken. And I don’t just say this because a Tory majority government is about as appealing to me as a colonoscopy; this has more to do with a simple sense of annoyance at, as the Mirror put it in a shocking obituary-like front page, “five more damned years”.
Do I honestly think it would have been different if it had been Ed Miliband smiling out of the television screen, sounding out a message of election victory with his signature marble-mouthed mumble? Of course not.
Whether the blue team or the red team won the day, the difference would have been marginal, as Britain prepares for five more years of food banks and welfare “reform”, hurtling toward the most dangerous secret trade agreement of all time. What I care about is fairness.
Approximately 1.4 million people in Scotland gave their votes to the Scottish National Party, and the result was astounding. The long Scottish romance with the Labour Party was cut short with all the equivalent care and compassion of a break up text.
The party won 56 seats with those 1.4 million votes, an impressive showing. Until that is you prop those results up against other parties, when the British electoral system begins to beg serious questions about fairness and representation.
Never mind that Britain is now to be dominated for five years by a party that over 40% of its people say they would never vote for . But the smaller parties, the UK Independence Party and the Greens have gotten an especially short end of the stick. UKIP got 3.8 million votes and a single seat in parliament, while the Greens got 1.1 million and the same result. Stacked against the 56 seats earned by the SNP for getting just 1.4 million votes, the ridiculousness of the current British election methods are stark and obvious.
I’m not just saying this because I have a soft spot for the Greens and wish they had earned more seats. I abhor UKIP and everything the party stands for, but if nearly 4 million Britons feel it represents their interest then for the good of democracy those people should be represented in parliament.
Britain continues to cling to the first-past-the-post, like a child with a favourite toy that’s coming apart at the seams. This system means that you’re not voting for the party you want, but really just voting against the party you don’t want. If UKIP really stands for what you stand for, you risk splitting the right-wing vote and ending up with a Labour government if you actually vote for who you want.
This is not democracy. Ending up with a majority government governing a population where nearly half of the people would never vote for that party is not democracy, it’s nothing short of oligarchy.
The current electoral system of Britain, which retains support from all the major parties, is not argued for because it makes for a healthy democracy. It is argued for because it preserves the duopoly of Labour and the Conservatives.
There is simply no point in voting for smaller parties. Labour and the Tories, who in real terms are only slightly different, can always count on one or the other to get into power. Like aged warriors they know they can simply dance around one another, going through the same sets of parries and ripostes they always have, knowing their supporters will still cheer them out, not out of passion but out of necessity.
Throw some new blood in there, young, hungry and unorthodox fighters, and watch these arrogant blowhards become wounded, their swords sharpened in battle. They need to be tested and, if necessary, thrown out of the arena of politics.
Everyone take a deep breath here, because I’m about to compliment something about the Irish political system. I know, I can hardly believe it either. Our proportional representation electoral system actually gives small parties a chance and you get the opportunity to vote against parties you hate while still voting for the party that suits you best.
While the political culture surrounding our system might not quite be as dynamic and efficient as the ballot papers themselves, we are more likely to end up with Governments that most people seem to broadly agree with. In the UK you can end up with a government with a huge majority that no one will admit to voting for. And that’s no democracy. That’s an aristocracy with election posters.