[Marxism] Blair's Non-Victory Stimulates Electoral Reform

Jack Cade jack.cade at btinternet.com
Tue May 17 02:49:48 MDT 2005

Article from the infamous Weekly Worker, this week, by Steve
Cooke, assesses the situation and analyses some of the

Jack Cade


Weekly Worker 576 Thursday May 12 2005

Why 35.3% of the votes equals 55.1% of the seats

As we know, the general election saw New Labour returned to
office on a much reduced, but still substantial, majority of 66
seats (assuming that the Staffordshire South constituency, where
the contest was postponed until June due to a candidate's death,
stays Conservative). However, it did so with the lowest
proportion of the popular vote that any winning party has
achieved since universal adult suffrage was introduced.

Labour's third-term 'mandate' was won with only 35.3% of the vote
across the UK as a whole. Despite a 5.4% haemorrhaging in its
support - even more severe in the marginal constituencies - this
was sufficient to secure 356 MPs in the new House of Commons,
some 55.1% of the total.

Seven out of every eight Labour defectors transferred their
support to the Liberal Democrats, whose vote went up to 22.0%.
However, this only resulted in a small increase in the Lib Dems'
parliamentary representation, which now stands at 62 seats (just
9.6%). The Tories took most of the constituencies that changed
hands even though their support, at 32.4%, barely increased at
all. They ended up with 197 MPs (30.5%), to which they can expect
to add one more when the Staffordshire South by-election is held
next month.

The discrepancy between the political parties' vote share and
their representation in parliament, combined with widespread
public disillusionment with the Blair administration, has
increased the profile of those campaigning for reform of the
first-past-the-post electoral system (FPTP), which made such an
outcome possible. On May 10, Make My Vote Count
(www.makemyvotecount.org.uk) - an umbrella coalition bringing
together groups such as Charter 88, the Electoral Reform Society,
the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, the Labour Campaign for
Electoral Reform, the Christian Socialist Movement and the former
Eurocommunists of the New Politics Network - led a small protest
to Downing Street wearing gags to symbolise the many voters who
find themselves unrepresented as a consequence of FPTP. This was
timed to coincide with the front-page launch of a campaign for
proportional representation in The Independent.

Although those leading the campaign at present are largely middle
class in orientation and many of the arguments they put forward
are aimed at appealing to a bourgeois liberal agenda, the
democratic flaws of FPTP ought also to be a concern for
communists and the working class movement as a whole. Not only
does it lead to some people's votes effectively being worth many
times more than other people's, but it has distorted electoral
campaigning to such a degree that the three larger political
parties focus their attention almost exclusively on appealing to
800,000 wavering voters in marginal constituencies - the "people
who matter", as Tory leader Michael Howard described them. Unless
you happen to live in one of those constituencies and fit the
demographic profile the marketing experts deign to make you worth
contacting, there seems little purpose in turning out to vote, as
the vast majority of parliamentary seats are considered 'safe'
for one party or another. This state of affairs, as much as the
fact that there is little serious difference between the
programmes of the mainstream parties, may be a significant
contributor to the lower turnouts seen in the UK's last two
general elections.

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