Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Still the Electoral System

I'm afraid that I'm back to the politics today, (don't worry, I've been watching a lot more obscure movies of late, so there's more of that sort of thing to come after this brief political interlude), inspired by something I read over the weekend.  Last week I defended the pollsters, noting that the actual general election results (in percentage of votes cast, at least), were pretty much within the margin of error compared to the polls in the run-up to election day.  However, our 'first-past-the-post' electoral system skewed the results so that the Tories were rewarded with sufficient seats to form an overall majority, despite polling only 37% of votes cast - slightly less than they polled in 2010.  This point is further emphasised here, where it is pointed out that if less than 3,000 voters who voted Green had voted Labour in key constituencies, then the Tories would have been denied a majority.  Despite what some of the morons commenting on the linked article seem to think, the author isn't suggesting that Labour's 'failure' is somehow the 'fault' of the Greens and that you should hurl a blazing bin through the window of your local Green Party branch office.  He's making the point that our political system is so inadequate in terms of representing the 'will of the people', that even very small and localised fluctuations in electoral support between candidates can have major repurcussions.  In short, the existing system creates a situation where some people's votes are worth more than others.

All of which brings us to my second point, that in view of these issues surrounding the electoral system, Labour's poor showing needs to be put into perspective.  Rather than representing the complete electoral disaster that the press (and many Labour MPs and left of centre commentators) have characterised the results as being, it should be remembered that Labour actually increased their share of the vote compared to 2010 - more than a million more people voted Labour in 2015 than 2010.  Which is, in itself, remarkable, bearing in mind the party's complete surrender to the SNP in Scotland.  There was a letter in today's Guardian warning that Labour was in danger of talking itself into a negative narrative about the 2015 election results which could have serious consequences for the party's future.  They are, of course, quite correct.  By characterising the results as an unmitigated disaster, it allows some elements in the Labour movement to argue that the supposed 'leftward' move of the party was wrong and alienated voters, so they need to go back to Blairism and embracing business and austerity.  The reality, of course, is that this supposed 'leftward' drift by Labour actually seemed to attract voters.  Arguably, it was their failure to move even further 'leftward' - by articulating a credible economic alternative to austerity - that turned Scottish voters against them.  Mind you, it should be borne in mind that this 'leftward' drift consisted of decidedly non-radical proposals like restricting zero hours contracts and greater regulation of energy suppliers - if that can get you a million extra votes, just imagine what a proper radical agenda might achieve?  Anyway, I can but hope that at least some of the current candidates for the Labour leadership grasp these facts.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home