Yesterday saw a General Election in the land of my birth: the United Kingdom. Here’s a snapshot, based on the Guardian‘s election coverage.
Britain’s parliament has 649 seats, each representing a geographic constituency. Here, for each party, is the share of the seats and the share of the vote (the 10 missing seats are those for which we don’t yet have a result).
- Conservative: 300, 36%.
- Labour: 255, 29%
- Liberal Democrat: 56, 23%
- Other: 28, 12%.
So, the Conservatives have more seats than any other party, but they don’t have a majority of seats, and they were nowhere near a majority of the popular vote. The Liberal Democrats have a far greater share of the popular vote (more than a fifth) than of the seats (less than a tenth). That’s because of the UK system, in which there is a winner-take-all race for each seat.
The electoral system is bad at representing the popular vote. It’s usually “good” at making it clear who’s in power, in that usually either Labour or the Conservatives has a majority of seats. That hasn’t worked this time.
The Conservatives could form a government, with a majority, with the support of the Liberal Democrats. I think, and hope, that they won’t get that support without commitment to reform the electoral system toward proportional representation.
The Liberal Democrats did hope that this would be the election in which they gained a significant number of seats even without electoral reform. Now they hope that it will be the election after which they can bargain for electoral reform. In subsequent elections, their popular vote would be reflected in seats – and produce more “hung parliaments,” alliances, and so on.
Proportional representation is my hope also. For that, and for other reasons, I’ll be particularly interested in UK politics over the next few days.