Seven weeks left in the EU, a year of tortuous trade negotiations, and years of damage once those negotiations either fail and lead to no deal, or are extended again and again until they’re concluded.

Chris Grey provides his usual excellent analysis of “the grim dystopia that the British electorate, as distilled by the absurdities of the British electoral system, has just voted for”.

Just for fun (note: this is not at all fun), here’s how the national vote share could have translated into seats out of 650 under a system of perfectly proportional representation (actual seats on the right):

Conservative Party283365
Labour Party209203
Scottish National Party2548
Liberal Democrats7511
Sinn Féin47
Plaid Cymru34
Green Party181
Brexit Party130
Other parties140

We’ve been screwed for nine years (and now fourteen) because the Lib Dems didn’t hold out for PR as the price of coalition in 2010, the one thing that would have made them a serious player over the longer term. (Now they’ve lost a seat despite increasing their share of the vote from 7.4% to 11.2%, thanks to FPTP.)

I voted in the 2011 referendum for AV, which is clearly fairer than first past the post, but it still means that minor parties end up massively underrepresented. We need a Parliament with double-digits numbers of Greens, not just one. If people knew that their Green votes would make a real difference, they’d be more inclined to vote for them.

It’s true that the price would be having a similar number of Brexit Party MPs, or UKIP on a different day, or whatever. But look at the damage Farage has been able to do from the sidelines, with no accountability in Parliament itself: they can promise the moon, and never have to confront the practical implications. And they’ve dragged the entire Tory Party onto their ground. Now the whole world will think that Britain is dominated by hard-right hard Brexiters, when they got less than 50% of the vote. (In the worst possible sense, of course, we are dominated by them. But they aren’t an accurate reflection of how we voted overall: over 50% voted for parties backing a second referendum or revoking Article 50 outright.)

The major parties have had a clear self-interest in maintaining first past the post when it has won them seats far in excess of their vote share. The Tories won an extra 72 seats thanks to FPTP in 2010, 97 in 2015, 42 in 2017 and 82 this time. In 1997, Labour won 122 extra seats thanks to FPTP; in 2001, 145; in 2005, 128; in 2010, 69; in 2015, 34; and in 2017... two. They could have won half a dozen extra seats under proportional representation this time.

Might be time to join the Electoral Reform Society.

13 December 2019 · Politics