Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Too many Tories in the Commons
(It's probably too late, but my apologies to readers who saw an unchecked and incomplete version of this post which was published by accident - or some malfunction - yesterday)
In total 42.5% of those who voted in the 2017 election opted for the Conservatives. 42.5% of the 650 seats in the Commons is 276, but the Conservatives actually won 318, so, in proportionate terms. they have 42 more than their real entitlement.
Labour polled 39.95 of the total vote and won 262 seat, just 2 fewer than their proportionate entitlement.
We poor old Liberal Democrats polled a miserable 7.37% of the vote, but even that would entitle us to 48 seats instead of the meagre 12 we won. The even more badly-served Greens won only one seat rather than the 11 their 1.63 share of the national vote entitles them to .
Of course, no one, as far as I know, advocates a strictly proportionate representation in the Commons, but these figures show that not only has Mrs May's government lost its technical over-all majority: the majority it has over Labour grossly over-exaggerates its true support, and lessens even further its moral authority.
(I have not included the nationalists in the above calculations as they do not contest seats throughout the whole of the UK).
In the short run, this analysis explodes as myth the suggestion that the present electoral boundaries favour Labour. They clearly do not. So it is important that all non-conservative MPs get together to stop the boundary revision scheme which the Tories claim is necessary to restore fairness. This scheme would, in
fact, further distort the system in their favour.
In the long run of course we need an alliance to introduce an electoral system which offers a better balance between fair representation and a genuine connection between MPs and their constituents. The additional member system would be better than nothing. PR by single transferable vote in multi member constituencies would be best.
An announcement from Mr Corbyn that he is in favour of electoral reform would cause a further shift in the tectonic plates of British politics and produce another giant leap towards a fairer and healthier society. If, sadly, he deludes himself into thinking that Labour can, in the long run, win on its own (as did Tony Blair, after his dialogue with Paddy Ashdown in the 1990s) we shall be back to the sterile Punch and Judy politics of the past.
In the meantime, I hope the apparatchiks of all the progressive parties are holding informal discussions about some mutually advantageous electoral arrangements in case another election is called in the near future. We should not let this moment pass.