The 2015 general election was a triumph for the Conservatives. Before the exit polls on 7th May no one foresaw a Tory majority. So how did it happen?In the weeks since the election there has been much speculation: Did Ed Miliband fail as a leader? Did Tory spending buy the vote? Should UKIP and the LibDems wind up their parties and leave British politics for good?
It’s none of these. It’s simply the failure of our electoral system to deliver democracy. With 36% of those who turned out voting for the Tories they cannot be said to have a mandate to form a majority government. More people nationally voted for Labour or the Liberal Democrats than for the Conservatives.
Our “winner takes it all” system has means our government has been formed by a party who has a mandate from only 25% of the electorate. It’s not just the Conservatives who have done well from the system. It’s also the Scottish National Party and the Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland. With just 1.5 million votes the SNP have 56 MPs. By comparison, the Greens with 1.2 million have just one.
This is why Liberal Democrats want electoral reform. When people acually turn out to vote we want them to know that their vote will count – that it will make a difference even if you’re voting in a “safe seat”.
Liberal Democrats believe that a fairer voting system would encourage more people to vote because the link between your vote and the resulting government would be more clear. We also think that people would be more likely to vote from the heart – and not to use your vote tactically to “keep out” the party you despise by voting for one you hate.
We live in a modern, 21st century multi-party European democracy. It’s no longer a 20th century tug of war between landowners and labourers. It’s far more sophisticated and nuanced than that, but our electoral system hasn’t caught up with the times. Liberal Democrats gained a million more votes than the SNP. But the biggest losers are UKIP. Nearly 4 million Brits voted for UKIP – who won one seat. That’s 3.5 million more votes than the SNP who got 56.
There are enough people who voted UKIP, Green or Liberal Democrat to warrant far more representation than these parties have. Half the voters in Scotland did not vote for the SNP. They do not want independence.
The DUP in Northern Ireland received fewer than 190,000 votes, yet that yielded them eight MPs, the same number as the Liberal Democrats who had over 12 times as many votes.
The clue is in our name: Liberal Democrats. We want to see the make-up of our Parliament and of our government more closely reflect how people vote in elections. This is only possible if we move on from the First Past the Post system to one which more fairly allocates seats according to the mandate.