All votes are equal. But some voters are more equal than others.

1 Feb 2013

Should 10,000 voters be able to decide who runs Britain?


New analysis of Labour’s target seats for the 2015 General Election have shown just how few people are required to change the Government of this country.


Just 10,000 voters changing their mind next polling day could propel Labour to the largest party. 70,000 would provide a 1 seat majority - 150,000 voters would give Labour a thumping 60 seat majority.


Why should any of this matter?


Our politics remains in thrall to the priorities and interests of a handful of people. These Golden Voters are the ones that count.  Focus Groups will distil their fears, aspirations and desires, which will in turn inform the presentation - and the substance - of policy initiatives and manifestos.


“Will it play well in Thurrock?” will be the conversation now being had at Labour high command, as the party sets about developing policy for the 2015.


It’s Not quite the ‘One Nation‘ of Labour rhetoric, but then our elections militate against equality.


This isn’t a criticism of any one party. They’re all playing the only game in town. Any sensible party strategist, facing limited resources and with an eye on power, will put a relentless focus on the few votes that matter. It’s the inescapable logic of politics under First Past the Post.


The country faces hard choices. It’s a shame the interests of Britain will continue to play second fiddle to the interests of a handful of voters in a handful of marginals.



The Seats that Matter

Seat Party Control Votes required to switch seat Political Impact
North Warwickshire Con


Thurrock Con


Hendon Con


Cardiff North Con


Sherwood Con


Norwich South LD


Stockton South Con


Broxtowe Con


Lancaster and Fleetwood Con


Bradford East LD


Amber Valley Con


Waveney Con


Wolverhampton SW Con


Marcambe and Lunesdale Con


Carlisle Con


Stroud Con


Weaver Vale Con


Lincoln Con


Brighton Pavilion Green


Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Con


Dewsbury Con


Warrington South Con


Brent Central LD


Bedford Con


Brighton Kemptown Con


Pudsey Con


Labour Largest Party
Brentford and Isleworth Con


Hove Con


Enfield North Con


Hastings and Rye Con


Manchester Withington LD


Burnley Con


Ipswich Con


Dundee East SNP


East Dunbartonshire LD


Halesowen and Rowley Regis Con


Nuneaton Con


Gloucester Con


Northampton North Con


Bury North Con


Kingswood Con


Erewash Con


Blackpool North and Cleveleys Con


City of Chester Con


Arfon PC


Croydon Central Con


Worcester Con


Keighley Con


Wirral West Con


Cannock Chase Con


Loughborough Con


Harrow East Con


Warwick and Leamington Con


Birmingham Yardley LD


South Swindon Con


Ealing Central and Acton Con


Pendle Con


Stevenage Con


Elmet and Rothwell Con


Edinburgh West LD


Watford Con


Carmathen West and South Pembrokeshire Con


Vale of Glamorgan Con


Argyll and Bute LD


Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale Con


Carmathen East and Dinefwr PC


Norwich North Con


High Peak Con


Milton Keynes South Con


Rossendale and Darwen Con


Cleethorpes Con


North East Somerset Con


Great Yarmouth Con


Dudley South Con


Dover Con


Colne Valley Con


South Ribble Con


Peterborough Con


Stafford Con


Stourbridge Con


Harlow Con


Aberconwy Con


Ilford North Con


Preseli Pembrokeshire Con


Brigg and Goole Con


Crewe and Nandwich Con


Bristol NW Con


Battersea Con


Finchley and Golders Green Con


Calder Valley Con


Redcar LD


Crawley Con


Hornsey and Wood Green LD


Reading West Con


Rugby Con


Burton Con


Cardiff Central LD


Labour majority of 60
South Basildon and East Thurrock Con


Tamworth Con


Redditch Con


Chatham and Aylesford Con


North Swindon Con


Cambridge LD


Bermondsey and Old Southwark LD


Bristol West LD


Leeds NW LD






Cumulative vote change Outcome
10,326 Labour Largest Party
69,274 Labour Majority of 1
148,585 Labour Majority of 60



23 Responses to All votes are equal. But some voters are more equal than others.

Will 1 Feb 2013

Sorry to nitpick, but it's Manchester Withington

Patrick Herring 1 Feb 2013

Not entirely true. The party strategists will also want to make sure the rest of the nation doesn't change its mind.

Randal63 1 Feb 2013

More important that swing is turnout. Turnout in the UK is pretty dismal at 60-65%. The next election will be a real challenge for those of us who value turnout, as there will be many 'depressed' Tory and LibDem voters due to their vicious and scatty record. ERS should be discussing the fact that 70k voters changing their mind could change the government - that's effective democracy when there is a minority/coalition government - but rather that 70k fewer voters could in essence default a new party into Downing St.

Anthony Tuffin 2 Feb 2013

No. Although relative turnout (not absolute turnout) can be important for parties, swing is more important than turnout for demcocracy. If some people choose, for whatever reason, not to vote, that's down to them and they have no right to complain if they don't like the result of the election. At least, they wouldn't have a right to complain if we had a voting system in which most votes counted.

One of the many problems with our First Past The Post elections is that the swing of so few of those who have voted decides the result.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting system would solve this problem and make politicians consider the views of all voters instead of only the favoured 10,000. Readers can visit to learn more about STV.

EnorMouse 3 Feb 2013

I have a huge hangup with the PR version of STV in so far as it is the most accurate name for AV and was how the system of electing the President of the NUS was known 3 plus decades ago.

I am far from fond of all versions of PR as they tend to put more power in the hands of the Parties.

I suspect that had the name of the alternate system in the referendum been the Single Transferable Vote, then a lot of the nonsense that the No campaign got away with, about some people having multiple votes would, by clear implication of the name, be shown to be invalid.

I will not forgive the PR campaigners for nicking the name and potentially costing us the referendum.

Anthony Tuffin 5 Feb 2013

Other forms of PR - and First Past The Post - give power to parties. STV uniquely transfers power from parties to voters.

Keith Underhill 5 Feb 2013

EnorMouse you might remember in NUS how the part time exec members were elected .. that is STV as Anthony described..They later became the 'Block of 12'

AlanR888 7 Apr 2013

STV is not the only system that transfers power to the voters. The VITAL principle
is the ability for the vote to be transferred
under properly specified conditions,

That is a feature of AV (but not AV-plus - as
the voter choice is over-ruled by party
proportionality considerations!).

Sadly many (including some who have
left comment here) failed to see that AV
is/was the only "stepping stone" to STV
as it enshrines the ESSENTIAL principle
of transferability. However, the difficulty
was the distortion of the issue during the
campaign. In autumn 2010 a majority of
those willing to consider dispassionately
the merits or otherwise of AV were willing
to support it. Sadly we lived to experience
the old adage that democracy is the worst
system (except for the all the others!) and
the decision was taken in response to
mass marketing rather than the merits of
the case. That is fine in a general election
relating to the broad spread of issues but
in a referendum there is a single question
and the question is how to get focus on
that rather an poularity poll on a deputy
prime minister - which was NOT the question!

EX39 2BA

Andrew Turvey 1 Feb 2013

You could actually argue this is a good thing. One of the problems with, say, Belgian PR elections is that the results don't significantly change from one general election to another. FPTP can make politicians more sensitive to voters because a few votes can have a big impact.

Anthony Tuffin 2 Feb 2013

But sensitive only to the 10,000 swing voters in marginal coinstituencies.

nsandersen 8 Mar 2013

But it means votes for some parties count 3-5 times as much as votes for others. Who should decide which votes count more than other votes?

Wayne Acourt 2 Feb 2013

The system is broken. So many people feel that their vote doesn't count that they don't even bother anymore.
And yet, when given the opportunity recently, to change the system, 70% decide to leave the system unchanged.
Go figure!!!!?*
So do convince that 70% that they were/are mistaken & get electoral reform back on the agenda?
I like this page. I want change. But we are talking to ourselves here....
We need to give the electorate & our politicians a severe shake, before a 40% of a 60% turnout leads to a landslide!
(or are we already there?)
To be faced with a newly elected PM claiming a clear mandate when the majority of the population wanted someone else.

Steven 3 Feb 2013

The ONLY systems that can rectify the problems we have are proportional ones so why wasn't at least one if not several presented to us on that ballot paper in May 2011? I cast a 'positive abstention' in that referendum and wrote across the ballot paper I wanted to have a chance to vote for PR and not the inadequate joke of AV. The electoral reform movement should have boycotted the referendum and told the country unless there was a referendum with a PR choice on it then said referendum was worthless.

Unfortunately, they didn't and a lot of people in this country think we had a choice of PR when we didn't!

Anthony Tuffin 2 Feb 2013

The Electoral Reform Society
is right. It is unfair on the vast majorityof voters that so few can decide the destination of the nation for five years
and politicians can ignore the views of the rest of us.

It is shameful and undemocratic. It is also inefficient that most elections do not achieve what most people expect them to achieve; a Parliament that reflects the will of voters.

The same is true of local government in England and Wales,
where elections are still by the 19th century First Past The Post (FPTP), although Scotland and Northern Ireland
already use STV for local elections. Although local government may seem less important than national government, the distorted effects of FPTP elections can be even worse. Where a few thousand voters can decide the result of a parliamentary general election, a few hundred – or even fewer – can decide the result of a Council election.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) would remedy this defect, and others, of FPTP elections for both national and local government. Readers can visit to find out what STV is.

Steven 3 Feb 2013

STV is most suitable for local elections I think. For national ones, the German/New Zealand system of Mixed-Member Proportional/Additional Member PR is better.

Anthony Tuffin 5 Feb 2013

The German/New Zealand systen gives too much power to parties. STV transfers power from parties to voters. That's why many politicians don't like it.

Keith Underhill 5 Feb 2013

The German system gives voters no choice of Candidates. It is also fundamentally flawed in two ways.

The 5% block often means that voters will vote tactically in order to force an unpopular party over the line or will not vote for a hopeless list.

It is also flawed in that if a major party decides to manipulate the rules they can effectively destroy the proportional element. This happened in Italy (and I believe in Albania)

Barry 11 Feb 2013

I didn't know this. The 5% percent threashold is designed to prevent too many parties entering the Bundestag and fragmenting the political system as happened in Weimar Germany which was one of the causes of the rise of the Nazis. Personally, I think that any party capable of achieving 5% or more of the national vote probably has something going for it and should be listened to. It is true that no electoral system is without its faults but apart from AV any system has to be an improvement on the democratic disgrace of FPTP.

EnorMouse 3 Feb 2013

The major problem remains that the bulk of the population fails to even understand how the system is supposed to work. It is all about which Party one votes for, not about which Candidate.

It was not that long ago, in electoral reform terms, that candidates' Party affiliations, let alone logos, were not allowed on the ballot papers. If you wanted to vote for a particular Party's candidate, you had to at least know his or her name.

We elect constituency MPs from a list of candidates standing for the position. That is all. We do not elect a Party and we certainly don't elect the PM.

If we want better government, the key is to elect better MPs and then to hold them accountable. The way to eliminate such a small number of voters in the key marginal seats from having such a large sway, is to reduce or eliminate the concept of a safe seat.

Anthony Tuffin 5 Feb 2013

Sorry EnorMouse, but you misunderstand a major advantage of STV. Alone of all PR systems, you can vote for individual candidates and not just parties.

Keith Underhill 5 Feb 2013

The only way of getting rid of safe seats is to have STV in multi-member constituencies.

No matter how you draw the boundaries in single member constituencies you will always end up with safe seats (or weird shaped constituencies)

Tony Smith 4 Feb 2013

Politics or EU or slaries or pensions, the fact is that the world population, the EU population, is increasing rapidly. Does Britain want to continue to feed its own population? Or does it want to support many other EU & other States as well? At the end of the day each country will look after its own.
Let's control our British destiny; we do not want the EU to decide what is good for Britain!
^Tony Smith
Brownbread Stud
E Sussex.
TN33 9NX
01424 893922

GrassRoots 5 Feb 2013


I, like many others have become mad, angry and feel very betrayed by our politicians and have seen my country go to the wall over the last 10-15yrs. As a result, I educate myself the best I can by reading everything available to me, every link I find and looking up what I am unsure of, to ensure that when I next vote, I am making an informed choice.

Now, I am not uneducated by any means! The ONLY thing that I cannot find clear and concise information on, in simplified terms, that is not laden with tortuous jargon, is how our voting system works!

As a Trainer, it is important for me to fully understand anything before even attempting to impart information to others in a clear, digestable format. All of the information on here assumes that visitors have a certain level of understanding the system and the jargon.

The problem is, we don't teach politics at school, if parents do not understand the systems themselves and feel helpless, what chance do we have of them teaching their own kids - hence future generations? It's very well documented that if people find something overwhelming and confusing, they switch off!

Therefore, this information needs to be put in a simplified, jargon free format for anyone to understand, without having to be an expert. A good idea would be some sort of system where they could click and drag to make their own 'what if' scenarios as to how voting would have to be for their chosen party to get into power.

I hope you don't mind me throwing in my pennies worth, but I agree, this is a huge problem, simply because people don't understand. Often people are ashamed to admit that and ask someone, because as they have voted for many years, they feel they 'should' know! But if nobody has ever explained it or helped them to understand, how can they know? It's a vicious circle!

As I said earlier, there is a LOT of people like me who have suddenly taken an interest in a bid to make a difference to our future, now is a perfect time to get this information out because people are actively seeking it and once it is available, the links will be posted and re-posted on many media web sites!

If anyone knows of a site where I can find simplified and ideally visual explanations, I would very much appreciate it, in the meantime, I hope my comments have been of some use!