ERS research: 14.5m voters went unrepresented across the UK (full figures by region)

Posted on the 15th December 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 15th December
  • Contact Josiah Mortimer on [email protected] / 07717211630 for interview requests or further info/data

More than 14.5 million voters are effectively ‘unrepresented’ according to the Electoral Reform Society, after 45% of voters rejected their local MP. 

The number reflects the millions who did not vote for the local MP in their area, under Westminster’s ‘one-person-takes-all’ voting system. Under proportional representation, there are far fewer votes thrown on the ‘electoral scrapheap’, the ERS say.

The ERS are also highlighting ‘worryingly warped’ results of the election, with a large majority won on a minority of the vote. The Conservatives’ vote share rose only slightly (1.3 percentage points), while their share of seats rose 7.4 points (to 56%).

Labour’s vote fell by 7.9 points while their share of seats fell by slightly more than that, 9.2 points.

The Liberal Democrats won 11.5% of the vote but just 1.7% of seats. The party’s vote share increased significantly but had a net loss of one seat. The SNP have 7.4% of seats on 3.9% of the vote.

Turnout in the election was down to 67.2% compared to 68.7% at the last election.

Unrepresented voters by nation

  • United Kingdom: 14,513,247 unrepresented voters (45.3% of votes cast in the UK)
  • Northern Ireland: 440,035 unrepresented voters (55.1% of votes cast in Northern Ireland)
  • Scotland: 1,481,582 unrepresented voters (53.7% of votes cast in Scotland)
  • Wales: 806,116 unrepresented votes (52.2% of votes cast in Wales)
  • England: 11,785,514 unrepresented voters (43.8% of votes cast in England)

Unrepresented voters by English region:

  • North East: 652,591 unrepresented voters (52.3% of votes cast in the North East)
  • North West: 1,557,664 unrepresented voters (44.2% of votes cast in the North West)
  • Yorkshire & Humber: 1,221,958 unrepresented voters (48.0% of votes cast in Yorkshire & the Humber)
  • Eastern: 1,259,535 unrepresented voters (41.1% of votes cast in Eastern England)
  • East Midlands: 982,871 unrepresented voters (42.0% of votes cast in the East Midlands)
  • West Midlands: 1,104,023 unrepresented voters (40.7% of votes cast in the West Midlands)
  • South East: 2,032,055 unrepresented voters (43.7% of votes cast in the South East)
  • London: 1,625,833 unrepresented voters (43.2% of votes cast in London)
  • South West: 1,348,984 unrepresented voters (44.2% of votes cast in the South West)

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“When millions of voters are totally unrepresented, something has gone badly wrong. These warped results are hard-wired into Westminster’s winner-takes-all voting system.

“Westminster’s electoral system is not just bust, it is bankrupt. First Past the Post politics has driven a coach and horses through attempts at dialogue, compromise and cooperation.

“We can’t go on like this. It’s time for Westminster to catch up with most developed democracies and back a genuinely fair, democratic politics – where seats match votes and all voters are heard.

“First Past the Post is forcing people to ‘hold their nose’ every election. It is reducing choice through back-door party pacts. And it is leaving voters alienated and excluded, while warping our national debate.

“We urge all parties to put principle first and bring our political system into the 21st century. With trust in our institutions at rock bottom, this is a vital first step to building a better politics.”

The ERS has also assessed the large number of seats where an MP slipped in with a fraction of the vote. Here are the 10 smallest margins needed to win:

Top 10: Smallest Share of the Vote Needed to Win

Constituency Vote share (%) Winning party
Down South 32.4 Sinn Féin
Sheffield Hallam 34.7 Labour
Antrim South 35.3 Democratic Unionist Party
Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath 35.3 Scottish National Party
Ynys Mon 35.5 Conservative
East Lothian 36.2 Scottish National Party
Dunbartonshire East 37.1 Scottish National Party
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross 37.2 Liberal Democrat
Hemsworth 37.5 Labour
Barnsley East 37.6 Labour

The ERS have launched a petition to introduce proportional representation https://action.electoral-reform.org.uk/page/3782/petition/1

ENDS

With 649 seats declared, the ERS have analysed the number of votes needed per MP elected.

It took:

  • 864,743 to elect the lone Green MP
  • 642,303 votes for zero Brexit Party MPs
  • 334,122 to elect each Liberal Democrat
  • 50,817 to elect each Labour MP
  • 38,300 votes to elect each Conservative MP
  • 38,316 to elect each Plaid Cymru MP
  • 25,882 to elect each SNP MP

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