Next election could see Labour win most votes but fewer seats than Tories

Posted on the 5th March 2018

Campaigners warn of potential for ‘wrong winner’ election result under Westminster’s ‘broken voting system’.

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release.
  • Chief Executive Darren Hughes is available for interview. For more information, contact mediaoffice@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07717211630

Campaigners have slammed Westminster’s ‘absurd and undemocratic’ voting system, after influential election website Electoral Calculus projected a ‘wrong winner’ scenario if a General Election were held now [1].

Under the projections, Labour would secure the most votes in a GE – yet would win fewer seats than the Conservatives. 

The analysis based on recent polling predicts the Conservatives would win 40.5% of the vote and 297 seats, whereas Labour would win 279 seats on 40.7% of the vote – resulting in a situation where one party wins the most votes yet the other party wins the most seats.

The Electoral Reform Society say the plans show ‘Parliament’s outdated electoral system is failing at its most basic requirement’.

A ‘wrong winner’ scenario would not be a first for the UK: in 1951 the Conservative Party won 48% of the vote to 48.8% for Labour, yet the election saw a Conservative majority.

And the February election of 1974 produced a hung parliament, in which Labour had 301 seats to the Tories’ 297 – despite the Conservatives beating Labour in votes by 0.7%.

Internationally there are other precedents under disproportionate voting systems, with New Zealand seeing two wrong winner elections in a row in 1978 and 1981 – setting them on the path to electoral reform. New Zealand now uses Holyrood’s Additional Member System.

The mechanics of the electoral college in the United States are also similar – delivering Presidents who did not win the popular vote in 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016.

Trade unionists and former Jeremy Corbyn advisors have now launched a new campaign, ‘Politics for the Many’ to call on Labour and unions to back ‘root and branch democratic reform’, including proportional representation.

Politics for the Many has support from senior figures from the UK’s leading trade unions, including Howard Beckett, Assistant General Secretary at Unite, as well as former trade union adviser for Jeremy Corbyn, Nancy Platts.

Organisers are urging others to add their weight to the campaign on the Politics for the Many website and join its dedicated Facebook page here

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

“While they are only initial projections, these figures show just how broken Westminster’s voting system is. Whichever side it affects, a ‘wrong winner’ scenario would be an absolute scandal for our democracy – and the fact it is even on the cards is an absolute indictment of the Commons’ current set up.

“Parliament’s outdated electoral system is failing at its most basic requirement: ensuring the most popular party wins the most seats. That is just democracy.

“For a long time, proponents of the status quo have suggested Westminster’s disproportionate voting system is ‘simple’. But it’s hard to see how that argument holds any water anymore – not least when a party can be penalised for having the most support.

“It’s time for a fair voting system where seats match votes. There are core principles of democracy at stake here.

“We need fair votes for Westminster and real reform – with an electoral system that gives people proper representation. Whether this scenario plays out or not, the system is bust. Let’s get on with fixing it.”

Nancy Platts, Politics for the Many coordinator and former trade union advisor to Jeremy Corbyn, said: 

“This is yet more evidence the current system is desperately broken. Westminster’s voting system allows governments to form with very little popular support. It serves the old boys’ network while workers’ interests are trampled on.

“It is now time for a politics for the many. We need a democracy fit for the 21st century, and an end to this kind of political injustice that only serves to breed alienation.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/homepage.html and here https://twitter.com/electoralreform/status/970606636430712832

[2] See here for the group’s launch statement: www.politicsforthemany.co.uk

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