2015 was the busiest year ever for the Electoral Reform Society blog, with monthly readership over double the level we had in 2014. As we get stuck in to 2016, we thought we’d look back over the top ten most read blogs of 2015.
At number ten we had the news from May that over £100,000,000 was donated to ten political parties in the run up to the 2015 election, more than double the donations in the run up to 2005. The fact that these figures only cover donations over £7,500 – i.e. big gifts – suggests that this was a high-spending election, and parties were racing to splash the most cash.
When the polls were pointing towards a hung parliament, we had a look at exactly who gets first go at trying to form a government. Few predicted that First Past the Post would scrape together an overall majority from 37% of the vote and translate Labour’s 1.5% growth in support into a loss of 26 seats.
In early December, Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds introduced a Ten-Minute Rule Motion asking the House of Commons for permission to bring forward his Representation of the People (Proportional Representation) Bill. Over 6000 people wrote to their MPs and Jonathan’s speech has now been viewed over 100,000 times. Sadly, they voted not to allow the Bill to go forward – a huge shame, but not a great surprise.
At number seven we have the disappointing news that John Penrose, the minister at the Cabinet Office with responsibility for electoral reform, doesn’t know what he campaigned against in 2011. Members of the public getting the Alternative Vote and Proportional Representation confused is excusable, but Members of Parliament really should know better.
In April we gave the public the chance to find out if the General Election was going to be a forgone conclusion in their area. Millions of people live in seats that had pretty much no chance of ever changing hands, with MPs confident of having a job for life. We managed to call the outcome in 56% of seats – getting 363 of our 368 pre-election seat predictions correct (a 98% accuracy rate).
The House of Lords is never far from its next scandal, yet many people still have an idealised view of our bloated second chamber. So we launched a new report: ‘House of Lords: Fact vs Fiction’ – where we shattered the myths used to support Britain’s unelected second House.
It’s no surprise that our top blogs deal with the most disproportionate election in history. At number four we have the hand-in to ten Downing Street of our historic petition for proportional representation. There aren’t many issues that bring together UKIP and the Green Party, or the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. But there is one that does – the need for a fair voting system.
The ‘morning after the night before’ takes third place, with our post Election debrief on 11 May. UKIP had just received nearly four million votes and just one MP, the SNP had won nearly every Scottish seat on just half the Scottish vote, and the Conservative Party had a slim majority in the House of Commons on 37% of the national vote. The massive over-representation of Labour, Conservatives and the SNP, mixed with the massive under-representation of UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens made this the most disproportionate election ever.
Back in February we predicted that, if anything the general election was going to be unpredictable. In our report Professor John Curtice demonstrated how relatively small shifts in support among the parties can have dramatic effects on the shape of the next Parliament. And he was right: the SNP’s vote share went up 3.1% and they gained 50 seats, Labour’s vote share went up 1.5% and they lost 26.
At number one, our most read blog of 2015 was the launch of our comprehensive report on the General Election – ‘A Voting System in Crisis’.
We showed how our broken system means that seats in parliament bear little relation to how we vote, how First Past the Post was making the country appear much more divided than it really is and how millions of voters don’t have someone who actually represents them in parliament. And we worked out how parliament might have looked under alternative electoral systems.
With elections happening across the UK in 2016, we’re going to have plenty to work on.
Here’s to another busy year!