More evidence that under Westminster’s warped voting system, swathes of Britain can be written off

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 23rd June 2020

New research has highlighted just how damaging Westminster’s warped voting system can be to our society and economy.

Analysis shows that opposition Labour councils have borne the brunt of local government cuts over the past decade, according to a report in the Guardian.

The finding provides yet more evidence that under Westminster’s broken system, some areas of the country are simply left to wither on the vine.

Winner-takes-all politics creates hundreds of safe seats – and a handful of swing seats – to be ‘rewarded’. Everywhere else, parties can write off huge areas of the country as an ‘electoral wasteland’ – not worth engaging with.

This travesty is why the Electoral Reform Society was able to correctly predict the result in half of Britain’s constituencies before the 2019 General Election.  The Society achieved a 100% prediction success across last week’s predictions in 316 ‘one-party seats’, which represent 50% of Britain’s total.

A shocking 68% of votes were effectively ignored in 2019: they failed to contribute to electing the local MP. Millions of voters are systematically silenced in this way – unlike countries which use proportional voting systems.

The picture at a local level is similar, with hundreds of one-party-states where – as the saying goes – you could ‘stick the reigning party’s rosette on a donkey and they’d get in’.

That means, under First Past the Post, nearly all campaign efforts – and a great deal of public money – are heavily targeted into a handful of areas deemed most winnable. This is an undemocratic disaster that occurs under all parties, under the warped logic of the system.

Other studies have shown that central government grants to English local authorities are larger for local authorities containing marginal constituencies than ‘safe’ ones.

Last year the BBC found that Conservative-held constituencies were overwhelming beneficiaries of the government’s increase in schools funding. Newsnight also found: “Labour-Tory marginal seats are over-represented when it comes to the government’s promises of money for “left-behind” towns.”

More research last year found that “money from the government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund will be spent in richer areas where Conservative MPs are battling to keep their seats, at the expense of some of the country’s poorest towns.”

The ERS-backed trade union group Politics for the Many noted:  “The safe seat culture created by First Past the Post means the governments have a greater incentive to direct public funds at a handful of winnable seats rather than towards where the need is greatest – particularly close to elections.”

During the Labour leadership election, Keir Starmer endorsed calls for change to Westminster’s warped set-up, saying:  “On electoral reform, we’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their voice doesn’t count…We will never get full participation in our electoral system until we do that at every level.”

We will also never get a truly balanced national economy until every vote counts equally.

A democratic overhaul – with proportional representation for voters -is not just a necessity for our broken politics. It could be vital for building a truly balanced economy, too.

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